Does Google use your title tags in your SERP results as written or some variation? Do you know how often they are changing your titles on your results specifically?
In August 2021, Google introduced a new system of generating titles for web pages, because HTML title tags don't always describe a page well. In particular, title tags can sometimes be:
- Very long.
- "Stuffed" with keywords.
- Lack title tags entirely or contain repetitive "boilerplate" language.
According to Search Engine Journal, “Page titles have a large impact on click-through rates because they provide important context to search engines, but a recent study shows Google rewrites page titles more than 60 percent of the time.
A recent study from Cyrus Shepard with Zyppy, analyzed more than 80,000 title tags from 2370 sites. He discovered that Google rewrote 61.6% of the title tags at least partially.
But how often is Google rewriting your site's title tags in the SERPs?
Using the power of Nozzle, a title tag extractor tool like Screaming Frog, and Excel, you can discover what percentage of your title tags are being rewritten or altered.
Calculating Your Own Title Tag Usage in the SERPs
First, download your ranking data from your Nozzle workspace. (I recommend choosing the Title Tags option from the Columns To Export field to decrease CSV size.)
Create a Pivot Table
Once your file is saved to an Excel spreadsheet choose the Insert tab and click on PivotTable. Select all the cells of the sheet.
Select the following from the PivotTable Fields box:
Then drag "device" to the Filters box and "result_title_text" and "result_url_url" to the Rows box. Drag "result_title_text" to the Values box too.
This will give you a comprehensive list of titles that Google is using for your site. The first thing to look for is any URLs that have more than one listed title text. This means that Google is using more than one title text for this URL in the SERPs.
To dig deeper, if you select the "phrase" field and place it in the Rows box, then you can see which title text was used by Google for each individual keyword phrase that a specific URL ranks for in the SERPs.
Calculate Percentage of Altered Title Tags:
Next, you can compare this list of SERP title text to your full list of title tags across your site to calculate how many times Google is using your title tag versus something else.
To get a list of your site's title tags, I recommend one of the following:
- Run your domain through Screaming Frog and click to generate an export of all your title tags.
- Copy the list of URLs from the pivot table and paste them into Buzzstream's meta tag extractor tool to generate a list of your title tags for your specific list of URLs that rank in the SERPs.
Once you have the list of title tags, just paste in your URLs and title tags into the columns to the right of your pivot table. Then you can use the following VLOOKUP formula to show you when the title text used in the SERPs matches one of your title tags from your site.
In the image below, you can see the formula in use in column D.
Any time the title text used in the SERP from column A matches one of your actual title tags from column G, then your title tag will be listed. Otherwise, you'll see #N/A. (You may have to do a little cleanup first, like delete the elipses or change "| nozzle.io" to "-nozzle.io" for example.)
Add up the number of matches discovered in column D and divide by the total to discover how often Google alters your title tags in the SERPs.
By doing so, we discovered that Google changed our title tag 39.7% of the time on desktop results and 41.1% of the time on mobile results.
Go and do likewise. :)
Boyd Norwood has been doing SEO and digital marketing since 2004. He loves playing ping pong, basketball, tennis, hiking, and doing puzzles.