An update to how we generate web page titles

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One of the primary ways people determine which search results might be relevant to their query is by reviewing the titles of listed web pages. That’s why Google Search works hard to provide the best titles for documents in our results to connect searchers with the content that creators, publishers, businesses, and others have produced.

Last week, we introduced a new system of generating titles for web pages. Before this, titles might change based on the query issued. This generally will no longer happen with our new system. This is because we think our new system is producing titles that work better for documents overall, to describe what they are about, regardless of the particular query.

Also, while we’ve gone beyond HTML text to create titles for over a decade, our new system is making even more use of such text. In particular, we are making use of text that humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page. We consider the main visual title or headline shown on a page, content that site owners often place within <H1> tags or other header tags, and content that’s large and prominent through the use of style treatments.

Other text contained in the page might be considered, as might be text within links that point at pages.

Why not just always use the HTML title tag? For the same reasons we explained when we began going beyond the tag significantly back in 2012. HTML title tags don’t always describe a page well. In particular, title tags can sometimes be:

  • Very long.
  • “Stuffed” with keywords, because creators mistakenly think adding a bunch of words will increase the chances that a page will rank better.
  • Lack title tags entirely or contain repetitive “boilerplate” language. For instance, home pages might simply be called “Home”. In other cases, all pages in a site might be called “Untitled” or simply have the name of the site.

Overall, our update is designed to produce more readable and accessible titles for pages. In some cases, we may add site names where that is seen as helpful. In other instances, when encountering an extremely long title, we might select the most relevant portion rather than starting at the beginning and truncating more useful parts.

We’ll soon be updating our long-standing help page about titles to reflect this recent change. However, our main advice on that page to site owners remains the same. Focus on creating great HTML title tags. Of all the ways we generate titles, content from HTML title tags is still by far the most likely used, more than 80% of the time.

As with any system, the titles we generate won’t always be perfect. We do welcome any feedback in our forums. We’re already making refinements to our new system based on feedback, and we’ll keep working to make it even better over time. Our testing shows the change we’ve introduced produces titles that are more readable and preferred by searchers compared to our old system.