Aug 25, 2008 115 reads by Navneet Kaushal

According to Webmaster World, in the hope of getting better rankings, a lot of Webmasters changes the title tags of their pages and started implementing more search engine friendly tags. However, this effort seems to be backfiring for some. Webmasters are facing rank drops. This can also be related to the Google SERP & Algo Update that we had reported about at the beginning of this month. It does seem that Google is still ain't over with the SERP update, as we have discussed in our post last week, about the website rankings going bonkers. Some Webmasters are even suggesting that over the time, Google has become extremely "cranky" about title changes.

Here are some excerpts from the Webmaster World Thread:

"Past two days have shown a 65%+ decrease in traffic, we have around 250 pages. Last week I went through about 60 of them and adjusted the title tags to something I thought would be more appropriate. e.g. from:

'CompanyName – Get your keyword1, keyword2, keyword3 & keyword4 Quote Now from Company Name'


' ¦ Company Name Keyword1 & Keyword2 Quotes'

as the extra two keywords were not really traffic pullers so I wanted to highlight our better offers. For this sort of change we lost rankings for "CompanyName Keyword1" and "Company Name Keyword1". Alternatively, all I did was rearrange the order e.g. from:

Company Name ¦ Keyword1 & Keyword2's at'


' ¦ Keyword1 & Keyword2's from Company Name'

If it has just mainly been the first example that was dropping I would assume I had done something like lost "synonym value" or tripped one of the many theorised "Over-Optimization Filters".

But as simply the order changed on the majority am I safe to assume that this is just some sort of Trust-Rank loss due to a large portion of my titles having changed suddenly? Should I see my rankings come back in a few weeks once a Google update has passed and my titles appear fixed/static/steady?"

"I've been warning of this for some time.

Unless you are a super trusted authority site (ie you can throw up a page on a long tail and rank Top 3 in an hour), then Google is very cranky about title changes lately.

I absolutely can not guarantee the new titles will come back…

You might want to test ONE. and change the others back to their original titles, to see how that ONE page performs.

And THEN slowly switch others while keeping track of the time-frame that the original page (if successful) regained its rankings."I've also noticed this. Some of the sites I work with are of the "big boy" variety, and they can shift titles around with no obvious problems. Other sites are more of the "adventurous entrepreneuer" variety – and they pretty much have to get it right the first time. Google is not like Infoseek – where the little guy could get involved with a string of tweaks just to see how the algo responded.

I've also seen other elements beyond the title tag get more sensitive to changes:

1. A site was launched with a link to the domain root for the logo at the top of the page – the alt attribute was just the company name. Months later, they added a couple extra keywords to that alt attribute sitewide, and all those keyword searches went south. And yet a site of a similar size had keywords in the logo's alt element at launch and they had no trouble ranking.

2. I've seen a similar effect with links in the footer. You can launch with a reasonable batch of footer links, especially internal links, and not have trouble. But if you mess around with those links after launch you can be courting trouble unless you're a big name site.

We've known for several years that Google watches a site's history. Looks like their watching even more closely for signs of what they feel is over-optimization"

"That's the impression I'm getting. The theory being that only an SEO would be making changes to the title/alt/etc tags 6 months after the site has been launched/indexed/ranked?

Such would seem to be a direct penalty for performing SEO work rather than any actual Search Relevancy Filter though. Change occurs to correct errors and direct targeting better … that's good for search engine results isn't it? Ah! Never thought of that. Of course, that means a second change and so far in this thread the concensus is that the first change was bad enough … 🙁

If they didn't like the title tag change, they're going to hate the huge sitewide design overhaul that's going to occur next week. That will make the site much better too for our users so Google will probably drop us another 100 places … because of course, everything we do is all about Google, right? Not our users."

"Hello all…for what it's worth….my site has been up for about a year and a half (very competitive category) and I have not been doing full optimization until the last two months or so…I'm seeing decent results as I've been adding pages lately….I added about twenty pages for long tail keywords along the same seo theory and didn't get the best placement…I then went in and adjusted my title tags and noticed a drop on my next spidering….which has been about once a week….I left it alone and added more pages….i noticed last night my rankings have rebounded FOR THE BETTER…NOW these ARE NOT that competitive terms but may provide a little insight."

"I don't consider removing 2-3 words or re-arranging the order slightly to be "radical". Changing "Home Loan Quotes" to "Soup Kitchen Vouchers" is radical.

When the words are the same then re-arranging them and dropping from #1 to #214 seems more like a penalty than a natural result of any change."

"I agree with your meaning. BNut for the sake of webmasters everywhere, now and in the future, I want to get picky about words. It's RANKING that drops, not page rank. Page Rank is only influenced by links. Let's all work to lower the confusion ;)"

"Get it right the first time is more important now that ever. I'd prefer to delete a page and use a redirect or just create a new page at a new address than tamper with existing titles.

The issue for Google may not be word order as much as the fact titles were changed. Last year I changed the titles across an entire site of over 1,000 pages. It has since rebounded but was in the 950 tank for months. (May or may not be related to title changes.) The pages unaffected had very solid and very many internal links.

Google once had a problem with overoptimization. Now it looks sometimes as if it just has a problem with optimization. The best time to optimize is at the time of original creation. Do it once. Do it right."

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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