I just recently dug into over 50,000 title tags to comprehend the effect of Google’s reword upgrade. As an SEO, this naturally got me wondering how the update impacted Moz, specifically. So, this post will be a more focused assessment of a website I have deep familiarity with, consisting of three case studies where we managed to repair bad rewrites.As an author,

I take titles pretty personally. Picture if you composed this masterpiece:

… and after that you wound up with a Google result that looked like this:

Sure, Google didn’t do anything wrong here, and it’s not their fault that there’s an upper limit on what they can show, but it still feels like something was lost. It’s one thing to do a research study throughout a neutral data set, however it’s rather another when you’re attempting to comprehend the impact on your own website, including short articles you invested hours, days, or weeks writing.Moz rewords

by the numbers

I’m not going to dig deep into the methodology, however I collected the complete set of ranking keywords from Moz’s Keyword Explorer (information is from late August) and scraped the appropriate URLs to pull the present tags. Here are a few of the numbers:74,810 ranking

  • keywords

  • 10,370 unique URLs

  • 8,646 rewrites

Keep in mind that simply under 2,000 of these “rewrites” were actually pre-update (…) truncation. The majority of the rest were brand rewrites or removals, which I’ll cover a bit in the examples. The number of considerable, impactful rewrites is difficult to measure, but was much smaller.Where did Google get it

right?While I have reservations about Google

rewriting title tags(more on that at the end of this post ), I tried to go into this analysis with an open mind. So, let’s take a look at what Google got right, at least in the context of Moz.com.(1) Removing double-ups Our CMS automatically adds our brand name

(” – Moz”)to the majority of our pages, a circumstance that’s barely distinct to our site. Sometimes, this results in an odd doubling-up of the brand, and Google seems to be eliminating these fairly efficiently. For instance: While the CMS is doing its job,”Moz-Moz”is repeated, and I believe Google got this one right. Keep in mind that this is not simple truncation– the additional text would have easily fit. (2)Those darned SEOs!Okay, I’m not sure I want to admit this one, however occasionally we test title variations

, and we still live with some of the legacy of rebranding from “SEOmoz “to”Moz”in 2013. So, some areas of our website have variations of “| SEO|Moz “. Here’s how Google managed one range: While it’s a bit longer, I think this is a much better extension for our Q&A pages, both for us and for our visitors from search. I’m going to call this a win for Google.(

3)Whatever this is … I have no concept what the original intent of this tag was (perhaps an experiment ): While there’s nothing extremely wrong with the initial tag, it’s most likely attempting too hard to front-load specific keywords and it’s not very legible. In this case, Google chose to utilize the blog post title(from the), and it’s probably a great choice.Where did Google get it so-so? It may seem weird to cover examples where Google did an okay task, but in some methods these trouble me the most, if merely since they seem unnecessary. I seem like the

bar for a reword need to be higher, and that makes the gray areas worth studying.

(4 )Shuffling the brand name For a few of our more evergreen pieces, we put the Moz brand front-and-center. In a number of cases, Google shuffled that to the back of the title. Here’s just one example: There’s absolutely nothing inherently incorrect with this rewrite, but why do it? We made a mindful

option here and– while the rewrite might be more consistent with our other content– I’m unsure this is Google’s decision to make.( 5)Double-brand problem This is a variation on # 4, conceptually. A few of our Whiteboard Friday video titles end in”

-White Boards Friday-Moz”, and in this example Google has actually divided that and moved half of it to the front of the display title: White boards Friday is a brand name in and of itself, but I have a feeling that # 4 and # 5 are truly more about delimiters in the title than the brand text. Again, why did this trigger a rewrite?You might be believing something along the lines of “Google has all the data, and possibly they know more than we do. “Put that believed on hold till completion of the

post.(6)The old switcheroo Here’s an example where Google chose the post title (in the) instead of the tag, with completion outcome being that they swapped” remove “for “erase”:

