Google's Algorithms Find Stuffed Title Attributes As Sneaky

May 15, 2012 • 9:15 am | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

title attributeI spotted a thread at Google Webmaster Help where a site owner was upset his page was not ranking well.

Googler, John Mueller took a look and noticed an unusually high amount of title attributes used on the page, many with tons and tons of keywords and words in the title attribute. John said that the way he is using the title attribute can be seen as "sneaky" to Google's algorithms.

John wrote:

It looks like a lot of the content on that page (and others within your site) is "hidden" behind title-attributes. To our algorithms, that might look a bit sneaky -- and in practice, it doesn't make that much sense, so I'd recommend going through your pages and making sure that you're using title-attributes as they would normally be used.

Would you disagree?

Here is one of many examples of the use of the title attribute on this page:

<a class='rsswidget' href='' title='Yesterday we mentioned that the specifications and a couple pictures had leaked of the HTC Desire C entry-level smartphone. One of those leaked photographs was an official press shot that came from an errant early publication in a catalog. I’m not sure if the launch was always planned for today, or if HTC figured it … […]' rel='nofollow'>

Years ago, on the old RustyBrick web site, I used the title attribute as a way to provide definitions on mouse over of highly technical terms. It actually worked well for users and for Google definitions back in the day.

I removed that feature with the redesign because by now, most our users know what these terms mean.

In any event, this is Google going on the record about something obvious - do not spam the title attribute. Well, do not spam anything.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Adam Buchanan

05/15/2012 01:24 pm

It looks spammy and reads like spam.

Justin C

05/15/2012 01:31 pm

The jQuery tooltip plugin (and others) have developers put the tooltip content in the title attribute. That's unfortunate if they're going to start counting it as spammy when people are using it to better inform their readers.

Donna Fontenot

05/15/2012 03:09 pm

As others have noted, tooltips rely on the title attribute usually, and long tooltips can be very informative. This should not be considered spammy. It's useful for the user.

Steven Lockey

05/15/2012 03:11 pm

If the titles weren't keyword packed, it probably would be fine. They are and are almost certainly meant for SEO. There are many other ways to implement the tool-tips, including using JS. In fact I would really say using the title tags is bad because different browsers handle them in different ways.


05/15/2012 04:13 pm

i face stuffing problem as per google, now i have sort out the things and starts improvement in my site

josh bachynski

05/15/2012 04:40 pm

What is the difference between "spamming" and providing useful background info. Ask the academics at Google if footnotes are spammy? I bet 60% of academic papers on a specific topic would not pass their Penguin algo as academia tends to repeat jargon (i.e., specific "key" words) a lot. Typical Google irony (and hypocrisy), of course.

Michael Martinez

05/15/2012 05:25 pm

I think what John was objecting to was keyword stuffing, not the use of long title attribute text.

Barry Schwartz

05/15/2012 05:25 pm

Didn't I say that?


05/16/2012 06:40 am

keyword stuffing is something all webmasters should refrain from doing. They would just be inviting Google penalization and nothing more. with penguin and panda updates, this is tough now more than ever.

Martin Anderson-Clutz

05/16/2012 01:32 pm

I notice the example code also include a nofollow designation. Didn't Matt Cutts advise against using nofollow on internal links, as it doesn't prevent losing Google juice from the linking page, but prevents the linked page from gaining it?

Kerry Dean

05/16/2012 10:59 pm

Back in 2010, Maile Ohye wrote a post on her site about title attributes: "title = not processed by Google (please keep in mind that it could be useful for other engines or applications)" I still use them, but what if this is true and Google doesn't even process/read them? Also, if you're spamming title attributes, you're probably spamming other stuff, too. So if this site is in trouble, it's probably not from something as small as title attributes. But then again, those are pretty damn spammy! Source:

Jean-Luc Aufranc

06/08/2012 06:12 am

Hi, I'm the owner of that site. I scratched my head to understand what was the problem with my title attributes, because I only focused on my posts content. So I tweaked a few things, and I still noticed no improvements. It even appears to be worse, with RSS aggregators showing up on top when searching the exact title of my posts, with my page several pages down. It usually takes 1 to 3 days before Google properly index some of my posts. So today, I searched a bit more and found this post. I completely missed those long title attributes in the RSS feeds (android authority and google news) *facepalm*. Those titles flag are automatically generated by the RSS widget in Wordpress, showing the first few line of the article. I've disabled the RSS feeds and I'll see if I things improve in the following weeks

Jean-Luc Aufranc

06/08/2012 06:33 am

... Wordpress also has a description field for categories, which I (enthusiastically) filed and is shown in titles, so I removed those as well.

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