Title tags are snippets of code that describe the subject matter of a Web page. Pound for pound, they are the most powerful elements of content on a Web page, by far. Title tags have immense impact on SEO, content promotion and branding. Title tags display in browser tabs, below links on SERPs, and in social media shares. If readers like what they see, they click on the links. If Google crawlers make sense out of the title tag and are suitably impressed, the page’s content moves up in ranking.
Given the importance of title tags on SEO, content promotion and branding, let’s take a look at the most common mistake made in each area. Avoid all three of these, and you’ll put together solid title tags every time.
SEO Title Tag Error: Using Non-Relevant Keywords
It’s tempting to use juicy keywords in a title tag even if they don’t line up with the page content — for instance, using “comprehensive accounting services” in the title tag of a page that talks about a single service or the history of the firm.
When title tags are misaligned with on-page content, Google crawlers get confused and tend to overlook the page; and they should, because misaligned title tags confuse readers when they click through to the page, and exit quickly and often become annoyed at the company (brand).
This error is deadly for lead generation, because non-relevant keywords damage SEO, content promotion and branding — resulting in fewer readers and conversions.
Content Promotion Error: Over Promising
Provocative title tags, when used for link bait or simply to attract readers through social sharing, is a great technique, provided the content delivers. When content (here I am thinking mainly about blog posts, where title tags and H1 tags are often identical) fails to deliver on the promise of the title tag, readers are disappointed, resulting in the opposite outcome of what was intended. Instead of forging a better brand image through the content, the brand image is undermined because of it.
Over-the-top titles are often a panicky reaction to content overload. Content marketers figure, nobody is going to notice my content unless I give it an explosive title. Avoid this mindset. I have always been a proponent of factual, descriptive title tags for business content. For business purposes, informational value trumps sensational value. If your goal is lead generation, you are looking for qualified, serious-minded readers, not every Tom, Dick and Mary looking for a cheap online thrill. All they do is inflate traffic numbers and deflate conversion rates.
Branding Error: Non-Strategic Branding Elements in the Title Tag
From a branding perspective, “Keyword Keyword Keyword | Company Name” is a solid default structure for certain pages, but not necessarily all pages. The plus side of including a branding element (company name, brand name, etc.) is that it spreads your name in Google SERPs and social media shares. The downsides are:
- Branding elements chew up character count at the expense of keywords;
- too much company name repetition may annoy readers; and,
- for many types of pages, the branding elements are not particularly important to readers.
Branding elements can have not only a neutral effect on readers, but also a negative one. For instance, if a company offers comprehensive accounting services, and its brand is not widely known, adding the company name could actually deter Google users from clicking through (they think, “Hmm, comprehensive is great, but this could be a fly-by-night operation). From a lead generation perspective, hitting the right keywords is what will attract the biggest pool of qualified traffic.
On the other hand, certain website pages scream for branding. They include:
- Company pages: The content is about the company; a branding element is completely relevant.
- Job listing pages: If people share links to your job listing pages, job candidates are going to be supremely interested in the name of the company offering the job.
- Company news pages: Same as job listings; anyone reading a news story about a company wants to know the name of the company.
Bottom line: Branding decisions relating to title tags cannot be made in a sweeping manner. Think about how the brand relates to the content of the page to readers.
Of course, there are a 101 other things to keep in mind when writing title tags, and I welcome you to share your ideas here. For a deeper look, check out this title tag article my colleague wrote back in 2012 for CMI.