An association between page titles and Google search rankings exists as strongly today as it did in the early days of SEO.
People of all levels of SEO knowledge agree that optimizing page titles is critical to search success.
And how could you argue?
Page titles are the most visible component of Google’s search results pages (SERPs); it is easy to conclude that they have weight as a ranking factor.
But more optimization is not necessarily better. Optimization can cross the line into manipulation. It’s when you write for search engines before real people.
Historically, Google downgrades ranking factors when the level of manipulation reaches a point where it lowers the quality of search results.
A great example is domain names, which Google once valued so highly that it was difficult to rank them. without keywords in your URL.
That’s a thing of the past, and now it’s just as possible to rank with an obscure brand name in your URL as it is with a keyword-based domain.
As Google search matures, it makes sense to wonder if page titles can go in the same direction. Will Google eventually get tired of spam and reduce the weight of the page title ranking factor?
Who knows what lies ahead for us, but we haven’t reached that point yet. There is no doubt that Google’s algorithms take page titles into account.
Instead, the questions around page titles are:
- The extent to which title tags are valued.
- Their importance to the overall image of a website’s search optimization.
In this article, we aim to answer these questions by investigating various claims and reviewing official statements from Google.
[Deep Dive:] The Complete Guide to Google Ranking Factors
The claim: title tags are a ranking factor
A page title is the text that appears in the tag
Page titles are the most important and visible element of a page snippet when performing a Google search.
The title of a page also appears in the browser tab after clicking on a search result.
The prominence of page titles in Google’s SERPs has led to persistent claims that they are a heavily weighted ranking factor.
Is it possible that these claims are exaggerated?
Proof of title tags as a ranking factor
Google unquestionably uses the HTML title tag to understand what pages are about so they can rank them in search results.
The company’s official SEO starter guide recommends unique, precise, and brief but descriptive titles on all website pages.
But when it comes to the strength of page titles as a ranking factor, evidence suggests they are only a weak signal.
Google’s John Mueller said page titles aren’t critical to rankings, at least with respect to main content:
” We use [the title tag] for ranking, but it’s not the most critical part of a page. So it’s not worth stuffing it with keywords just to hope it works that way. »
Mueller goes on to say that page titles are important for SEO and are a ranking factor.
However, they are not so critical that redesigning a site’s page titles will significantly affect ranking positions. He said:
“Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Sure, they’re definitely used as a ranking factor, but that’s not something where I’d say the time you spend polishing the title is really the best use of your time.
Mueller addressed this issue again on another occasion, reiterating that page titles help Google understand what a page is about but are not essential in determining rankings.
“…if you’re talking about ranking changes that are so big that you see them globally, then I think just tweaking titles and meta tags won’t get you what you’re looking for. Editing titles and tags meta makes it easier for us to recognize what is actually on a page, but it will not significantly change the overall visibility of the website.
With all of this considered, it’s clear that page titles remain essential for SEO.
But in today’s hierarchy of ranking factors, title tags are far from the top.
[Discover:] More information on Google ranking factors
Our Verdict: Title Tags Are a Ranking Factor
Page titles are a confirmed Google ranking factor, with evidence suggesting the strength ranges from mild to moderate.
A title tag is a tool for communicating to Google what a page is about.
It helps search algorithms understand which category the page belongs to and what queries it can answer.
From there, Google uses more critical factors, such as main content, to determine a page’s ranking.
To be on the safe side, it’s worth taking the time to write titles for each page.
Websites can struggle to gain traction in search results without unique page titles as minimal optimization.
Did the page title update impact search rankings?
Since we released the first version of this ebook, Google has released an update on how it generates page titles in search results.
Google replaces page titles in SERPs when the provided title is not relevant to a user’s query.
Specifically, this happens when the main content is relevant, but the title doesn’t directly match what a user typed in the search bar. Google will replace the page title with a piece of text that is more likely to grab the searcher’s attention.
Indeed, it impacts the appearance of search results but does not impact rankings.
Google confirms that it uses original page titles for search rankings, even when replaced in SERPs. You don’t have to worry about your optimization efforts being wasted.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal