Understanding and staying consistent with SEO best practices is a juggling act. Trends and best practices are constantly changing. In this blog, we will outline how you can optimize one of the most critical and important elements relating to your SEO efforts; your title tags.
What is a Title Tag?
The title tag is an HTML element that allows you to give a web page a title. This title can be found in the browser title bar, as well as in the search engine results pages (SERP). It is crucial to add and optimize your website's title tags, as they play an essential role in terms of organic ranking (SEO). Google and other search engines scan your title tag to know what to return on the search engine results pages when someone is browsing for something related.
Because it is such an important element related to SEO, almost every web platform available provides easy and quick access to edit the title tags of your pages.
Title Tag Character Count
Now that you know more about what a title tag is and what it’s good for, let’s look at how it should be written.
Title tags are meant to be short. Ideally, they are going to include at least two keyword phrases that you are targeting in your SEO. In the past, title tags were recommended to be 70 characters or less. But not long ago, Google updated the fonts and font styling that SERPs are displayed in. Because of this change, the new standard to shoot for is 55 characters (or 575 pixels). Title tags that meet this character requirement mean that Google (or your preferred internet search tool) will display on the search engine results page.
Title Tag Tips:
- Your website should have one unique title tag per page. You wouldn’t place the same content on each page, and you shouldn’t use the same title tags for every page.
- Use the least number of characters for your brand name in the title tag. A way to cut back on characters is to abbreviate where you can. For example, don’t write out “Company” but instead use the abbreviation “Co.”
Search engines prioritize your keywords from left to right; exactly how you read a sentence. This means that Google is going to designate the keyword phrase you start off with as the most important. Everything that follows will be focused on less from a Google perspective. Given this, we suggest you begin your title tag with your primary keyword phrase. The best way to determine your primary keyword phrase is by asking what the main subject of your page is. If you’re working on the tag for your homepage, this would most likely be the broadest description of what you do or what you want to be found for. If you want to improve your local SEO you may want to include a location modifier to your keyword phrase such as Gourmet Coffee Madison or Car Rentals Milwaukee.
Internal pages should be more focused on your individual services. For example, let’s say you have an ecommerce site that sells shoes and a landing page on your site is for women’s sandals. A logical primary keyword phrase would be “women’s sandals.”
After you have selected your primary keyword or phrase, you should select secondary keyword phrases that support the primary but are more focused on long tail keywords. For example, if the primary phrase was “women’s sandals,” the secondary keyword phrase might be “high-heel wedge sandals.” But remember to avoid keyword stuffing, you should not repeat a word more than three times in a title tag!
Title Tag Tip:
-If you are stuck on crafting keywords and keyword phrases, we recommend performing keyword research and competitor analysis to support your decision-making process.
How to Cleanly Write Your Title Tag
Title tags should not be written in complete sentences. With only 55 characters to use, space is a premium. This means that you are going to have to decide how to separate each keyword phrase in your tag. You can do this by using pipes (|), colons (:), commas (,) or hyphens/dashes (-). Each one signifies something different to search engines.
- Pipes tell the search engine that the phrases on either side of the pipe are of EQUAL value.
- Colons tell search engines that a more specific keyword phrase is coming.
- Commas are used in many title tags. Words following a comma are of decreasing importance. Word of warning though, avoid overuse of commas because search engines are beginning to see this as a red flag for keyword stuffing.
- Hyphens allow you to be more readable, in plain text of your title tag and for search engines. The easier your tag or URL is to read for humans, the better it will place and perform on search engines.
Title Tag Tip: Although you should aim to write for humans, including stop words as part of your title tags do not provide much SEO value and should be avoided when possible. Stop words are short function words such as “the”, “an”, “but”, “which”, “and”, “of”, “a”, etc.
Writing and optimizing title tags for your internal pages is key for the success and relevance of your website. Your tags should be written with the pages content in mind while leveraging the necessary keywords.
Title tags are meant to extend and increase your credibility and clicks to your site, so make sure your tags are constructed in a way that leads the reader; with a strong value statement, and that is backed with a landing page that helps inform what they are looking for. The more clicks that your links see, the more Google will see your content as relevant for ranking on the SERP. With all this in mind, know that it is also okay to experiment with your title tags! Take these tips into account and adjust the wording on your title tag and watch your analytics for a few weeks. Correctly utilizing title tags can help you improve your organic search results rankings.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.