I have noticed a while ago that Google started changing title tags of my sites in the serps. It’s been going on for quite sometime but I have never figured out why.
Well, Barry Schwartz posted about it here which explains this behavior a little bit, but I wanted to test things out myself so I can maybe tell you why this is happening.
For example, my blog Affhelper.com used to have the following title:
“How To Make Money Online – Real Ways That Work”
But if you searched Google for the query “Affhelper” or “Affhelper.com” my title tag would be changed to just “Affhelper.com”.
It was a bit annoying to be honest. I thought that maybe Google is pulling this title from some web directory (Maybe Dmoz Or Yahoo), but I wasn’t quite sure about that.
Anyway, here is another example.
John Chow uses the following title for his blog:
“I Make Money Online By Telling People How I Make Money Online”
His title actually shows up in the serps the way it’s supposed to if you search for some of his main keywords.
But if you search for the query “JohnChow” or “JohnChow.com” the title tag of his homepage is changed.
I decided to play around with this because I wanted to know why Google would do this. For a while I couldn’t figure it out, but then I thought that maybe Google is trying to give us a hint here.
They are all about branding now and they want you to build a brand not some website that is simply riding the wave because of optimized title tags for some specific keyword phrase.
Of course, you should tell Google what your page is about but if they think there is a better title for your page they will use that instead.
So how can you change this behavior and make sure that Google uses some of the keywords you want in your title tags?
Well, I went ahead and did a test by changing my homepage title tag to this:
“Affhelper.com – Make Money Online The Smart Way”
Took some time for Google to actually update my title because my blog is still under their unnatural link penalty but when they finally did Google started using the new title tag instead.
So now if you search for “Affhelper” or “Affhelper.com” you will get served my new title as shown in the image above.
I think that if JohnChow changed his title meta tags to include “JohnChow.com” at the beginning and possibly shortened it a bit, Google would serve the new title instead of changing it.
The question is do you really care? Is it really such a big deal? For John it might not be because his brand is already big and he has a large following, plus he is a stubborn marketer 🙂 But for someone who needs the extra boost in the serps it might be a good idea to start writing your titles a bit differently.
It’s definitely something to think about but it’s not really a big deal to me. The thing is that if someone searches for the keywords you want to rank for Google will still use your original title (for the most part).
From my observation they only change it if someone searches for a different similar query but your page is still somewhat relevant.
When Google started doing this earlier this year a lot of webmasters panicked. Some even blamed loss of their search engine rankings because of their titles being changed. I don’t think that’s what is happening here and in my opinion it won’t have a huge effect on your performance in the serps.
Anyway, just thought I would show you that you can still control what Google shows for your brand queries.