How Google Generates Titles for Web Page Results

September 17, 2021

In a recent blog post, Google announced that they have refined their system for generating titles for web page results. The new system uses HTML title elements (sometimes called title tags) as the titles for the vast majority of web page results. Based on feedback from creators, Google has made changes which mean that title elements are now used around 87% of the time.

The reason that title elements are not used 100% of the time is because, in some cases, the text in the title element might not describe a page as accurately as it could. Some pages have empty titles, while others use the same titles on every page regardless of the page's actual content. In these cases, Google may use text beyond the title element to generate a more accurate title for the page.

Our new system is designed to address even more situations where going beyond the title element might be helpful. Here are some examples of things it detects and adjusts for, which are based on real issues we see across the trillions of pages we list.

Half-empty titles

A half-empty title often occurs when large sites use templates to craft titles for their web pages, and something is missing. The template might put a summary of the page first in the title, followed by the site name. In half-empty titles, the summary is often missing, which produces titles like this:

| Site Name

Our system is designed to detect half-empty titles and adjust by looking at information in header elements or other large and prominent text on the page. This can produce a title in line with what the site itself likely intended to happen, like this:

Product Name | Site Name

Obsolete titles

Obsolete titles often happen when the same page is used year-after-year for recurring information but the title element didn't get updated to reflect the latest date. Consider a title element like this:

The University of Awesome has released their 2021 admissions criteria. The criteria are as follows: -The applicant must have a high school diploma or equivalent. -The applicant must complete the application form and submit it to the university. -The applicant must submit a personal statement. -The applicant must submit official transcripts from all schools previously attended. -The applicant must submit SAT or ACT scores. -The applicant may be required to submit additional materials such as an essay, resume, or letters of recommendation.

For more information on the admissions process, please visit the University of Awesome's website linked below.

The text discusses the problem of micro-boilerplate titles, which are titles that are used on a subset of pages within a site. This can create problems because it is not always clear which page is for what season. The system discussed in the text can detect the season number and insert it into the title, so that the titles are more helpful.

Google has released some guidance for site owners regarding titles on their website. Their main advice is to focus on creating great HTML title elements, as these are what Google will use most often. However, they also acknowledge that there are some situations where their system for producing titles is not perfect, and they welcome feedback from webmasters in order to improve it.

Danny Sullivan, public liaison for Google Search, recently shared some insights on how the search engine giant approaches website indexing. In a series of tweets, Sullivan addressed common questions and concerns around Google's indexing process.

First, Sullivan clarified that there is no single "Google index." Rather, there are multiple indexes that serve different purposes. For example, there is a separate index for image searches and another for mobile searches. This is done to improve the quality of search results.

Sullivan also explained that Google does not index every single page on the internet. The search engine uses algorithms to assess which pages are most relevant and useful to users. As such, it's not always possible or necessary to index every page.

Finally, Sullivan addressed the issue of website owners who want their pages indexed immediately. He explained that Google does submit requests for pages to be indexed automatically but that this isn't always possible or necessary. In some cases, it may take weeks or even months for a page to be indexed.

Overall, Danny Sullivan's insights provide valuable insight into how Google approaches website indexing. It's clear that the search engine uses a variety of factors to determine which pages are most relevant and useful to users. As such, not every page on the internet will be indexed by Google.

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