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Evidence Google is Ignoring the Title Tag

Feb 17, 2011 / by David Malmborg

 

_____ UPDATE _____
So it has been shown to me by my personal mentor, D-Patt, that Matt Cutts discusses this in a video a little while back. The last 30 Seconds of the video speaks to me (obviously), and I would assume to many, since I showed my examples to a number of people who hadn't seen this before. It talks about how everyone is familiar with Google changing the snippet, or description, but not many webmasters are familiar with the fact that Google will change the Title when necessary.

However, not to be distraught about it, this post leads into a great followup I plan on writing today. Because even though the concept is not new, I think it may be happening more often.

So with that, I leave you with the Matt Cutts' video, and my own "discovery" of Google changing the Title tags.

 

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What if Google treated the page title like a meta-description within their results pages? What if they changed it, used content or a header as the title that appeared in the results?

This would be game changing.

And I believe they are already testing the idea.

Is There Another Explanation for This?

I have noticed (more then once and with multiple websites) that Google is NOT displaying the title tag in the SERPs. They are ignoring the page title and providing their own title that they may deem to be more relevant.

I’m not sure why this is happening, I think Google may be just testing the idea. But if it is happening, it could be a scary thought.

Don’t Believe Me? See For Yourself:

Try searching for “Forex Strategy”.

Look at the third result: www.forexstrategysecrets.com

Notice the title in the SERPs: “Forex Trading Strategy.”

Now look at the actual title of the page: “Forex Trading Strategies | Forex System | Forex Trading Course”.

Further insight

When this was first brought to my attention in November, this page didn’t have a title tag and was still ranking on the first page for “Forex Strategy.” When you performed the above search you would get the same results (same title, nearly the same position).

At the same time the results for the term “Forex Trading” had the exact same page but with a different title: “Forex Trading.”

Do you see the problem? Same page, no “meta-title,” but the search results for different keywords returned different titles.

Later that week a title tag was added, but after nearly 2 months Google is still not using the new title in the search results for “Forex Strategy”.

Where did they get that title?

The term “Forex Trading Strategy” is the first part of the H1 heading, and it may be helping to dictate the title. The funny thing is, the term "forex strategy" is not used at all in any of the content of the page. So where is Google getting the title? That, I can't really answer, and all other examples are completely random as well.

This isn’t the Only Occurrence

I have seen this with multiple sites, in many situations, and in different Google search engines (France, and Malaysia). I’ve noticed it with pages of global eCommerce sites, small tile stores. It’s happened with home pages and deep pages. I have seen the source of the title vary from the URL, an H1 header, or something else where I can’t make the connection.

How would SEO change?

If Google started ignoring our optimized title tags –- the #1 element of on-page optimization –- and treated it like the meta-description, how would that change the way we work? It might be worth thinking about, because the day may be coming.

More than anything else, I think this will increase the importance of on-page relevance, and optimization. I have a second post coming out with more detail on this thought.

What do you think? Anyone else notice this? Does anyone else have an example they would like to share? Please comment.

Topics: SEO Blog

David Malmborg

Written by David Malmborg

David has always been involved with consumer electronics and shiny geeky toys. After finishing his degree at the University of Utah in communication and business, he decided that the new age of online marketing was a great fit for him. David has five years of computer electronic sales experience which include retail and B2B. He also worked with a premier design agency focusing his efforts on sales and marketing, where he became familiar with SEO and other forms of online marketing strategies. In April of 2009, David joined SEO.com as an SEO Specialist.

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