Are Lower Case Titles In Yahoo Coming From Anchor Text

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:

SearchBliss Title Tag

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:

Yahoo Search Results for SearchBliss

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.

Postscript Barry: This has now been fixed, more details here and here.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | SEO: Titles & Descriptions | Yahoo: SEO

Sponsored


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



SearchCap:

Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  

Share

Other ways to share:
 

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://www.prestonwily.com Preston Wily

    Google had this same problem with secure pages a while back – http://www.prestonwily.com/archives/google-weirdness

    It looks like they have since fixed it…

  • http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    Google does this. Just search for e.g. [google god trends] to get an example. The first result will be coming from a Google.com location that is not crawlable per robots.txt — the Google Trends result — so Google does the next best thing and (apparently) uses backlink text for the result title. This happens for non-Google.com sites too, of course.

  • http://www.luckylester.com Lucky Lester

    Interesting post. I run a site called Lucky Lester and on this site I offer free football picks for both the NFL and NCAA. This is a true hobby site as the site is not monetized in any way shape or form, we don’t even sell links. The site was put together for the sheer pleasure of talking about football and upon occasion, other sports.

    While I know a great deal about SEO I simply do not have the time to apply a full blown SEO campaign to this site. With that said I can tell you that at times my site has been in #1 on yahoo for the search term Free Football Picks. In fact I held that position for weeks at the beginning of the football season. As a person who didn’t really care about the SERPS for this site I wasn’t too concerned when it started to slide from #1 to #3 and so on.

    About 6 to 8 weeks ago I noticed that the listing in Yahoo began using the lower case free football picks for the Title/link and after that I watched it slide to its current position of about #66. Now I can tell you that the site isn’t very active in link building and I always switch out the text to my weekly football picks.

    Given these linking practices I have to disagree with the assertion that Yahoo is replacing the Title/link due to anchor text. I am not sure why Yahoo is doing this and I hope that they provide some insight into this soon as this practice is certainly making me rethink my position on Yahoo’s effectiveness as a reliable search tool.

    A little personal background info on myself; I work as the SEO director for a well known and respected marketing agency that caters to the sports information industry. I have been specializing in the search industry since 1995.

  • http://www.idahowebsitedesign.com Frank T

    I’ve had this same problem also… but with Yahoo PPC. Their support has been most dissapointing thus far. We develop software, such as LPD print servers, IPDS printing, and AS/400 printing tools. When submitted, the above acronyms (AS/400, IPDS, LPD) are capped, but when they are live, Yahoo makes them all lower case, really frustrating as it makes us look unprofessional. In some cases, they’ll capitalize the acronym in the title and go lower case in the description. Sometimes its exactly opposite.

    Here is a support email I received a few days ago asking them to please capitalized things in our ads like AS400, IBM, IPDS, etc…

    ——————
    Hello Frank,

    Thank you for your feedback regarding the capitalization of specific acronym.

    If your business name is trademarked and you would like it capitalized, please let us know. We’ll be happy to submit the information for the adjustment.

    In reviewing your inquiry, we typed in AS/400 into a Yahoo! search query and everywhere it was meant to be capitalized, it was listed in capitalized letters.

    If you have had a keyword or ad declined due to capilization, please let us know. We’re happy to explain further or assist in getting it resolved, if possible.

    Sincerely,

    Customer Solutions
    Yahoo! Search Marketing
    ——————

    Very dissapointed… I also notice it within our listings exactly how Danny wrote. Whut’s up Yahoo????

  • http://seo-theory.blogspot.com/ Michael Martinez

    Barry, one of your 10 backlinks (http://policy.heritageblogs.org/2006/09/victory_for_swedens_centerrigh.html) does indeed use the anchor text you specified to link to the article you found (http://policy.heritageblogs.org/2006/09/entering_the_era_of_open_gover.html). You apparently only looked at the article body. Scan the page with a FIND function for the anchor text and you’ll find it in the navigation (it’s in the breadcrumb at the top of the page).

    The distinction between what Google does (using link anchor text as the title for an uncrawled page) and what Yahoo! is doing (using link anchor text as the title for a crawled page to show relevance to the query) is like night and day.

    Yahoo! is “outing” people who are ranking on the basis of link anchor text.

  • http://www.seroundtable.com rustybrick

    Yes Michael, I said that…

    After reading what I wrote, it is not clear, I guess I am still a bit jet lagged.

    It is used on Word Case, but represented in lower case at Yahoo. What I meant was that it is not used in all lower case, but the words themselves are used in anchor text in numerous locations within that site (about 4 pages in the domain, to be specific).

  • http://seo-theory.blogspot.com/ Michael Martinez

    Maybe I’m the one who is too tired. I see that you wrote “That phrase only shows in upper case” and it completely slipped my notice.

    Sorry.

  • chris boggs

    Oh Tim, where aa-are you ???

  • http://www.firstpagefitness.com Everett

    Here’s an interesting case study if any of you want to have a look:
    http://www.firstpagefitness.com/blog/2007/01/17/yahoo-not-the-only-search-engine-to-lower-case-title-text/

    It’s Google lowercasing one version of a canonical URL and not the other. Google has most certainly crawled the lowercase version because the new title is being displayed.

    It alerted me to a few problems that have since been fixed or are in the process of being fixed, but I’m still unsure as to why both search engines would have such similar issues in the same time period.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest

 
 

Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States

Europe

Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech


Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!

 


 

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide