Every few months or so, I get a question regarding why meta titles differs from how they’ve coded them on their landing page to what Google is displaying in their search results.
Are you doing something wrong if Google is changed your SEO titles? In the past, I would have leaned “probably”. In my past experiences with changed titles, Google did so because they deemed it “not good enough” even when the actual query was included in the title. That was confusing. How could including the keyword in the title not be relevant to a user searching on that keyword?
More recently, I’ve come across Google displaying different titles in the SERPs to include the actual search query in your title if it’s not in your title. This behavior is very much how keyword insertion for Google Adwords works:
(Keyword insertion) dynamically updates your ad text to include one of your keywords that matches a customer’s search terms… This feature allows you to have one ad that appears differently to customers depending on their search terms, making your ads appear more relevant and useful.
In these cases, Google has determined a word that is synonymous or is very closely-related to the word(s) in your page title. For example, if your SEO title is “Cars for Sale in Plymouth – Plymouth Cars 4 Sale” and a user searched on “automobiles in plymouth“, Google might swap out “Cars” with “Automobiles” and display your page on their listings with the adjusted SEO title “Automobiles in Plymouth – Plymouth Cars 4 Sale”.
Google changing titles in the search results might be a good thing
Why does Google change up titles in their search results? The short answer is that Google will do whatever they think is best for a user’s search experience. That means Google will sometimes replace your title with their own title based on the search query.
As mentioned, this used to be more a problem, especially when GOOG got it wrong. Now that Google is changing titles by inserting synonymous keywords when they deem relevant, they’re serving up relevant pages for different queries and that can have a positive impact on traffic to your site.
This can also make SEOs lives easier. SEOs normally limit the optimization of page content (including titles) to one or two keywords. With dynamic keyword insertion for organic, unpaid search listings can improve the visibility of your landing pages without that limitation.