Google now looks at alternatives when generating page titles
Page titles have always been one of the most important elements of a successful search engine optimization strategy. The primary signal for Google in determining what a page is about has always been the <title> tag but they are also relying on other factors – especially where their interpretation is that the specified page title isn’t the best representation of what a page is about.
A recent post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog has revealed that the page title specified in the <title> tag in your site’s header isn’t necessarily the same title that they display in search engine results pages any more.
Google have tested displaying alternative page titles – something other than what’s in the <title> tag and this has shown to increase CTR (Click-Through Rate) in a significant number of results.
This new announcement highlights the continued improvement Google have made in how they assess what a web page is about. The page title is a crucial element of SEO, but Google have progressed beyond that to deliver more accurate search results and for the end user, that’s probably a good thing.
Does this make things easier for SEO professionals?
If you are a web marketer, you may be thinking that there is no need to optimise titles any longer as Google will figure out what it’s about. But what if they are wrong? We have seen countless instances where the page Google serves up for a given search term isn’t the page you want that audience to see. So rather than being seen as an opportunity to be more lax about your SEO, it should be a reminder to reinforce the basic principles of SEO and eliminate any margin for error on page titles.
What this development highlights is that countless online marketers are not carrying out basic SEO implementation such as unique page titles – this has probably spurred Google into action. All too often we see pages with identical titles, lengthy titles or generic titles such as ‘Home’ – which really provide nothing useful to the Google searcher trying to instantly evaluate which result to click on in a SERP.
Reliance on this new development as some sort of SEO safety net isn’t likely to have the desired impact on your online marketing campaign. If you are trying to proactively manage your campaign to generate higher quantities of relevant traffic, it’s best to optimise all page titles on your site accordingly.
It also highlights the opportunity of using synonyms and targeting long-tail variations in your content as it may happen that Google serves up an alternative (and more relevant) page title for a search result similar to those that are the main focus of your campaign.
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