How many of you have ever loaded a webpage and heard yourself say “Wow, that’s a really great title tag”? Few? None? Not surprising. In the world of SEO, title tags are often overlooked but represent so much opportunity – in both ranking for your site, as well as attracting searchers.
We suggest you take a couple minutes at the end of this post to closely review our Top Ten Title Tag Tips. You’ll be glad you did – and your competitors will wonder where all their traffic went. Let’s get started.
Fact: Title tags are valuable real estate.
Title tags show up in the search results pages, and they sit atop the browser window and greet all your visitors with a brief explanation of what each page will contain. In reality, title tags are so important that Google’s Webmaster blog routinely writes articles on how to clean up the source code for your site and they always mention title elements.
Additionally, a recent internal analysis by Google, found that over 28% of websites could have improved their site quality by simply adding unique page titles throughout. When you think about it, 28% is a lot of web property. It’s a shame that so much can be lost due to lagging title tags. This is a point of differentiation that your competitors may be missing. In the words of our favorite Russian Direct TV commercial, It’s time to jump in it.
Here’s an important note: The search engine optimization community is constantly trying to figure out how to better rank their websites on Google and other search engines. Therefore, when Google highlights something for web developers or web masters to address in their code, it’s a safe bet that it’s pretty important stuff.
Google’s Webmaster Central blog has this to offer on the subject of title tags: “Search engines will index pages based on the words contained in them, and including descriptive titles helps search engines know what the pages are about. And search engines often use a page’s title in the search results. “Welcome to my site” may not entice searchers to click on your site in the results quite so much as “Buffy’s House of Sofas.”
Simple enough. So, when you think about it, a great title tag is a work of great craftsmanship. In your effort to get your whole message across to your target audience, the body content of your web pages can roll on and on without much consideration. But title tags are unique elements, in that search engines constrain titles to a finite number of characters (with spaces). The maximum length you want to achieve is about 65 characters. A safe bet for any title tag is 40-60 characters. After 60 characters, Google cuts off the rest of your title tag from visibility in the search results.
The primary job of a great title tag is to accurately describe the total content of the page below – and considering you only have about sixty character spaces with which to work – your job becomes a bit more difficult. And what makes a great title tag a real thing of beauty is the notion that a title tag is more like poetry and less like prose. You need to say a lot about your page, your business, and your product – with very few words.
Having said that, I’d like to pass on a key piece of title tag intelligence. A wise man once told me that “a title tag needs to serve two masters: clicks and rankings.” Yes, you have to write compelling, attractive titles to get clicks – but don’t forget the keywords for which you intend to rank. If done correctly your titlte tag should look natural enough that no one should never think you wrote it for either audience.
Here is an example of some title tags for the (fictional) home page of a commercial website that sells cookies in the Cleveland area. For the purposes of this exercise, the name of the company is Cookie King.
- Great: Delicious Cookies of all Flavors – Cookie King in Cleveland
- Not so Great: Cookie King | Welcome
- Real Bad: Welcome to our site.
- The top title tag is crafted with concise language, includes keywords for their product, and mentions the company name and the city – using only 59 character spaces. It’s a mouth-watering, click-worthy title tag to say the least.
- The second title tag mentions the company name (important) but leaves so much left untouched. Opportunity lost.
- The third example goes nowhere. It looks like stock filler copy from some Website-in-a-Box product.
As any seasoned web developer or SEO will tell you, the most important element of your page’s HTML is your title. Not because it’s seen on the website, but because a well-written title gets maximum exposure in the search engine results pages. Given that, it’s important to keep the big picture in perspective here. Your approach to writing effective title tags will affect not only your ranking opportunities but interest in your pages and patronage for your business.
With that… here is our master list of tips for all you new title tag enthusiasts. Read closely, craft well. Your new customers are ready and waiting!
Top Ten Title Tag Tips:
- First – and this cannot be overstated – think about what your prospects and visitors are looking for. Craft your page content, your keyword use and your title tags to match.
- Spend a little time and make good use of your title tags. No one publishes a book or a song or a movie without putting some thought into the title. Web pages are no different. Each page is unique, yes? Then each page deserves a unique title tag that accurately describes the content of the page.
- Whenever possible, ensure each page has a unique title tag. Repetition is bad.
- Make sure the text you’re talking about in your title tag is actually represented in your content. Delicious cookies in the title tag = Delicious cookies in the page text.
- Consider including synonyms and variations of your chosen key terms, i.e., tee-shirt and T-shirt.
- Keep “prominence” in mind. This is an old trick, in which the most important keywords go before the less important ones. If chocolate chip cookies are the biggest keyword attractor to your page, make sure you mention chocolate chip before peanut butter or any other cookie.
- Spread your keywords out. Don’t endlessly repeat the same keywords everywhere you can and don’t go overboard with keyword stuffing.
- Is your title tag too long? Anything over 65 characters (give or take a few) will get truncated by ellipses. Nobody likes to be cut off in mid sentence. Keep it short.
- Not sure how the overall message looks to the average reader? Puzzled by keyword selection? Ask someone to look at your site and have them tell you what your content is all about. A fresh pair of eyes will serve you well.
- Think about the keywords for which your page will likely rank. Are these the keywords you want? If not – make changes sooner than later.
After your have crafted some title tags of your own ask yourself these two questions:
- Did I set up my users with the proper expectations, i.e., when they click on the title tag for my site (search rank), do they arrive at a page that meets their expectations?
- Did I incorporate my keywords into the title in a compelling way that will attract more clicks?
If the answer for both is yes, and the rest of the pages support the theme, you’ve just made a big step towards better rankings.