How To Write An Effective Title Tag
TLWR: To write an effective title tag you need to optimize title length, not keyword stuff, use unique page names, place most important keywords at the beginning, leverage your brand name, and always write for humans over algorithms.
What Is A Title Tag?
Title tags are HTML elements that specify a web page’s main title. You may be familiar with these as the largest font of a result on the search engine results pages (SERPs) that can be clicked, taking you to the web page that they describe. Effective, properly written title tags are those that quickly and accurately describe a page’s content.
Title Tag Code Example
<head><title>Title Tag Example</title></head>
The absolute best format will always vary slightly depending on individual factors, like your product/service, location, industry, etc. For example, if you want to optimize your tags for nearby local searches within your city, it’s a good idea to include your city in the title tag of pages.
With that said, there are some general best practices to remember. A good all-around optimal format for your title tags would be:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
iPhone 11 – Mobile Device Repair | John Doe’s Electronics
Proper Title Length
When crafting your title tag, be aware of the length and where the title will be displayed. There is only a certain amount of room on any screen for your title to appear, and it varies depending on what electronic device your result is being viewed on. For example, some desktop computers might display a 65-character title, but on a smaller mobile device or tablet, your result might only have space for 40 characters – guaranteeing a title that gets cut off (truncated). If that happens, you may be losing some important words that would have persuaded a searcher to click your result to your webpage.
In addition to losing conversions, it just looks less professional when the end of your title is an ellipses. Keep in mind that that some characters, like W, take up more width than others, like I, so always test your titles in a Google search to see how they are displaying.
A good rule of thumb? Keep your title between 50-60 characters.
Are Title Tags Important? Where Do They Appear?
Yes, title tags are important, because they help search engines like Google and Bing figure out what your page content is, and serve it to the right audience. They are also the first thing your searchers will see on a SERP, and can be the difference between a lot of interested clicks or none at all. So make a good impression! Title tags are displayed in three main places:
1. Web Browsers
Your title tags will appear on the tab of the web pages within your browser. This is handy for people who tend to have multiple tabs open within one internet browser. With proper tagging, people can easily find and navigate to the correct tabs in the window, which is a small – but very useful – quality on a good site.
2. Social Networks
When someone shares your page to a social network, the default title that displays is pulled from your title tag within that page. Some social networks will allow you to edit how this displays after you paste the link, but some will not. Be aware of this, and if given the chance within each individual social media platform, try to optimize the title for what you feel would work best for your audience within that platform.
3. Search Engine Results Page
The most obvious, but among the most important, your title tag will also be displayed in the SERPs as the largest font at the top of your webpage’s results display. 95% of the time search engines will listen to what you have specified and display your wording properly, but sometimes they won’t and there isn’t much to be done about it. It’s rumoured (though not confirmed) that if the search engine algorithm believes you are keyword stuffing or being spammy, it might automatically create its own title tag to display for that page. This is often the first experience people have with your business, so it really pays off to ensure it is written as effectively as possible.
How To Write An Effective Title Tag
Title tags are a critically important aspect of many customers’ first impressions of your company, in addition to boosting your search engine optimization. Being knowledgeable when crafting a strong title tag is a powerful SEO tactic that requires little effort, but yields excellent results. Here are 6 pointers for writing the best title tags:
1. Optimize Your Title Length
As mentioned earlier in this blog, always be aware of your title length. If your title consists of too many characters, there is a good chance it will get consistently cut off in the SERPs. The rule of thumb is to keep your title tag length between 50-60 characters, but a more realistic answer is that search engines typically give you 600 pixels of width to fit your title. That’s important because some characters are wider than others.
Another easy fix? Fit more characters in your title tag by avoiding the use of ALL CAPS (which you should be avoiding anyway, because it turns many searchers away). All caps makes sites look cheaply made and harder to read, too.
While title length is important, there are technically no penalties for using a long title. Still, it is best to keep it concise for the sake of the searchers. Think like a search visitor.
2. Do Not Keyword Stuff
Keyword stuffing is a technique that was used in the olden days of the internet because… well… it worked! But, as the internet has grown, the software that powers it has also become much smarter and can now easily detect spam techniques.