< img src ="https://moz.com/images/learn/8000-rewrites-6.png?w=660&auto=compress%2Cformat&fit=crop&fp-x=0.5&fp-y=0.5&dm=1631756600&s=3ebf056448fa96bed55e56c5c04ca38d "/ > This isn’t really a single-word alternative(even a total swap), and I do not understand why we ended up with 2 different words here, however what about the initial title– which is very comparable to the post title– set off the need for a rewrite?One quick side note– bear in mind that Featured Snippets are natural results, too, therefore rewrites will also impact your Featured Bits. Here’s that very same post/rewrite for another query, appearing as an Included Snippet: Again, there’s nothing actually wrong or inaccurate about the rewrite, aside from a lack of clarity about why

it occurred. In the context of a Featured Bit, though, rewrites have a greater possibility of impacting the intent of the original author(s). Where did Google get it wrong?It’s the minute you’ve been awaiting– the examples where Google made a mess of things. I

want to be clear that these, a minimum of in our information set, are few and far between. It’s easy to cherry-pick the worst of the worst, but the three examples I have actually chosen here have a typical style, and I think they represent a more comprehensive issue. (7)Last things first Here’s an example of rewrite truncation, where Google appears to have actually picked the parenthetical over the primary part of the title: A number of the bad examples(or good examples of badness)seem to be where Google split a title based upon delimiters and then reconstructed what was left in a manner that makes no sense. It appears particularly odd when it comes to a parenthetical declaration, which is expected to be an aside and lesser than what precedes it. (8) Half the conversation In other cases, Google utilizes delimiters as a cutting-off point, showing what’s before or after them. Here’s a case where the “after”approach didn’t

work so well:

This is user-generated content and, approved, it’s a long title, however the resulting cutoff makes no sense out of context. Requirement (…) truncation would’ve been a better path here.

( 9) And another thing …

Here’s a comparable example, however where the cutoff happened at a hyphen (-). The title design is a bit unusual (particularly starting the sub-title with “And”), but the cutoff turns it from unusual to straight-out outrageous:

Once again, basic truncation would’ve been a better bet here.I get what Google’s attempting to do– they’re trying to utilize delimiters (consisting of pipes, hyphens, colons, parentheses, and brackets) to discover natural-language breaks, and split titles at those breaks. Unfortunately, the examples demonstrate how precarious this method can be. Even the timeless “Title: Sub-title” format is often reversed by authors, with the (perhaps) less-important part sometimes being utilized first.Three case studies(

& three wins )Ultimately, some rewrites will be good-to-okay and the majority of these rewrites aren’t worth the time and effort to repair. Over half of the Moz rewords were small brand modifications or brand removal (with the latter typically being due to length limitations). What about the objectively bad rewrites, though? I decided to pick three case research studies and see if I could get Google to take my ideas. The process was relatively simple: Update the tag, trying to keep it under the length limitation Submit the page for reindexing in Google Browse Console If the reword didn’t take, update the or pertinent on-page text</p> <li> <p>Here are the outcomes of the 3 case research studies( with before and after</p> </li> <li> <p>screenshots):-LRB- 1) A dubious character This one </p> <h1> was really our fault and was an easy option to repair. Long story short, a data migration caused an unique character being corrupted, which resulted in</h1> </p> <h3>this: < img src ="https://moz.com/images/learn/8000-rewrites-11.png?w=660&auto=compress%2Cformat&fit=crop&fp-x=0.5&fp-y=0.5&dm=1631756615&s=8c873098522c5128748cd64d089415e4 "/ > I’m not blaming Google for this one, however the end outcome was a weird type of truncation that made”Google Will not”look like”Google Won”, and made it appear that this was completion of the title. I repaired and reduced the tag, and here</p> <p>‘s what happened: Interestingly, Google decided to utilize the <title> here instead of the reduced version, however since it fixed the main problem, I’m going to call this a win and proceed.(2)Change isn’t easy Here’s another one where Google got it incorrect, breaking the tag at a parenthetical that didn’t actually make any sense( similarly to the </p> <h1> examples above ): Because this was a current and <title> still-relevant post, we were eager to repair it. Surprisingly, the first fix didn’t take. I needed to turn to changing the post title()as well, and removed the parentheses from that title. After that, Google went with the tag: This procedure may require some trial-and-error and patience, particularly because</p> <h1>the GSC reindexing timeline can differ a fair bit. The majority of these updates took about a day to kick in</p> <p>, but I have actually recently heard anywhere from an hour to never.(3)Do not ditch Moz!Our final case study is a complex, multi-delimiter title where Google decided to divide the title based on an expression in quote marks and after that truncate it (without the “…”)</p> <h3>: < img src= "https://moz.com/images/learn/8000-rewrites-15.png?w=660&auto=compress%2Cformat&fit=crop&fp-x=0.5&fp-y=0.5&dm=1631756631&s=2f62304c6f0a66a3e6b81ef25f8c970f "/ > Although the primary part</p> <p>of the reword is all right, regrettably the cutoff makes it look like the author is telling readers to ditch Moz.( Marketing wasn’t thrilled about that ). I opted to simplify the tag, eliminating the quote and the <title> parentheses. Here’s completion outcome: I handled to slip in all of the relevant part of the title by changing” And “out with an ampersand (& ), and now it’s clear what we need to be dropping. Cue the sigh of relief.While there’s possibly a lot more to be done, there are 2 takeaways here: You require

