What’s in a Name? Google Displays a New Brand-Centric Outlook on Title Tags
April 18, 2013
A Google Game Changer? Search Engine pulls branding the the forefront. Google has re-organized algorithm to reflect branding and company name at the beginning of a title tag. What could this mean for SEO?
From SEO savants to ‘net newbies, nearly everyone realizes the importance of a Title Tag. This is the window into the site’s sole purpose, as title tags are used by internet marketing experts and others to identify what the site is all about. After a thorough investigation of a few title tags, we noticed that for the past few weeks, Google has been toying with a new, curious behavior, and re-organizing the title tag to be a bit more brand-centric in SERPs.
After exploring a countless amount of sites, I noticed a certain pattern develop.
Let’s look at the anatomy of a title tag. Often, corporations and companies will put their brand near the end of the site in the title tag. For example: If you were a frozen yogurt shop that specialized in tons of toppings called Top FroGurt, the title tag might look like this:
<title>Frozen Yogurt with Tons of Toppings! | Top FroGurt</title>
Those title attributes are how this would appear in the source code; typically, Google would display it accordingly. But today, a funny thing started happening. The result read:
Top FroGurt: Frozen Yogurt with Tons of Toppings
Checking the site, one couldn’t help but wonder if the client may have made a change to the site, or somehow the optimization suggestions were left disregarded, or maybe that some change had occurred within the source code to cause the change in the order of these lexical items. However, the source code reflected the title tag unchanged, with the brand at the end of the title tag. After exploring countless variations, the theme continued: If your brand or website was located anywhere in your title tag, it would be moved to the front of the title tag when it displayed in the SERP. This pushed the all-important keywords further back in the title tag, and let the brand become more salient.
This was especially true if two conditions occurred:
1. The brand was included near the end of the title tag and after punctuation marks, such as a colon (:), a dash (-), or a pipe (|). : – | Seems a bit stern, doesn’t it? I’m affectionately calling this the “funny face refresh.”
2. If your URL has the same lexical items as your brand (for instance, using the example above, http://www.topfrogurt.com” ), it will more often look for the match within the title tag, and pull it to the front of the result.
So how will this affect rankings? It’s far too early to say. It may not, as tons of other factors still come into play: back links, shares, trust, content, user experience, PR score, and much, much more. However, the SERP seems to be focusing on the company itself, preferring to give the brand a bigger boost and a more prominent presence than any other words in the title tag.
So what’s in a name? Now, probably far more than we ever expected!