At the last WebmasterWorld PubCon, there was a site clinic where one of the issues that came up was Yahoo not using the title tag for a specific site. Instead, Yahoo got titles for these pages in a place no one could figure out, and the titles were all in lower case.
Recently, this has appeared to become more widespread and the forums are starting to discuss it. As Ben Pfeiffer noted at Search Engine Roundtable, there is a large WebmasterWorld thread on Yahoo replacing title tags titles with titles Yahoo possibly creates from the links (anchor text) pointing to that site.
Let’s look at examples. WebProNews cites SearchBliss as an example. The SearchBliss title tag (on the home page) reads, “Web Tools and Free Webmaster Services by SearchBliss.com” and here is a screen shot:
Now, if you do a search at Yahoo on searchbliss, you will notice that Yahoo returns a title that reads “powered by SearchBliss.” But the title tag reads, “Web Tools and Free Webmaster Services by SearchBliss.com.” Here is a screen capture of the Yahoo result:
Other examples, as Danny has been noticing a lot lately include a search for cars and fun, which returns a site at http://www.oldcarsforfun.com/ with the title tag “home.” Yahoo replaces that title tag with “old cars for fun.”
I have asked Yahoo for more details on this report. Right now, we feel it may be anchor text producing these titles. And since the search results show the titles as lower case, we believe it is from the anchor text. I am pretty sure both Yahoo and Google have admitted to replacing title tags with anchor text when the title is not descriptive (i.e. home, under construction, untitled, etc.) but not in cases with descriptive title tags.
[Note from Danny: I've never heard either search engine say this, but perhaps I've missed that.
Barry did point me here and here on how Google might use content from the page itself but outside the title tag to make a new title for the listing. But that's entirely different from deciding what anchor text to use from perhaps thousands of links point at a page.
Sitelinks from Google do use anchor text, and that's the biggest known example of this type of listing a page based on anchor text rather than a title tag. That depends on anchor text from the home page of a site. It's explained more in my recent post, Study Says Get In Top 5 Not Top 10 & Search Engines May Need To Highlight Official Sites from yesterday.
Anyway, we should know shortly from Yahoo].
After more careful review, Danny and I decided to see if anchor text is actually creating these titles. Here are the steps we took to see if we can reproduce it:
(1) A Yahoo search on entering lately
(2) Result number 5 shows “entering the era of open government” from this page
(3) The true title tag for that page is “The Heritage Policy Weblog:Entering the Era of Open Government”
(4) A site explorer back link check shows 10 inlinks
(5) Going through each result, the anchor text “entering the era of open government” is not used on any of these pages that are linking to the target page, not in lower case. That phrase only shows in upper case.
So either Yahoo isn’t using anchor text for this, or maybe Yahoo is storing anchor text as all lower case in their database or something else.
I will update this post when I have word from Yahoo.