The Impact of NOODP on Titles in SERPS

I noticed a really interesting behaviour on our branded search results a few weeks ago. For some queries, Google will change the title displayed in the search results. This might not be new to some, but I think it’s worth sharing.

Our desired search result snippet

branded query - desired result

Variation on the brand term: “SEO gadget”

branded-query-variation

Google has reworked our title in this snippet to read: “SEO Gadget”. If you add the NOODP meta into your homepage header, this goes away:

branded-query-variation-with-odp

I tested this again by removing the tag, watching the search result return to its previous state, and then reimplemented the NOODP tag to check that the changing meta was responsible for the behaviour in the snippet.

Where is Google actually getting the text from?

To be fair I’m not completely certain where Google is getting the “SEO Gadget” text from. Our homepage doesn’t actually use the exact term: “SEO Gadget”. For interest, I added this phrase to see what would happen during the NOODP testing, but the change had no impact.

I think the two most feasible signals:

1) The ODP itself

dmoz

2) Our top inbound anchor text

anchors

I suspect it’s more of the former rather than the latter, but perhaps both! Have you seen this issue before and fixed it? I’m really interested to hear about it.

Comments

  1. identity

    Richard,

    Yes, that title is pulled from ODP. I’ve seen it on a few occasions, and I’m sure it happens often without most people noticing. More often though, I’d say is the description that is changed. Actually just ran into that a few weeks ago and the client had no idea where the oddly written brand reference in their description was coming from.

    It is one of those things that has been out there for ages, but easy to forget about. And of course a lot of sites got in the habit of adding NOODP and NOYDIR to their pages to begin with.

    cheers

  2. Dave

    I’ve seen it happen a number of times – I’m pretty sure in all cases it was choosing to pull in the title from Dmoz (I could be wrong, I didn’t check the backlinks – but it would make the most sense if adding the NOODP tag fixes it).

    I think @rishil and @patrickaltoft had interesting ideas for how to use the Dmoz snippet to your advantage, check the “Advanced Title” section at the bottom of this post: http://www.seoptimise.com/blog/2010/08/40-title-tag-seo-for-google-ranking-factors-optimization-techniques-resources.html

  3. Alistair

    Richard,

    It could be either of the two options you’ve listed. Matt Cutts has previously stated that they’ll use other data to improve the results if they feel it is weak. From memory, the example Matt used was a page with no or very lacking element and he said that they might use anchor text as a hint, ODP or on page content as well.

    Al.

  4. richardbaxterseo Post author

    Hi Al, yes – I’ve seen the post and the mention of “other signals” is mentioned in Webmaster help. They’re not clear on exactly what the other signals may be :-) Thanks for contributing.

  5. Kenneth

    Very interesting post Richard i am glad you have brought this up. I have seen this on a few sites now but have not thought that it could be due to the NOODP tag. i will test this with my own sites and pay close attention to peoples comments on this. Thanks.

  6. Ross Hudgens

    I have seen this for my own website – I have no dmoz listing, either. When I exact match my full name it will give my name only, when I don’t, it gives the full title tag. The anchor text pointing to my homepage is 70/30 Ross Hudgens/other KWs.

  7. richardbaxterseo Post author

    Hi Ross – thanks for the information. You have noodp on your site at the moment, did you implement that to resolve the problem you described? I can’t replicate the serp with an exact match for your name, so I’ll assume that the noodp “fixed” the issue?

  8. R. Barclay

    I guess it is just a coincedence after adding noodp tag my site disappeared for our primary key phrase. That is the only new factor and our front page seems to have dropped out of Google

  9. Alistair

    Richard,

    Just a quick follow up for those that might not have seen it.

    Search Engine Roundtable posted recently about when Google might change your title tag. JohnMu of Google-fame said they’d consider changing them when:

    * Titles are particularly short
    * Titles are shared across large parts of your site
    * Titles appear to be mostly a collection of keywords

    and that you could avoid it by:

    One thing you can do to help prevent this is to make sure that your titles and descriptions are relevant, unique and compelling, without being “stuffed” with too much boilerplate text across your site.

    In your instance, I wonder whether or not you’re falling victim to a combination of those three points. You’re title is relatively short, SEO Gadget is all about SEO so the titles will reflect that throughout no doubt and SEO is a highly commercial term as well.

    Al.