How Often Does Google Rewrite Title Tags?

How Often Does Google Rewrite Title Tags_ _ MediaOne Marketing Singapore

On August 24th, 2021, Google updated how they generate webpage titles tags.

It turns out they now rewrite title tags almost wholly. Previously, they would only make minor edits, like adding a business name, but now they’re generating new titles. 

And yes, it’s not just a few page titles, but 61% of the time. 

So, why is Google Rewriting Page Titles?

Even before the update, Google was already rewriting page titles. They would make small changes to the titles, typically to increase their relevancy or summarize long titles.

The changes were minor, almost unnoticeable.

But recently, Google has become more aggressive with title rewrites. They’re incorporating additional HTML tags and generally taking the rewriting more seriously than they did previously.

Finding the title that you carefully crafted rewritten is no longer a surprise. This begs the question, why are they doing this?

First, Google rewrites titles to make them more meaningful and relevant. The goal is to make them more clickable and relevant to the user.

The new system can scan a page’s content and pull alternate text that it thinks is more relevant to the query. 

By making the page title more relevant, Google helps users quickly find the information they’re looking for.

A Little Background Story

A Little Background Story | MediaOne Marketing Singapore

As we said, Google has been adjusting the page titles they display in the SERPs for the longest time, even before the tag update. 

Back then, Google only had a few tricks up its sleeves:

  • They would truncate the title after the displayable limit: In other words, only the first 65 or so characters of your page title would show up in the SERPs.
  • They would cut the text that was too long to display but keep the brand identity at the end.
  • They would ignore the page title and display the H1 tag instead
  • They would use the brand name for the website’s homepage

Now, Google has advanced its page title rewriting. They’re now synthesizing more page aspects to create snippet titles. 

Among the things they’re using to rewrite search titles is the anchor text of the link pointing to the webpage, breadcrumb names, categories, image ALT attributes, and so on.

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They’re also cutting unnecessary text from title tags. Some standard wording features that Google removes from title tags are fluffy wording, boilerplate text, and text in brackets and parentheses.

The net effect of this update is that web admins have little control over how their pages appear in the SERPs.

While it’s annoying to see Google ignoring the efforts we put into writing relevant, descriptive title tags, there are a few things we can do on our end to minimize the chances of Google rewriting our titles – and that’s what we hope to help you accomplish by the end of this article.

Zyppy’s SEO Study

Zyppy’s SEO Study | MediaOne Marketing Singapore

Zyppy conducted a study on this not long ago, examining 80,959 webpage titles across 2,370 sites from different parts of the world. They would compare their page titles with those on Google’s desktop search results.

Their analysis revealed that Google rewrites 61.6% of page titles – more than anyone could have imagined.

The number isn’t far from Dr. Pete Meyers’ earlier study. Alexis Rylko also came with a similar number despite using a different methodology. 

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To be fair, most of Google’s rewrites are minor, but 61% is a large number.

If Google is rewriting many of the titles people post, it helps to understand why. For one, Google believes it can write better titles than you. 

Here are a few scenarios in which Google is more likely to rewrite titles:

  • Length: If your title is too long or too short, Google will rewrite it. 
  • Using the Same Keywords More than Once: Google will rewrite your titles if it finds out you’ve re-used the same keyword more than once. They’ll help you remove the verbosity and be direct with your statement.
  • Using Title Separators such as dashes (-) and pipes (|): Google views different separators differently. It turns out they’re more lenient on dashes and a bit abrasive on pipes and other types of punctuation separators. We’ll be covering more of this in the later sections of this post. 
  • Titles with Parenthesis (()) and Brackets ([]): Google rewrites titles with parentheses and brackets by getting rid of them.
  • Identical boilerplate across many titles: If your title sounds too general or boilerplate-y, Google will rewrite it. 
  • Missing Brand Names: If the article is about a particular brand not mentioned in the title, Google will take it upon itself to include it. 

And more

Title Tag Rewrites Based on Devices

Google also rewrites snippet titles based on the device used. If a user queries a search on mobile and another one queries the exact search, but on a desktop, there’s a fair chance they’ll each see a different page title.

Here’s a table summarising how often Google rewrites page titles based on the device querying the search:

Rewrite Rate Truncation Rate
All Devices 63% 9%
Desktop 67% 12%
Mobile  59% 6%

As you can see, the truncation rate is low on both desktop and mobile. Google has advanced its rewriting skills. It’s gotten good at figuring out the brand part of a URL and sticking it on its end after truncating.

While releasing their algorithm update, Google mentioned that its rewriting isn’t based on the titles you write but on the page itself.
Let’s take a deep look at some of these scenarios and see what exactly pushes Google to rewrite some of the titles.

Common Scenarios that Trigger Google Rewrites

Character length May Trigger Google to Rewrite Your Page Title

Google limits the characters of the titles they serve on their result pages to 600 pixels (often a bit more on mobile). 

Any title longer than this will automatically be truncated. 

The same applies to titles that are too short and a bit generic.
From Zyppy’s research findings, it was found that Google rewrites short and lengthy titles more than 95% of the time.

From their report, short titles between 1 and 5 characters were rewritten 96.6 percent of the time. Typically, Google added more information and words. 

A title with 20 characters and thereabout had about a 50% chance of getting rewritten.

