There has been much chatter as of late regarding the extent to which Google’s recent title/header change is a game changer. John Mueller has already gone on record to clarify a few points of contention, while Google has now confirmed that it uses HTML title tags 87% of the time.
This means that over the course of the past few weeks, Google has made a full seven-point change – up from the previous 80%.
“Title elements are now used around 87% of the time, rather than around 80% before,” was the official comment from Google.
As for why the use of HTML title tags was stepped up, Google explained that it is all to do with the prevalence of inaccurate titles, obsolete titles, half empty titles and so on. The team at Google went on to provide webmasters and SEOs with a rather vague summary of what needs to be done to make their HTML title tags work:
“Our main advice to site owners about titles remains generally the same as on our help page about the topic. Focus on creating great HTML title elements. Those are by far what we use the most,” Google Advised.
“Beyond this, consider the examples in this post to understand if you might have similar patterns that could cause our systems to look beyond your title elements. The changes we’ve made are largely designed to help compensate for issues that creators might not realize their titles are having. Making changes may help ensure your title element is again used. That’s really our preference, as well.”
Good Practice Guidelines for HTML Title Tags
For the most part, nothing has really changed with regard to the main principles of effective HTML title tags. The same best practice guidelines still apply today, based primarily around the following:
- Keep your title tags to a maximum of 66 characters
- Ensure that the title tag describes your page accurately
- Position the keyword as close to the start as possible
- Always mention the name of your brand in your title tags
- Be sure that every page has its own unique title tag
- Make the effort to ensure your title tags are attractive
Earlier in the month, debate was raging as to whether or not replacing your own title tag with those selected by Google is a good idea. Google’s new title/header change caused quite a bit of confusion, leading some to believe they should instinctively go with Google’s selection.
John Mueller has confirmed outright that the answer is no – you should not:
“Just because one algorithm selects something as a title doesn’t mean it’s a better title,” he explained.
“There are certainly also situations where maybe Google’s algorithms select a worse title and where you want to keep the one that you had there,”
“I wouldn’t copy what our algorithms do (unless you like it better :-)), and if we can swap it out, I’d assume we’re recognizing it anyway, so I don’t think we’d need to change the doc for that (maybe there are other aspects to edit though, I haven’t checked in detail).”