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SEO: Page Titles, tags and How to Write Them

By: Nick Harrison
Last Updated: December 30, 2018

The page title is an important factor in driving SEO (search engine optimization) traffic to a website page.

There are two main reasons for this.

1. On-page ranking factor:

Search engines like Google use hundreds of factors with various algorithms to determine where your website page will be positioned (ranked) on their search engine results page (SERP). Some of these factors are considered “on-page.” These factors include the page title, page URL, links, content, images and so on. According to Moz, the title tag is the second most important element that search engines use for on-page SEO, the first being content.

2. CTR (click-through rate):

CTR is the ratio between the number of times a link is clicked on compared with the number of impressions the link receives (times a link is seen).

Clicks / Impressions = CTR

Example: Your blog post link was clicked on 40 times and was seen 1000 times. That would make your CTR 4%.

CTR is most often mentioned when paid advertising is being discussed (Google ads, Facebook ads, Email marketing) yada, yada, yada.

What is talked about far too little, but is just as important, is organic search (having your link naturally appear on a search engine for free).

  1. The higher your CTR is for a web page, the more traffic you can get to your website with the same number of impressions.
  2. If your CTR is too low, it’s possible that your ranking will be affected.

Let’s dive into some tips on how you can write an effective title for SEO.

What is a title tag?

The title tag is an HTML element located between the head tags in a website page’s code. Unless you are a web developer like myself, you will most likely never have to write the code yourself.

This is what it looks like:

<html>
    <head>
         <title>I am a title yo</title>
    </head>
</html>

What does it do?

It lets web browsers, search engine crawlers, and social media tools know what the title of your page is.

Here are some examples of where you can see it.

Social Media:

I just wrote above that social media tools use the web page title when pulling your content for people to share and in most cases, this is perfectly fine. There are times though, that you may want to create a different title than the page title. If you are on a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, there are plugins available like Yoast that allow you to create an alternative title for social media sharing.

The main reason I will write an alternative title for social media is that sometimes I can make it more catchy because I don’t have to be so restricted to keywords (phrases) like in a web page title.

Length

Figuratively speaking, you can write your title as long as you want, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Two things to keep in mind:

  1. Space: There are a limited number of characters search engines will give you before your title gets cut off, making it so people viewing your result only see a part of it. There is not an exact character count as it’s based on pixel length, but a general rule to follow is keep your title under 60 characters. In most cases it will then display properly. Plugins like Yoast have tools to tell you when it’s getting too long, but there are also other tools to help you out like this one from SEOMofo.
  2. Readability: Always keep in mind that your result on the SERP is one of many on that page. By keeping it short and sweet, it will stand out. Also, avoid all CAPS which will make it harder to read; and remember it is based on pixel width not characters and capital letters take up more space.

Keep it under 60 characters and you’re set. This will help improve your CTR.

H1 Header Tags:

The H1 header, is the main header on your website page. In almost all cases it is at the top of the web page, has the largest font-size, and is used to tell users the title of the article.

While most of the time the H1 header and page title have exactly the same content, they aren’t the same thing. They also don’t have to have the same content.

Why would your H1 header be different?  

As we’ve discussed previously, length. There are times where you may want/need your header to be longer than your page title.

Also your H1 header is also an important on-page ranking factor and it can be used to highlight other keywords that you weren’t able to target on the page title.

Keywords

Your title tag should contain your most important keyword(s) or phrase. You should also try to include the keyword(s) or phrase closest to the front as possible to improve your CTR. If someone is searching “cute pandas” and the page title is “I went to the zoo and saw cute pandas,” users might be more likely to click on your URL if the title is “Cute pandas I saw at the zoo.” Also, if the title were something like “Animals who eat bamboo;” while it might be about cute pandas, without containing keywords that users originally searched for, they can be less likely to click.

Search engines are also a lot less likely to rank your page highly (if at all) for the keyword(s) and/or phrase you are trying to target that aren’t in your title, which is another reason why you want to use the one(s) you are trying to target most.

The keyword(s) in the title tag also help Google with determining what your page content is about.

Relevance:

As I said previously, the most important on-page ranking factor according to Moz is content. It’s imperative that your page title reflects your page content and vice versa.

If you are writing an article about how tennis is superior to football and the title of that article is “Cute pandas I saw at the zoo,” good luck with that…

Another reason why you want to make sure your content is relevant to your page title, is remember people are coming to your page via the title and that is what they are expecting. If it is not that, they are likely to immediately leave.

Branding

It’s a good practice to include your company name in the title. ABB – Always Be Branding. Make sure to add the name at the back of the title, not the front. Remember, people are searching for keywords and we want those front and center. Your name counts as part of the 60 characters rule.

Example:

I am a blog post title | ACME

Duplicate page titles

Avoid duplicate page titles. You want to avoid duplicate content period.

Summary:

Writing page titles doesn’t have to be difficult and they can improve your rankings on SERPs. Just remember to use the keyword(s) or phrase that you are talking about and make sure it’s relevant to the content, Keep it short and sweet and include your branding and you will be miles ahead of a lot of website owners.

Bonus:

If one of your titles has a bad CTR, think about changing it. I go back and change old titles all the time. You have the ability to update the old and make it better.