UPDATE 08.24.2021
Google has acknowledge that this was an update.

Although Google has not confirmed an official page title rewrite update, SEOs are reporting an uptick of instances where title tags have been rewritten by Google in the search results pages.

That is, what you wanted Google to show as the title in the search results, is not shown. 

The title tag replacements have included changes from reasonable to strange. Some replaced titles include some of or the whole H1 tag instead of the meta tag. Others, displayed random titles pulled from alt tags, and even from URL slugs! 

A Title Rewritten by Google in Search Results

What are we talking about exactly?

Here’s an example.

This is a Google search result for search term: Best Jogging Shoes

Google search results for best jogging shoes by vogue screenshot

☝ The title Google displayed:
How to Find the Best Running Shoes for You – Sneakers – Vogue

? The meta title of the page:
16 Best Running Shoes for Women in 2021: Comfortable Sneakers for Everyday Runner | Vogue

Vogue's meta title screenshot

And last but not least.

Where Google pulled some of the information to the title they displayed:

? H1 tag of the page:
The Race is On: How to Find the Best Running Shoes for you

H1 title from Vogue screenshot

All together.

How to Find the Best Running Shoes for You – Sneakers – Vogue

16 Best Running Shoes for Women in 2021: Comfortable Sneakers for Everyday Runner | Vogue

The Race is On: How to Find the Best Running Shoes for you

Google pulled a portion of the H1 tag into the title.

In short, Google says, we understand that your page is about how to find the best running shoes for you.

If you are about to hyperventilate right about now, don’t panic!

Keep reading.

Google’s goal is to try to show the MOST RELEVANT results for the users.

Is Google Rolling Out a Title Rewrite Update?

The title tags have been rewritten by Google for unspecified number of pages. So it could be that Google – being Google – is running tests or slowly rolling out the update without officially announcing it.

If this page title rewrite update gets fully adopted it means that Google will decide what it shows as the title, based on what it thinks your page is about. This is really no different than what Google is already doing with the page descriptions.

Google Rewriting Title Tags is Not New

Google has been using their choice for title tags here and there for a long time. However, the August 2021 changes to title tags seem to be widespread and with noticeable issues like this one.

White House Biden SEPRs title tag

We know this title tag is the result of the update because, in July, the title was:

Joe Biden: The President | The White House

☝ This is also the current meta title.

How do you adapt?

Right now I wouldn’t jump into making massive changes. Things are in flux. Let’s wait and see how the errors are fixed and where we are when things settle down.

Meanwhile.

Keep creating content that is crystal clear; one topic – one page.

After creating the content piece ask yourself:

Is Google able to read the page and understand – clearly -what the page is about?

Is the user able to read the page and understand – clearly – what the page is about?

The answer should be yes to both.

Using year (2021) in the Title tag

Thoughts and speculation

What does this rewrite mean to a popular SEO tactic, which is to use a year in the title?

That is.

You add 2021 in your title to show that your article is current.

Like this

The Best Running Shoes in 2021

And google changes it something else, like:

How to Find the Best Running Shoes for You

Using a year in the title tag has  been a great technique to use because you can republish on old post every year and just change a few things, including the year.

If Google determines, based on what it understand your page to be, that it doesn’t not warrant a year in the title, it can choose to remove it by rewriting the title.

Can you still use this technique?

For now, I think so. Because I see many results that still have a year in the title. It just means you need to make sure your page is relevant – to the year in question! 

Alie Jules

Author
Alie Jules
Founder of Strategy x Creative