Google’s John Mueller, in a YouTube Office-hours hangout, answered a question regarding title tags and search rankings. He addressed whether title tag rewriting impacts rankings and also what effect adding the company name to the beginning, end or at all has on rankings.
Mueller also described the title tag as a tiny search ranking factor.
Search Ranking Impact of Page and Titles Don’t Match
The person asking the question wanted to know if there was a ranking impact when titles are rewritten.
This is the question about title tags and ranking:
“How does it affect the search rankings when page and search titles don’t match?
Often we experience that the page title has been shortened and our company name added to the search results title.
We do add our company name to the end sometimes but the concern is that this is to all our page title and will limit how much we can write in the title.
So the question is really is it better to have shortened titles that can be displayed in the search results or is it better to keep the page titles we have already and let Google choose a different title?”
Google’s John Mueller Discussing Title Element and Rankings
How to Write Title Tags
The focus of the question is how to write title tags and a concern about whether or not to have the company name, which could take up most of the space.
“I don’t think there is any explicit, “what is better” from our side.”
Mueller next noted that the title tag is a “tiny” ranking factor and that the focus of writing a title tag should be on making it relevant to what the page is about.
Mueller continued his answer:
“One of the things I think is worthwhile to keep in mind is we do use titles as a tiny factor in our rankings as well.
So it’s something where I wouldn’t necessarily make titles on your pages that are totally irrelevant.”
Mueller then made a reference to an answer from the same hangout about how to fix title tags that are rewritten by Google (read How to Fix Google Title Tag Rewrites).
“But you can try different things out, kind of like I mentioned before.”
Page is What is Used for Ranking
John Mueller next said that the web page is what is used for ranking purposes. He also said that whether or not the company name is used in the beginning or end of the title tag is a personal choice and he minimized any potential impact on rankings based on that choice.
“It’s not a critical issue if the title that we show in the search results (we call these title links nowadays), if that doesn’t match what is on your page, from our point of view that’s perfectly fine.
And we use what you have on your page when it comes to search.
So from that point of view it’s like you can put the things
in your title tag on your pages and maybe we’ll show that, maybe we’ll tweak that a little bit.
But essentially your page is what we use as a basis for the rankings.
And with regards to the company name or not, I think that’s a little bit up to you and a little bit also in our algorithms as well in that we do see that users like to have an understanding of the bigger picture of where does this page fit and sometimes a company name or a brand name for the website makes sense to show there.
Some people choose to put it in the beginning or in the end, some people have different kinds of separators that they use.
From my point of view I think that’s more a matter of personal taste and decoration rather than anything related to how ranking would work.”
Title Tag as a Ranking Factor
The search industry is largely in agreement that content is the most important factor, with title tags making it in there as part of the group known as on-page (as opposed to meta content which is not seen by users).
It doesn’t diminish the title tag status as a ranking factor to say it is a tiny ranking factor.
The fact that we 100% know for certain that the title element is a ranking factor makes it important because when it comes to Google search ranking factors there are very few things that are known as a certainty.
Search Engine Journal published a list of top ranking factors and the title tag made it as part of the on-page factors group.
Most surveys on top ranking factors include title tags as a top ranking factor and with good reason, because it is a ranking factor.
John Mueller characterizes it as a tiny ranking factor, which is an observation that some in the SEO industry might not agree with.
At one time, fifteen to twenty years ago, the title tag was a huge ranking factor. Failure to dump your keywords in the title tag would essentially doom the site to not be eligible to rank.
But like many things from fifteen to twenty years ago, that advice is outdated. Nowadays Google ranks websites that don’t have the exact keywords in the title tags.
Many in the search industry realize this and have adjusted their estimation of title tag impact accordingly.
Nevertheless, there are certain SEO beliefs that are tightly held on to and the belief that the title tag is a critical ranking factor is one of those beliefs.
But it’s important to learn where those beliefs came from and how long ago and to be be ready to adapt ones beliefs to conform to the reality expressed in the search results.
Title Tags are a Tiny Ranking Factor
Watch Mueller talk about title tags at the 15:35 Minute Mark