In just over half of the cases, Google rewrites the title link for the search results and does not accept the text from the title tag. On the other hand, Google rarely truncates the title tag.
Since last year’s title update, Google has been rewriting the title links for the search results more frequently. The title link is often simply referred to as the title of the search result. With the update, Google wants to improve the quality of the search results pages and also promote accessibility.
When rewriting the title link, Google accesses various content on the website. For example, H1 headings are often used. But it can also happen that Google uses the text of another page that links to the page in question.
But how often does Google adjust the title link and not use the text stored in the title tag? I did a little research on this. A total of 400 search results were considered. 200 of the search results were transaction-oriented, i.e. connected with an intention to buy, for example. 200 search results were information-oriented and related to a knowledge need. This way, I wanted to determine if the search intent plays a role in rewriting the title links.
The keywords used for the test were:
- Climate change (information oriented)
- Sights of East Friesland (information-oriented)
- Buy running shoes (transaction-oriented)
- Favorable credit (transaction-oriented)
For the search results considered, around 53 percent of the title links were rewritten by Google. 47 percent of the title tags were thus adopted for the search results.
In information-oriented searches, the title link was rewritten more often (58 percent) than in transaction-oriented searches (47 percent).
Looking at the types of changes that Google has made to the title links, these are the standouts:
- Often there are changes in the page or brand name in the title link. Either Google reformulates this, for example “Spiegel” instead of “DER SPIEGEL” or “WWF Germany” instead of “WWF”. This often also affects the upper and lower case of the name.
- Special characters are often exchanged as well. Google often replaces a “|” by a “-” as in “Help limit climate change | MISEREOR” (title tag) and “What climate change has to do with justice – Misereor” (title link on the SERP).
- It’s also interesting that Google sometimes includes the website’s name in the title link on the SERP, even though it doesn’t appear in the title tag on the page. Conversely, it can also happen that a title tag contains the name of the website, but Google does not display it in the title link.
- Incidentally, this happens both when the name of the website is at the beginning of the title tag and when the name is appended to the end of the title tag.
- Google also seems to recognize when a website’s name fits in the title tag and when it doesn’t. For example, the name “Ostfriesland Tourismus GmbH” is in the title tag of one page, although the page does not officially come from this organization. Alternatively, Google displays the name of the website or domain in the title tag, namely “Tourist Office”.
- Google will expand if the title link is quite short. For example, the title tag of a page simply reads “climate change”. Google turns it into the title tag “1 climate change and climate consequences – Bildungsserver Wiki”
- Google rarely truncates title links anymore. Overall, Google only cuts off the title link in about ten percent of the search results. This shows that Google is now rather reformulating the title link so that it can be displayed in full.
In transaction-oriented search results, Google truncated the title link at 12.5 percent more often than in information-oriented search results at 8 percent.
By the way, changed title links can also be truncated. It can therefore happen that a reformulated title link is also cut off.
Some recommendations can be derived from the findings of the study:
Try longer page titles. Then Google can select the best.
The use of the brand name or the name of the website in the title tag hardly matters. Google decides for itself whether the name is displayed in the title link or not.
Because Google very often does not use the title tag for the search results, care should be taken to ensure that the other potential sources for the title, such as the H1 heading, are well formulated.