When Google messes around with your page titles

After I discussed yesterday whether you should be adding your company name on to the end of your page titles, a regular reader got in touch to say: “But sometimes Google does it for you without asking!”. And this is true. So, for example, if you write a page title of “Blue Widgets for aerospace applications”, you expect to see this in the Google results:

blue widgets

It therefore comes as a bit of a surprise to see this:

blue widgets 2

There doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule as to when Google does this, and there’s no particular explanation why, either. However, as with all things Google, I’m fairly sure that it’s been done as a result of testing, and the data has shown that the result with the unrequested company name gets a better clickthrough rate.

My own experiments suggest that the site name is more likely to be appended in the case of searches which include the company name (e.g. ‘bluewidgetco blue widgets’), but it’s certainly not exclusive to that. It can happen even for ‘blue widget’ searches. I guess that adding the company name differentiates between results, which could form a very similar list otherwise.

I’ve not seen Google add the site name if it’s already in the title, so I don’t think there’s a danger of the company name appearing twice if you have included it. I have seen it append the company name and truncate the title, like this example, which is horrible:

blue widgets 3

…however, I suspect this only happens if the title was too long anyway, and would have been truncated regardless. If you can demonstrate otherwise, I’d be interested.

In conclusion, I think my normal advice still stands: if you can write a title which presents a real ‘click me’ benefit, and includes the company name, within 60 characters, that’s great. But if it’s one or the other, go for the title selling the benefit of the page. Just remember that if it turns out there was room for the company name after all, Google may add it.

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