Google’s John Mueller responded if it was a sensible idea to adapt the title element to the way Google paraphrases it in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Someone on Mastodon noticed that Google changed the title elements on their web pages, mostly removing the site name from the title.
This seems to suggest to them that Google might consider the site name superfluous and they might just want to drop the site name from the title tag altogether.
Should you pay attention to how Google paraphrases the title tag?
This is your question:
“Google changes titles and mostly removes the site name from the title.
For example, if your page title is “What is SEO and how does it work?” | site name”
Then it’s rewritten as “What is SEO and how does it work?”
Seems like we shouldn’t include the site name in the title tag. (Because Google has already introduced site names)”
Google’s John Mueller replied:
“I don’t think a rewritten version is any better (for SEO or for users) and I would recommend leaving your site name there as it makes it easier to confirm a site name that we display above the title.
Also, it’s a well-known pattern, so I wouldn’t just change it for Google.”
Mueller later added:
“Since you mention it, I imagine this (matching the title element to what Google is showing) is something a lot of people do…”
Is matching the title element to what Google shows good for SEO?
Any question about what is good for SEO in relation to HTML elements should be viewed in light of the definition of that element by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The W3C defines the standards of HTML and Google largely follows these standards.
What the W3C says about the title element is that its purpose is to define what the web page (referred to as a document) is about.
This is how the title element is officially defined:
“The title of a document is specified by the TITLE element.
…It should identify the content of the document in a fairly broad context.
The title is not part of the document text, but is owned by the entire document.”
So the key takeaways on the title element are:
- The title communicates what the document is about in a “rather broad context”.
- The title element is a property of the entire document
This means that it isn’t a standalone thing like a single header, but rather “communicates” for the entire document.
Google’s official title element recommendations (on Google Search Central) for title tags reflect the W3C’s recommendations in a little more detail.
Google recommends that title elements should be descriptive and concise. The title elements should not be vague.
Finally, Google recommends branding the title concisely. This means that using the site name is fine, but repeating a marketing slogan throughout the site isn’t necessarily succinct.
Why Google rewrites titles
When Google started rewriting more titles a few years ago, many SEOs complained about it.
What was common to many examples shared by many people was that the title elements could not describe what the page was about.
The title elements often contained the targeted keywords but did not provide a concise description of what the page is about.
This isn’t surprising given that many SEO websites recommend including keywords in the title tag, rather than recommending describing what the page is about.
Of course, if the keyword is relevant to the content of the document, you can put it there if you want.
Another reason why Google paraphrases titles is that the description of the entire page is not adequate.
For example, Google often ranks a webpage for a topic that is essentially a subtopic of the webpage’s main topic.
This happens when Google ranks a web page for a phrase that is in the middle of the document.
It makes sense to rewrite the title element to match the context for which the page is being ranked.
Google Search Central says the same thing:
“The aim of the title link is to present and describe each result in the best possible way.”
When Google ranks the page for a subtopic of the main topic, it makes sense for Google to change the title element to something relevant to the search query.
Takeaway: Should You Match Google’s Title Paraphrase?
This is probably not a good idea as Google may rank the page for a subtopic.
If you want a reality check of the title element, try ChatGPT by typing in the text of the document and asking them to summarize it in ten words.
It’s understandable that most people know what their own websites are about, so do your best.
Featured image from Shutterstock/Asier Romero