Hang on to your seats. Crazy new Google update, or hopefully just a test – because these new SERPS do not enhance the user experience! And some of the results are just plain bad. Like the ESCORT SERVICE with the keyword stuffed Place page that took the ONE BOX for Seattle Chiropractor, knocking all the legit Chiros off page one. More on that in a minute! (Bottom of page.)

UPDATES 5/21 (from Vanessa) and 5/19 below (Original Post 5/17)

I noticed a crazy update at midnight last night but was too tired to research. This AM I decided instead of taking time to research a whole lot I’m just going to scoop the story and get some of my findings out there. Then find out what other results you guys are seeing and we can try to figure out what’s up.

Essentially in the results I’ve checked, only the A listing gets to keep their title tag. For the others the title tag has been replaced with NOT the Place page title, NOT the business name in some cases, BUT what the algo “thinks” is the name based on words it pulls of the web site. (SEE SOME BAD RESULTS BELOW)

From what I can tell this is a cosmetic or display update and NOT an algo update. At least that’s what I’m seeing on early analysis. Because my clients that ranked A, still rank A, even though their well crafted title tag is gone and just a name or a couple keywords are showing instead.

Below I’m showing screenshots of some bad or weird results, in case I’m sitting on a test server again and others aren’t seeing the same results yet.

This 1st one is from a Dentist that emailed me late last night to ask why Google changed his Place page title. Because in the SERPSs only 4 letters were showing instead of his title tag. I checked and his Place page was fine. That’s when I discovered this new quirky update was replacing his title tag.

See B listing – Dentist 19116 screen shot
Pcde (Initials displayed instead of title tag)
That’s it! That’s all that’s displayed in the SERPs. 4 initials and not even capitalized. His practice name is Pennsylvania Center for Dental Excellence and domain is pcde.com. Pcde is NOT in title tag or listed anywhere on site in lower case. It’s twice in caps in footer links, but those initials are NOT predominant on the site. So why does the algo think that’s should be the only thing listed in the SERP title? Does that title add any value in the SERPS> No and could in fact hurt his click-through rates, because the 4 letters mean nothing to a surfer at all.

See D listing – Atlanta Dentist screen shot
Dentist (Single keyword displayed instead of title tag)
That’s it in the SERPS – That single keyword replaces the incredibly long title tag from his site. On his Place page, it’s his Dr. name, so it’s not being pulled from there either.

See Atlanta criminal defense attorney screen shot. In this example we have 2 attorneys with the same keyword SERP title “Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorney”. A little redundant, don’t you think? That’s not the name of either practice. In the D listing – at least that’s part of his title tag. The B listing it’s not even his title tag, it’s just what Google decided to show.

Other observations. Denver Dentist, no title tags at all – just business names. Chicago towing, on the B listing Google replaces SERP title with gngtowing.com instead of title tag or business name. San Diego Carpet Cleaning – A, B and D – 3 out of 7 have the exact same SERP title “San Diego Carpet Cleaning”. The B listing does not even have that exact phrase in the title tag, or on Place title, so G just redundantly replaced title tag with the same keywords the other guys have.

LAST BUT LEAST – ESCORT LISTING DISPLACES 7 CHIROPRACTORS

Seattle Chiropractor is one of the main key phrases I track and I know who normally shows up on page 1. ALL OF THE TOP CHIROPRACTORS ARE GONE!

Who’s the lucky Chiropractor that scored the one box and knocked them all off?
Must be one of the really strong listings, right? NO
Must be an exact match domain, right? NO

Check it out: Seattle Chiropractor screen shot

It’s a FAKE Place page with a fake business name.
I believe address is at a UPS store.
No web site. No citations.
PHONE # belongs to an escort agency!

Why does this listing deserve a one box???

While I’m not saying that the bad one box above is a direct result of this new update, it did show up at the same time. All I’m saying is there are some strange results, some type of change seems to be under way. Watch your listings!

So we’ve known for awhile that Google will “sometimes” change your title tag and display something a little different in the SERPS, but this is something else I think and seems pretty wide spread in local BLENDED results. Does not appear to be affect pure organic or 7 packs that I can see.

And again, the change does not seem to affect rankings, because my clients that were #1 when they had a nicely crafted title tag show up in SERP title, still rank #1 even if the title was changed to just their name, initials or a single word. Plus the B listing for competitive keyword Chicago towing lost title tag and still ranks with gngtowing.com displayed instead of title tag.

So my concern is, how do you help your client stand out in the SERPs if your well crafted title tag gets randomly over-written to who knows what? Or changed to to read the same as everyone else on the page?

With local listing meta descriptions gone and now title tags for the most part, how are these new results providing a better user experience and helping people find the local services they are looking for?

Your thoughts???

UPDATE 5/19 – I just re-read the last Google Search quality highlights: 52 changes for April

More efficient generation of alternative titles. [launch codename “HalfMarathon”] We use a variety of signals to generate titles in search results. This change makes the process more efficient, saving tremendous CPU resources without degrading quality.

More concise and/or informative titles. [launch codename “kebmo”] We look at a number of factors when deciding what to show for the title of a search result. This change means you’ll find more informative titles and/or more concise titles with the same information.

I KNOW G has been changing titles for awhile now, but I think what I’m seeing may be something a little different. But possibly it has to do with the updates above. I just found an even worse example in the G webmaster forum. G changed his SERP title to “wp6244622c.png”. And that image is NOT even on his site! See screen shot.

UPDATE 5/21 – Vanessa replied to a user complaint in the forum today.

My Name show up wrong under local search

Just to step in here, I circled up with some folks. Displaying those title tags is all algorithmic (meaning, a human being didn’t put it there, but a computer generated it based on the information available to it). But there are things you can do to try to prevent this type of look. We just updated this article in the Webmaster Help Center — take a look, it should help:

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35624

– Vanessa