A title tag is a piece of HTML code that displays the title of a web page. Title tags are generally small in terms of words, but they pack a punch — a really big punch — for SEO and conversions.
What Is a Title Tag Used For, And Why Is It So Important?
Title tags appear in various places on the Internet. If someone shares a web page on a social media platform, the title tag usually displays automatically. Title tags, or the first few words of them, appear in the browser tab when a web page is loaded. Last but not least, Google displays the title tag in its SERPs (search engine results pages) for organic results.
From Google’s perspective, title tags are so important in its search engine user experience that they are weighted very heavily in Google’s ranking algorithm. Google’s crawlers use title tags to get a basic understanding of the main information on a given web page. SEO optimized content always involves making title tags as near perfect as possible.
Title Tag Best Practices
- First and foremost, every page of the website should have a title tag. This helps Google understand how pages of your website relate to each other — and, of course, helps users understand what’s on the page when they see it in SERPs, social media shares or browser tabs.
- Each page’s title tag must be unique. Duplicate or very repetitive title tags reduce Google’s confidence in understanding what makes each page unique, and thus tends to lower these pages in rankings.
- Title tags must describe the core purpose and content of the web page. Relevance is critical for SEO and user experience. If a person clicks on a link in social media or on a SERP and goes to a web page that is irrelevant or barely relevant, what do you end up with? A bad user experience and damage done to your brand and credibility. This is why Google crawlers value relevance of title tags so highly.
- For SEO purposes, it’s best to keep title tags under 60 characters — since Google cuts them off in SERPs after that, roughly speaking. It’s an inexact science because Google truncates titles based on pixel width, and title tags are measured in characters. But, for instance, an “I” takes up less pixel width than a “w,” making the point of truncation difficult to pinpoint in a given mix of letters. In general, this is one reason it’s wise to avoid writing title tags in all caps — capital letters chew up more pixel width, and in addition, they are harder for humans to read than upper/lower case composition.
- For SEO target pages in particular, it’s important to incorporate the primary keywords in the title tag, ideally at the beginning of the title. Having two or even three keyword phrases in the title tag is OK, but take care not to overdo it, as keyword stuffing is a “black hat” SEO practice that will hurt you with Google in the rankings (because users see the practice as being quite spammy).
- Branding is often a great enhancement to title tags, but for SEO purposes usually makes sense to put at the end.
- In addition to branding, a brief sales message, persuader or enticement can be inserted in the title tag, as long as its relevant and accurate.
Examples of Title Tags
Putting all of the above together, here are some examples of how title tags can be structured.
- Brown Widgets with a 10-year Warranty | ABC Company
- Brown Widgets, Black Widgets, Red Widgets on Sale
- Brown Widgets, White Widgets | ABC Company
- 10 New Applications for Widgets | ABC Company
- How to Install Brown Widgets in 10 Minutes or Less
- Quality Widgets | ABC Company, Serving Industry Since 1960
Using the “|” symbol to separate the branding message is recommended because Google ignores it and it is easy for humans to read.
Other Important Things to Know About Title Tags
Now that we have explored the basics of, what is a title tag, here are some finer points to deepen your understanding.
- Although our focus is on SEO optimized content, don’t lose sight of the fact that title tags matter for all website pages, not just the ones you’re interested in for SEO. A great example is job opening pages. When people share your job opening web page on social media, which title tag would you rather have job candidates see — “Job” or “Sales VP Opening, Great Benefits - Learn More Now| ABC Co.” It’s hard to imagine something as seemingly minor as a title tag could result in finding the perfect applicant, but indeed it can.
- Title tags are NOT the same as H1 tags. This is a common cause of confusion. An H1 tag is a piece of meta information that displays the on-page, visible title of a web page. Many CMS platforms (such as WordPress) have a default setting that makes the title tag identical to the H1 tag. Often, this duplication is appropriate and will cause no problems with SEO. However, the title tag need not be identical to the H1 tag. The title tag, not the H1 tag, is what will usually appear in SERPs, on social shares and in the browser. The H1 tag of the page will display as the main headline of a web page — so it can be different. The qualities of a good title tag and good H1 title are usually the same — relevant, enticing, accurate. Stylistically, however, they can be composed quite differently: The examples in the last section are fine for title tags, but probably not ideally formatted for an H1 tag.
- In the course of an SEO campaign, it’s not unusual to experiment with different title tags. Generally, the idea behind a test is to see if other keyword phrases or variations on the current phrase have any effect on rankings. It’s quite easy to change title tags, and should not adversely affect rankings as long as the new title tag conforms to the title tag best practices noted here. Nevertheless, the SEO agency should monitor developments carefully to make sure tests are neutral to positive on rankings.
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