The title of a page might seem rather self-explanatory, but with SEO there’s also the title tag to think of and it's more than just a string of words. When the goal of your web page is to get a good rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs), you need an optimised title tag to kick things off.
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There isn’t a magic answer to getting on the front page of a Google search; it requires a lot of elements to come together in the right way and optimising your title tag is a good a place to start. To get the best you can, we’re going to:
- Help you understand the importance of your title tag
- Explain the differences between a header, title tag, and meta tags
- Give you some examples of what not to do with your title tag
- Share some tips and give you so words to try out in your titles
Remember: A good title-tag will improve your pages chance of earning a good organic ranking, of getting a click and of being read.
What’s a title tag and why is it important?
Firstly, let’s make it clear that the title tag is often not exactly the same as the title on your article. The tag can be used a little more creatively in order to show the right information in the search results. Here’s an example.
In the example above the blue title has been formed from the title tag.
<title>Sausage Dog Central - Home</title>
The site name has been added by Google but the core of the search result title is a copy of the tag contents. The title on the actual page itself is just Sausage Dog Central.
We all know what a title of a book is – it’s the words on the cover that tell you something about what the book is about. The title of a web page is broadly similar, but it should be more direct and descriptive of the content.
Your title has two broad purposes:
- To entice the reader in and make them want to read your page
- To let Google know the topic and intention of your page
Considering both of these purposes will get you a title tag that both helps with your search engine rankings and then gets potential customers to click.
In terms of its use, your title tag is what a reader clicks on from Google or through an external site like Facebook or Twitter. It’s the blue text on the search engine results page or the text under your image on social media.
What should I write in a title tag?
Lots of elements go into writing the perfect title tag. You need to describe what your page is about so readers know that they want to click on it.
A key element of your title tag is your keyword. Don’t overdo it though, because the Google algorithm is hot on keyword-stuffing and you won’t rank well with a list of keywords in your title. Instead, write your primary keyword into your title tag and possibly another one if it sounds natural.
The length of your title tag is something else that you need to consider. You may have heard a few magic numbers in conversations about SEO basics, 55, 50-60, no more than 65. These are all around the same ballpark for a reason. Google actually gives a title roughly 600 pixels, which should shake out at around 50-60, depending on how wide your characters are.
We’re going to give you some examples of ideal language to use, as well as things to avoid, a little later on.
What’s the difference between a title tag, H1, and a meta description?
Whilst all three are valuable in terms of on-page optimisation for SEO, each serves a different purpose. Here’s a breakdown of what each one looks like and why they’re important:
- Your title tag is the blue text on the Google SERP and the text under your image on social media posts. It tells your reader what they’re going to read about and why it’s important.
- A H1 (text viewable on the web page) is very likely going to be the same text as your title tag and will present on your webpage as a title. The reader should again know what it is they’re about to read.
- The meta description sits underneath the title on Google search results and is around 150 characters. It should summarise the content, pique reader curiosity, include keywords, and include a call to action.
Technically speaking, the meta description isn’t taken into account when Google crawls your page to see if it ranks. However, having a strong meta description can improve your click-through rate (CTR) from the search result page. A page’s CTR does affect rankings, so it’s worth having an optimised meta description as well as a good title tag and H1 tag.
In the urge to optimise your page as much as possible, you can go overboard with some things. This can happen in the title as much as anywhere else. Google’s algorithm doesn’t care for keyword stuffing, which is using keywords too often so that a text doesn’t feel natural.
Use your primary keyword in your title, another one if it feels natural, but don’t ever force keywords into your title tag. Your potential reader wants to know what your page is about, not what keywords you’re targeting.
Every single page needs a title tag – and it must be unique. Duplicate content is another thing that can see your page never make it to the top of the SERPs. Even if the text on your page is different, having it titled the same way isn’t going to help.
Now we’ve told you what not to do, it’s time for the good stuff. We’ve covered some simple elements of title tags further up, but there’s more to it than some keywords and getting the title the right length.
Your title tag needs to be:
- Descriptive – tell the reader what they’re getting. Is it tips, a story, an opinion? Think about the search intent of the user. Describe what’s on the page with clarity.
- Short and sweet – 50-60 characters is a guide for your title tag length, not a target. If you can get your message across in fewer words, go for it.
- Grammatically correct – it’s OK to use synonyms of your keywords or add connector words between the phrase. Your title tag should be readable by humans, Google will still get it.
- Powerful – you want to entice in your reader to certain pages like articles and sales pages. Using power words like charming, stunning, and wonderful will grab attention.
- Definitive – define the content that you’re giving a title, whether it’s an overview, a step-by-step guide, list, or any other type of content.
There’s a lot to pack into 700 hundred pixels of a search engine results page. Getting the title tag right is an SEO basic and worth mastering early. We’ve covered the dos and don’ts of how to create a title tag so that you can start to hone your craft.
You can change your title at any time, for example if you see Google rewriting it or if you start getting organic traffic and conversions for keywords you weren’t initially targeting. As long as you stick to the foundational principles, you’ll be on your way to a successful SERP ranking.