Title Tag Update: Google August Algorithm Update

Google Title Tag Update

Google has just rolled out a Google August Update, which focuses heavily on how Google rewrites Title Tags. Google rewriting Title Tags and Meta Descriptions isn’t something new; Google actively rewrites 70% of metadata in the SERPs. The big difference with this update is where Google is sourcing its Title Tags; typically, Google sources its titles from Header elements on the page, now Google is pulling titles from other HTML elements.

Google confirmed on August 26th that it changed its algorithm to determine the best title for a given page using factors like HTML elements and user queries. Google stopped providing dynamic titles based on a search query in favor of having one specific result, regardless of what users search.

SEO forums and Twitter showed many examples of Google replacing Title Tags in the search results with more engaging HTML elements such as h1, image alt text, image filenames, internal anchor text. However, some updates to titles led to unfavorable results: new words being inserted or ellipses removed from truncated titles.

How is the Google Title Tag update different?

Google has been updating and changing titles for over a decade, so this is nothing new. The widespread changes to titles in August 2021 appear more surprising than the earlier changes that were harder to notice.

How does the Google Title Tag algorithm update affect rankings?

Since title tags are a confirmed ranking factor, would Google use the keywords in a page title for ranking if that title was overwritten? Google has indicated that the provided HTML title will always be used for ranking, regardless of the search results’ modified title.

What are the Noticeable Changes?

  1. Header Tags are replacing Title Tags
  2. Google adding subcategory or breadcrumb names to the middle of Title Tags
  3. Google removing ellipses from truncated titles
  4. Google adding numbers or dates to the beginning of titles
  5. Google replacing pipes ( | ) with dashes ( – ) when appending brand names
  6. Google leveraging image alt text or filenames for Titles
  7. Google adding superscripts or other punctuation found alongside headlines into titles
  8. Google inserting or modifying Titles based on information found elsewhere on the page

What can I Fix my Title Tags in Search Results?

Organic Traffic dip from August 16th Update
  1. Identify: The rankings drop, looking at which pages and queries had a significant dip after August 16th, 2021
  2. Find: Your SERP result, looking for the Title Tag Google is using in Search. You can use this tool to help.
  3. Locate: Where Google is pulling the title from on the page (CTRL+F)
  4. Update: Rewrite the element Google is using as the Title Tag with what you want showing in the SERPs.
  5. Submit: Your changes to Google Search Console for Google to Re-index.

The Takeaway

Focus on monitoring your traffic before making broad-sweeping changes to your content. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it! And you should survive this update smashingly.

About the author
Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is SEO Freelancer in Ottawa, where he helps clients plan marketing goals that are keyword-optimized and measurable.

He has worked at Microsoft, The institute of chartered accountants in Australia, Auto Trader, Le Cordon Bleu, and Algonquin College in various Digital Marketing Roles.

Isaac is qualified as a Full-stack developer, Server Administrator, and cyber security expert, adding additional experience to his Search Engine Optimization knowledge.

His Inuit heritage brought him to the Arctic to hunt and fish for most summers, which grew his passion for 4-wheelers and dirtbikes.