Google’s John Mueller answered if it’s a reasonable idea to match the title element to how Google rewrites them in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Someone on Mastodon noticed that Google was changing the title elements on their webpages, most of the time removing the site name from the title.
That seem to indicate to them that maybe Google sees the site name as redundant and perhaps they should just drop the site name from the title tag altogether.
Should You Match How Google Rewrites Title Tag?
“Google is changing titles and most of the time, it is removing 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 will rewrite it as “What is SEO and how does it work?”
Seems like we should not include the site name in the title tag. (Because Google already has introduced site names)”
Google’s John Mueller answered:
“I would not assume that a rewritten version is better (for SEO or for users), and I’d recommend keeping your site name in there — because it makes it easier to confirm a site name that we show above the title.
Also, it’s a well-known pattern, so I wouldn’t change it just for Google.”
Mueller, in an afterthought, added:
“Now that you mentioned it, I imagine this (matching the title element to be what Google shows) is something that a lot of people do…”
Is Matching Title Element to What Google Shows Good For SEO?
Any question about what is good for SEO in relation to HTML elements, should be considered under the light of how the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has defined that element.
The W3C defines the standards of HTML and Google largely follows those standards.
What the W3C says about the title element is that the purpose is to define what the webpage (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 wide context.
The title is not part of the text of the document, but is a property of the whole document.”
So, the key takeaways about the title element is that:
- The title communicates what the document is about in a “fairly wide context”
- The title element is a property of the entire document
That means that it’s not it’s own thing by itself, like an individual header, but rather it “communicates” for the entire document.
Google’s official title element recommendations (on Google Search Central) for title tags echoes what the W3C recommends in a little more detail.
Google advises that title elements should be descriptive and concise. The title elements should not be vague.
Lastly, Google recommends concisely branding the title. That means using the site name is fine but repeating a marketing slogan across the entire site is not necessarily concise.
Why Google Rewrites Titles
When Google began rewriting more titles a few years ago, many SEOs complained about it.
What was common in many of the examples that many people shared is that the title elements failed to describe what the page was about.
The title elements often contained the targeted keywords, but not a concise description of what the page is about.
That’s not surprising, given that many SEO sites recommend adding keywords in the title tag instead of recommending to describe what the page is about.
Obviously, if the keyword is relevant to what the document is about then put the keyword in there if you want.
Another reason Google rewrites titles is because the description of the entire page is not appropriate.
For example, Google often ranks a webpage for what is essentially a subtopic of the main topic of the webpage.
This happens when Google ranks a webpage for a phrase that is in the middle of the document.
Rewriting the title element to match the context of what the page is being ranked for makes sense.
Google Search Central says the same:
“The goal of the title link is to best represent and describe each result.”
If Google is ranking the page for a subtopic of the main topic then it makes sense for Google to change the title element to something that’s relevant to the search query.
Takeaway: Should You Match Google’s Title Rewrite?
That’s probably not a good idea because Google might be ranking the page for a subtopic.
If you want a reality check about the title element, give ChatGPT a try by inputting the text of the document and asking it to summarize it in ten words.
It’s reasonable that most people know what their own webpages are about, so give it your best shot.
Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero