This essay originally appeared in CT No. 120: Unstop, which was sent to all email subscribers on April 28, 202w.

One of the very first lessons in SEO involves understanding meta title tags. These tiny pieces of text that don't make it to the page copy hold direct sway over your ranking in Google to this day. Even optimization newbies know to customize their title tags: Include that phrase you want to page the rank for in the title and you're on your way to Google success!

If you've never heard of a meta title tag before, it's the 55-65 characters that users see as the blue text in search results,

For more than a decade, Google pulled the title tag directly from whatever was set in the <meta title=""> code. Whatever you wrote in the meta title, Google displayed, even as it revised your meta descriptions and pulled feature snippets out of context.

However, in 2021, SEO professionals noticed that Google was rewriting meta title tags. Google confirmed this change in August 2021, noting that its machine learning was focusing on replacing spammy title text with the more accurate on-page headings.

So should you change your title tag optimization process? Perhaps, if you're still following these title tag conventions. Google and research recommends that you avoid:

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