to prioritize– do not sweat the small rewrites, specifically when Google may change/adjust them at

  • at any time. The bad rewrites can be repaired with a little time and persistence, if you understand why Google is doing what they’re doing.I don’t think

  • this upgrade is cause for panic, however it’s absolutely worth getting a sense of your own rewrites– and especially patterns of rewrites– to make

  • sure they reflect the intent of your content. What I discovered, even throughout 8,000 rewrites, is that there were just a handful of patterns with perhaps a few lots examples that didn’t fit any one pattern. Separating the signal from the sound takes work, but it’s absolutely achievable.Are rewrites great or bad?This is an exceptionally subjective concern. I deliberately structured this post into right/so-so/wrong to keep myself from cherry-picking bad examples, and my observations are that many rewrites (even on a website that I take quite personally) are minor and harmless. That said, I have some misgivings. If you enjoy with the analysis and don’t need the editorializing, you’re welcome to go make a sandwich or take a nap.It’s essential to keep in mind that this is a vibrant scenario. Some of the rewrites my research flagged had altered when I returned to check them by hand, including quite a few that had actually gone back to basic truncation. It appears that Google is getting used to feedback.This research study and post left me the most unpleasant with the “so-so”examples. Much of the bad examples can be repaired with better algorithms, however ultimately I believe that the bar for rewriting titles need to be relatively high. There’s absolutely nothing incorrect with the majority of the original tags in the so-so examples, and it appears Google has set the rewrite threshold pretty low.You might argue that Google has all of the information (and that I do not ), so perhaps they know what they’re doing. Perhaps so, however I have two problems with this argument.First, as an information scientist, I fret about the scale of Google’s data. Let’s assume that Google A/B tests rewrites versus some kind of engagement metric or metrics. At Google scale(i.e. massive data), it’s possible to reach analytical significance with extremely little distinctions. The problem is that data do not tell us anything about whether that change is significant enough to offset the effects of

    making it. Is a 1%lift in some engagement metric worth it when a rewrite might change the author’s initial intent or even present branding or legal issues for business in limited cases?If you’re comparing 2 machine learning designs to each other, then it makes sense to opt for the one that carries out much better typically, even if the distinction is small. Most likely, because case, both models have access to the exact same information. With title rewrites, however, we’re comparing the efficiency of a model to countless mindful, human decisions that might have a lot of context Google has no access to. The risk of rewriting is reasonably high, IMO, and that means that small distinctions in performance might not be enough.Second– and this is a more philosophical point– if Google has found that certain patterns or title styles lead to better performance, then why not be transparent and publish that data? I understand why Google wants to veil the algorithm in secrecy, but they’ve already told us that title rewrites do not effect rankings. If the objective is to develop better titles throughout the web, then empower authors and content developers to do that. Do not make those choices for us.Ultimately, I believe Google moved too far, too quickly with this upgrade. I believe they could have interacted(and still could interact) the factors more openly without risk to any significant tricks and be more conservative about when and if to make changes, at least up until these systems have been improved.