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Google: Keyword-Heavy Titles Not Against Our Guidelines

Google’s John Mueller clarifies that keyword-heavy meta titles and descriptions are not against webmaster guidelines.

Google: Keyword-Heavy Titles Not Against Our Guidelines

Google’s John Mueller clears up a misunderstanding about keyword-heavy titles and descriptions, saying it’s a common practice that’s not against webmaster guidelines.

This topic is addressed during the Google Search Central SEO live stream held on December 11. An SEO tells Mueller they see small businesses saturate their titles and descriptions with commercial keywords all the time, even after advising them not to do so.

They give an example of a florist in Brighton having a description that reads: “wedding flowers Brighton, funeral flowers Brighton, anniversary flowers Brighton, birthday flowers Brighton,” and so forth.

Aesthetically it doesn’t look right, the SEO tells Mueller, but it’s not uncommon to see pages with those kinds of descriptions rank highly in search results.

Mueller is asked why keyword saturated titles and descriptions are so prevalent in search results, and whether or not they’re against Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Here is his response.

Mueller Discusses Keyword-Heavy Titles and Descriptions

Without mincing words, Mueller says saturating a page’s meta title and description with keywords is not against Google’s guidelines. It’s not even something Google considers to be problematic.

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That’s not to say Google recommends this practice either, as filling the title and description with keywords can make it more difficult to understand what the page is actually relevant for.

Mueller says the biggest improvement a site could hope to see by rewriting those titles and descriptions is a better click-through rate. He repeatedly recommends writing better meta tags to improve CTR, but never suggests doing so to improve rankings.

Here’s what he says:

“It’s not against our webmaster guidelines. It’s not something that we would say is problematic. I think, at most, it’s something where you could improve things if you had a better fitting title because we understand the relevance a little bit better.

And I suspect the biggest improvement with a title in that regard there is if you can create a title that matches what the user is actually looking for then it’s a little bit easier for them to actually click on a search result because they think “oh this really matches what I was looking for.”

Whereas if you were looking for “flower delivery Brighton” and as a title in the search results you see “flowers, green flowers, yellow flowers, Brighton…” and all of the cities nearby. You might look at that and say: well is this some SEO result? Or is this actually a business that will do a good job and create some nice flowers for me?”

So that’s something where I almost think it’s a matter of improving the click-through rate rather than improving the ranking. And if, with the same ranking, you get a higher click-through rate because people recognize your site as being more relevant then that’s kind of a good thing.”

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Mueller Recommends A More Focused Approach to Writing Titles and Descriptions

Mueller knows stuffing titles and descriptions with keywords is a common tactic, and he recognizes it stems from keywords in titles and descriptions being ranking factors for Google search results.

However, that doesn’t mean site owners should put every keyword in there. Mueller recommends a more focused approach; writing a title or description that gets more clicks is more important than cramming in a bunch of keywords.

“It’s a really common tactic. We say as well that we use the keywords in titles as part of our ranking system and people say oh well I need to add all keyword to my titles, and then you end up with something like that. So just because they are used for ranking doesn’t mean you need to put everything in there.

And sometimes I suspect the bigger aspect is really the click-through rate from search rather than the ranking effect. Especially for small businesses, you don’t have a lot of chance to be visible in search results in lots of places, because you’re probably more focused on your regional area, and having a title that is really good, that matches your business, that’s a lot more important than having all of the keywords in it.”

Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below:

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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