Why Google Is Broken – Title Tag

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Counting links is the core of Google’s ranking algorithm. The idea that the more incoming links a webpage has the greater its “authority” or the more highly recommended it is has powered Google search for a long time. Unfortunately, one of the main reasons Google is broken is that counting links is no longer a valid way to determine the quality or even the popularity of a webpage.

Another major reason Google is broken is the title tag.

The title tag is one of many codes used in the programming language of the Internet called HTML. In HTML, the webpage creator defines a title tag by putting something in between <title> and </title>.

You might think that whatever is input between the title tags is the title that you see on a webpage, but you would be wrong. The visible title at the top of most webpages is actually created by something called a header tag. Header tags are also powerful search engine optimization factors, but secondary to the title tag.

The title tag does not impact anything that you see ON a webpage. Rather, the title tag determines what is displayed in the title bar of older web browsers before their were tabs for each web page that was open. Today, the title tag determines what is displayed on the tab of a particular webpage. Any modern browser with more than one webpage open uses tabs and the title is almost never completely displayed, yet the title tag is STILL one of the most powerful Google ranking signals.

Overemphasis on Title Tag

Once upon a time, the search engines on the Internet were very unintelligent. The earliest ones did nothing more than count the number of times word or phrase appeared on a webpage. Thus, if a webpage said, Ford Trucks, ten times, then it was “better” result for someone searching for “ford trucks” than a page that only said it six times.

Of course, when people caught on, they just started repeating the word as much as possible. They stopped even bothering trying to include it in text somehow and just started putting words at the bottom of the webpage and repeating them over and over. Some webpages started doing it with the same text color as the background color so that it didn’t look bad to people, but all of those keywords counted.

The main reason for Google’s success was that it did not depend on those keywords for its rankings, so all of those spammy webpages didn’t clutter up its search engine results pages, or SERPs.

Instead of using the text of a webpage, where there was too much keyword spam to use reliably, Google uses the title tag to determine what a webpage is about. While counting incoming links can tell you which pages are best regarded, you still have to pair the content with the searcher’s intent. The best root canal webpage in the world is a terrible result for someone searching for beach volleyball, no matter how many links it has pointing to it.

Thus, Google search rankings are a result of a combining how well the text in the title tag matches the text typed into the Google search box and then how many links are pointing to the best matching webpages.

This is how the content farms consistently show up high in Google search rankings. A webpage with a title tag of “how to use hp laserjet 1012 printer on windows 7” is a better match for the same search than a webpage titled HP LaserJet 1012 Windows 7 Printer Drivers, even if the latter has more incoming links and better information. By constantly adding content with every possible variation on popular or frequent searches, the content mills can rank their webpages high for specific Google searches.

Repetitively publishing such similar content just to capture subtle variations in search text typed by users is not feasible for legitimate publishers. The New York Times, for example, would not be well served by publishing an article about pentagon spending in numerous variations just so that it will rank highly for not just the original title, but for other ways that users might search for it. Thus, the Times ends up with one well-deserved high ranking, while someone else claims the high rankings on all the variations.

Ironically, the more legitimate a resource is, the less likely it is to customize its title tags on every webpage. For example, many government webpages are the actual, legally defined authority on certain subjects, but because they do not “optimize” their title tags, other webpages (legitimate or not) show up above them despite the boost that Google gives to webpages housed on .gov domains.

For example, searching for “colorado school rankings” brings back not the official Colorado Department of Education website, nor the test results for the official test, but rather numerous sites that republish the data of the former.

Why don’t the real websites rank higher?

Because their title tags are things like “Colorado Department of Education” and “Unit Assessment Test Rankings”.

No matter what data is on your webpage, if there is another page with a closer title tag to the search performed, it won’t show up, even if the exact phrase does appear in the body of your article.

Up Next: Why Google Is Broken – Anchor Text

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