If you’re like me, you probably consider yourself a pretty competent person. And because I feel pretty competent (most days), I often get frustrated by software that tries to perform tasks for me or correct my work.
In an effort to make tasks “easier” for us, software companies have been adding features to make even the smallest tasks “simple.” Some of these changes, I believe, are misguided and often lead to user frustration -- or perhaps it’s just me?
And Google is doing the same thing. For some time now, webmasters and SEOs alike have complained that Google actually has been editing the title link that appears in search results, not always using the title tag of the ranked page. According to Google’s Webmaster Tools site: "Sometimes even pages with well-formulated, concise, descriptive titles will end up with different titles in our search results to better indicate their relevance to the query. There’s a simple reason for this: the title tag as specified by a webmaster is limited to being static, fixed regardless of the query. Once we know the user’s query, we can often find alternative text from a page that better explains why that result is relevant. Using this alternative text as a title helps the user, and it also can help your site. Users are scanning for their query terms or other signs of relevance in the results, and a title that is tailored for the query can increase the chances that they will click through."
In other words, Google, in its infinite wisdom, may decide that your title tag may not be the best choice for searchers on a particular query.
So is Google making search results better by playing copywriter? My answer is no. I’ve seen no statistics from Google backing up this claim that, according to a Google+ post by Pierre Far, “On average, the alternative titles increase the clickthrough rate on the results, i.e. more traffic for you.” If the CTR is improving with these changes, by how much? What is the average?
As an experience webmaster and SEO, I personally have a problem with Google changing content displayed on its site. While Google is claiming that this provides more options for webmasters than the simply static title tag, the company is making the assumption that it is more knowledgeable about my content and what is best to display than I am as the writer.