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Google Clarifies Title Tag Guidance

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Google Clarifies Title Tag Guidance

Google updated the Search Central guidelines for controlling how it displays title tags in search. The update didn’t change the guidance itself, but it did make it substantially more straightforward and removed multiple ambiguities in the wording that made it difficult to understand.

Google Changes Title Tags

Title tags are meta elements whose purpose is to describe what a web page is about. They are also ranking factors.

For that reason, many publishers use the title tag to indicate what keyword phrases they want the webpage to be relevant for.

Google shows title tags in the search results pages (SERPs), which makes using keyword phrases in the title tags even more important.

Google rewrote title tags for years if its algorithms identified more descriptive text than the publisher provided.

The title tag rewrite feature in the search results dramatically increased in the summer of 2021, causing anguish in the publisher and search marketing communities. Many reported decreases in search traffic attributed to Google having rewritten their title tags.

One study reported that more than 61 percent of the search results featured rewritten title tags.

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Changes To Guidance On Title Tags

On October 08, 2021, Google published unique guidance on controlling title tags, titled, Control your title links in search results (Archive.org snapshot of original guidance here).

The updated title tag guidance changes clarify what they meant when using the word “headline.”

The word “headline” is ambiguous because it could mean either the title at the top of the webpage or a reference to the HTML heading element (H1, H2, H3).

As it turns out, the original version of the guidance used the word “headline” to mean both the title at the top of the webpage and as a reference to the HTML heading element (H1, H2, H3, etc.).

While the title at the top of the page is usually a heading element, the new version of the guidance is more precise, as shown below.

Here is the original version:

“Make it clear which headline is the main headline for the page.”

This is the updated version of the guidance:

“Make it clear which text is the main title for the page.”

Here’s a section from the following sentence of the original version:

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“…and it can be confusing if multiple headlines carry the same visual weight and prominence.”

The newly clarified version:

“…and it can be confusing if multiple headings carry the same visual weight and prominence.”

The original version of the third updated sentence:

“Consider ensuring that your main headline is distinctive from other text on a page and stands out as being the most prominent on the page (for example, using a larger font, putting the headline in the first visible <h1> element on the page, etc).”

The updated version of the same sentence:

“Consider ensuring that your main title is distinctive from other text on a page and stands out as being the most prominent on the page (for example, using a larger font, putting the title text in the first visible <h1> element on the page, etc).”

As you can see, the clarification makes a big difference in making the intent of the guidance easier to understand.

The last change is to the part that describes what Google uses to determine the wording in a title link displayed in the search results.

This is the original:

“Main visual title or headline shown on a page”

The updated version:

“Main visual title shown on the page”

Google Title Tag Guidance Clarified But Not Updated

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the guidance itself has not changed. What has changed is that the document is now less ambiguous and significantly more understandable.

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Read the newly updated title tag guidelines here:

Control your title links in search results


Featured Image: Eugene Partyzan/Shutterstock

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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