Good morning, Marketers, it’s time for some “it said, it said.”

I know the saying is typically “He said, she said,” but companies don’t have genders and I like to avoid unnecessarily gendered phrases. Now, get ready for a bunch of conflicting stats:

  • When Google initially confirmed the title link changes in August, the company said it was using HTML titles 80% of the time.
  • A week after Google’s confirmation, Mordy Oberstein, head of communications at Semrush, shared some early findings — since the end of July, the number of results showing with the title tag on the SERP dropped 77%. 
  • In September, Google upped its figure, saying that it uses your HTML title tags 87% of the time.
  • Last week, Ahrefs published a study that found that Google uses your titles 66.6% of the time.
  • And, this past Friday, Oberstein updated me on Semrush’s findings: “Google does not use the title tag you create at this point 62% of the time,” he said, adding, “However 64% of title rewrites are an 80%+ match to your actual title tag — meaning the rewrites may not be entirely significant (all things being equal).”

Those are a lot of different figures, from different sources, probably using different methodologies. Here’s my question: Do you care about these stats if Google isn’t significantly rewriting your titles? In speaking to SEOs about how the title changes impacted their clients, most were shocked at the poor rollout, but were quick to note that the worst changes are mostly gone and that rewrites were, as Oberstein alluded to, relatively minor.

SEOs are trained to write good title tags — while Google doesn’t always agree with us on what “good” means here, it seems that the community has at least somewhat accepted the new status quo. So, who cares what percentage of titles are being changed if the ones you’re writing are largely intact? Studies are released all the time, and the information can be valuable, but nothing will ever be as valuable as looking at your own data and making decisions based on that.

George Nguyen,

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