Google’s Danny Sullivan Wants to Fix Page Title Rewrites

Google’s Danny Sullivan hears the criticism of the recent page title rewrite update and suggests a way that it could be improved.

Since last week Google has been replacing titles in SERPs for select pages. SEOs believe Google is doing this to improve the relevance of the text shown to users in search results.

Everything known about the update as of a few days ago is rounded up in this article:

Google’s page title rewrite update is still unconfirmed in the sense that no official announcement has been made.

However, Googlers have addressed it on Twitter with responses to questions and concerns about the changes.

Sullivan acknowledges not everyone is pleased with the idea of their page titles getting replaced. He suggests a way this could be handled better.

A Way to Improve Google’s Page Title Rewrite Update

Sullivan proposes a way to give people more control over their title tags, but not before suggesting Google knows best when it comes to which text to display.

He says he used to believe Google should have a “I really mean it” tag for keeping titles and descriptions as-is.

Since working for Google, Sullivan has changed his mind. Now he believes people are likely to get it wrong.

“As I said on another tweet, I used to think exactly as I wrote there, that we should have a “I really really mean it” tag. And then you know what? You discover actually working for a search engine how many people would seriously get that wrong…

Like it’s not uncommon we hear from people who don’t understand why we don’t show a description for their web page. Even when we show a message explaining why — they blocked us: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7489871″

Related: Google Says There’s No Limit on Title Tag Length

What does Sullivan propose instead?

Instead of an “I really mean it” tag that could be used on any and all pages, Sullivan says he would like Google to offer this sort of feature in a more limited capacity.

He proposes an update to Search Console that would allow users to indicate when they want to keep a specific page’s HTML title in the SERPs.

“…I’d love to see us find a mechanism for site owners to very selectively indicate if there are problematic titles. Like perhaps in Search Console, you could say that you really wanted a HTML title tag used rather than our automatic choice…”

Here’s where Sullivan’s plan differs from a simple tag, as he suggests the feature should be limited to 5-10 uses per site.

On top of that, there would be an expiration period in case people accidentally make a long-term mistake.

“My thought is that we could perhaps allow a set number per site, maybe 5-10, and also with an expiration period. That way people wouldn’t make wholescale long-term mistakes accidentally, but we have some balance for when our automatic title selection might not be preferred.”

Related: Title Tag Optimization: A Complete How-to Guide

What about very large sites? 5-10 uses isn’t much.

As one person points out on Twitter, that’s not an ideal solution for sites with millions of pages.

Sullivan clarifies the feature he proposes wouldn’t be designed for managing pages at scale. It would be designed for limited use cases when you really disagree with the page title Google decided to show.

“The idea isn’t that you should manage millions of URLs. Our systems are already going to select titles. That is the scale. It’s an idea so that if there’s a particular few titles you really really really don’t like, you could deal with those.”

It doesn’t sound like Google is going to offer a way to opt-out of page title rewrites across an entire site.

If Sullivan gets his wish there may be a way to override Google’s rewrites via a limited use feature in Search Console. But his tweet thread is by no means a confirmation that anything is currently in the works.

Source: @dannysullivan on Twitter

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