Now, things get even more intense when the title exceeds 70 characters. The chances of them getting edited automatically shoot to up to 99.9%. 

A title greater than 60 characters has a 76% of getting rewritten.

Titles between 51 and 60 characters have the lowest percentage of rewrites, ranging from 39% and 42% — enough to be considered the sweet spot.

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Note: when Google fails to display certain words from your title, that doesn’t mean that these keywords aren’t helping you to rank. These two separate processes have nothing to do with your site’s ranking but Google’s attempt to make your title more relevant and helpful to users at that particular time.

Titles with Parenthesis (()) and Brackets ([])

You’ve probably seen titles with parentheses and brackets. 

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People use these title strategies to make key ideas stand out in a sea of cluttered search results.

Parentheses and brackets often appear interchangeable. But studies show Google may have a preference.

Here’s what studies show:

Google rewrites 77.6% of page titles with brackets. 

Not just that, the dominant search engine completely removed the bracketed portion of the title 32.9% of the time.

Here’s an example of one such title:

How to Fix a Broken iPhone Screen [Tested by Experts] – Phone Fixer

That was the title that Google showed on its result page:

How to Fix a Broken iPhone Screen – Phone Fixer

That’s what happens to page titles 32.9% of the time.

While we view parenthesis and brackets the same, Google doesn’t.

Unlike brackets, Google only rewrote titles with parenthesis 61.9% of the time. That’s nearly at the same rate it rewrote other page titles. 

And Google only completely removed the parenthesis section of a page title 19.7% of the time. That’s way less than the 32.9% seen in brackets.

Suffice it to say that  Google is a little soft on parenthesis than brackets. You can use parenthesis to emphasize texts in a title.

Which Title Separators Does Google Prefer?

Title separators are the punctuations you use to break titles into separate parts. It includes punction marks such as colons and arrows.

For years, the punctuation marks people have used have primarily been a matter of preference.

But after the Google update, you may have to consider how Google also views the separators.

The two common separators are dashed (—-) and pipes ( | ).

So, does Google care about which separator you choose?

Well, according to Zyppy’s analysis, the answer is yes.

From the titles that used dashes as their separator, Google rewrote the titles and completely removed the dashes 19.7% of the time. They also removed the content in between.

On the other hand, titles that embraced pipes saw Google rewriting them about 41% of the time – almost double that of dashes. 

Often, Google replaced the pipes with a different separator, mostly dashes. While it doesn’t seem like pipes will hurt your ranking, they’re more susceptible to rewriting when compared to dashes.

How to Prevent Google from Rewriting Your Page Title

Google considers other HTML elements when rewriting page titles. Chief among them are H1 tags.

According to Zyppy’s report, using H1 tag strategically on a page could limit the number of rewrites Google does on your website.

First, matching your page title to the H1 tag dramatically dropped the degree of the rewrites across the board.

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Second, pages with titles (such as 1 to 10 or year (2022, etc.)) but no number in the H1 tags saw their titles rewritten about 25.8% of the time.

A page where the H1 tag and title contained a number, Google included that number in the titles it served about 97.3% of the time.

When a number is included in an H1 tag, Google only rewrote the title not to include a number only 2.3% of the time.

So, what’s the takeaway?

When your title contains a number, you can prevent Google from rewriting it by matching it up with the page title. You want to ensure that both the page title and H1 tag contain the number. 

How to Handle Google’s Title tag Rewrites

How to Handle Google’s Title Tags Rewrites | MediaOne Marketing Singapore

So, how do you react to Google’s title rewrite? Should you leave it at that, or is there something else you can do?

There’s a lot you can do, and here are some of our takeaways:

  • You want to identify the primary keyword associated with your URL. Once you do, you want to ensure the keyword is in the title and H1 tag. The last thing you want is to target different keywords in the title and H1 tags. That will only increase the odds of Google rewriting the page title.
  • Avoid making your title tags too long. Any page title with more than 70 characters has a 99.9% chance of being rewritten by Google. To reduce the chances of Google rewriting your titles, you must ensure your page titles are between 50 and 60, not longer, not shorter.
  • The most important keywords should be at the beginning of the title since they increase the CTR. Plus, if Google decides to edit the titles by truncating some of the words, there’s a fair chance they’ll remain intact.
  • Avoid unnecessary genetic terms in the title. Stick with what’s necessary and relevant to the user. You also want to go slow on using flowery language. Instead, stick with what’s relevant and convincing. In most cases, the user just wants to see certain words, and they’ll click on them.
  • Avoid word repetition. You also don’t want to mention any brand more than once. That will only get Google to rewrite the page title.
  • Google takes the keywords in title tags into account. They might not show the keyword in the search, but they’ll still show it in other searches. So you don’t have to remove them or rewrite your title to match Google’s. 

If your title includes the most important keyword for the page, and Google serves a different title, don’t fret. That’s the title Google deems relevant for that particular query. You don’t have to change the title or rewrite anything. 

The Impact of Google Rewrites

A few webmasters reported tag rewritten errors when Google intensified its title rewrites.

37% say they saw a decrease in click-through rates

But since the tag update coincided with the link spam update, it’s easy to see the connection between the two.

Some Final Words

Google has significantly improved how it rewrites titles. They don’t just shift words or truncate them. They rewrite titles based on context, encouraging users to click on the results.

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