If you are selling Hondas, and you simply type “Honda” 6 times in your title – in addition to mentioning it hundreds of times in your web page text itself – your site will be heavily penalized. Doing this can get your website “blacklisted”, meaning you won’t show up in search results anymore. Avoid this!
Check out this quote about SEO black hat techniques from uptime.com
SEO is playing a much bigger role in blacklisting as content is becoming an invisibility cloak for embedded keywords and hidden text. Some over-ambitious organizations use Black Hat SEO techniques to try to elevate their search ranking.
Stuffing too many keywords into your title also creates a bad user experience. Search engines are able to figure out what your keywords are, in addition to all the variant forms of those keywords, so mix things up a bit – as long as your page still related back to the keyword.
Example of keyword stuffed title: “Buy Honda, Best Honda, Sale Honda, New Honda”
3. Use Unique Page Names
With billions of webpages on the internet, you might be wondering how it would be possible to have unique page names at this point. I feel that – if you are a local business trying to get locals to walk through your store’s front door, there is more forgiveness here, because there is less competition locally (even though you should keep in mind that you do not want the exact same page names as everyone else in your city).
On a larger scale, though, if you run a global e-commerce website with thousands of product pages, making them all unique may seem like quite a challenge. If you’re wondering, “How can I possibly do that?”, don’t worry! If you have a title format like the following example, it can be quite easy:
[Product Name] – [Product Category] | [Brand Name]
Your combination of these three aspects of your title will help make your pages unique against everyone else around the globe. The odds of others having the exact same product names, category breakdowns, and the same brand name are almost impossibly slim. Use this to your advantage when creating your unique page names.
4. Place Most Important Keywords At The Beginning
According to some of Moz's testing and experience, placing your keywords closer to the front of your title tag may have a larger positive impact on your search rankings. Just like humans quickly scan search results with our eyes, and may only see the first word or two of each entry as we scroll past potential websites, search engines seem to do the same. Make your first words count!
Avoid putting your brand name as the first word in your titles. And remember, as mentioned earlier in this blog, there’s a possibility that the end of your title can be cut off in the SERPS – it would be unfortunate if the only words searchers saw of your listing was the brand name, and nothing else. They wouldn’t know what your page was about, or if it is even relevant to their search.
5. Leverage Your Brand Name
If you have a well-established and familiar brand, then you should take advantage of that and include it in your titles. Don’t put it as the first words (as previously noted), but it is generally a smart move to have it at the end of your title. If people know your brand name and trust you, then when they see that name, it will likely increase your click-through rate (CTR). Sometimes, Google can automatically add your brand name to the end of some of your results listings, so make sure you search your own pages every so often and see how they display. This way, you won’t accidentally have your brand name appearing twice in your titles.
6. Write For Humans... Not For Computer Algorithms
Yes, it sounds like this goes against everything written above with this point, but to be honest, we are usually writing for humans and not just to trick an algorithm.
Algorithms always change, and if you have created your entire strategy around “playing” the algorithm game, then any slight deviation in Google’s algorithm might send your website to the back of the line of results. (Have you ever been past page 3 of Google? Yeah. Back there.)
We never know what the changes are going to be, but some of the major ones that happened in the past are listed here. You may see these, realize your site might not be safe from a low ranking, and think to yourself, “What can we do to avoid this!?” And there isn’t really a surefire thing you can do to avoid it – but you should remember this: all of Google’s algorithm updates are meant to bring a better user experience to searchers.
Their updates to algorithms have ensured people can’t just type “HONDA” 1000 times on a page and rank highly. Google sees all the bad ways people try to be sneaky with SEO, and they create updates so those actions are not incentivized. That means your best strategy is to always make your pages in a way that is user-friendly in the first place, and this way, any future algorithm updates are likely to reward you for work you’ve already done. So write for a human audience, not an algorithmic one, and you’re already a step ahead – your readers will be happy, and so will your long-term search rankings thanks to this proper SEO strategy.
Proper title tags are only one small part of an optimized website. So, if you are new to the online world and need more tips on improving your online presence, contact us today or simply check out our other blog posts.
Julian Lloyd - An entrepreneur, fitness addict, and marketing specialist with over a decade of experience in sales and marketing.