Title tags are one of the most important elements to a webpage and carry a lot of potential for engaging traffic. These simple, 60 character or less headlines, are an integral part of the Search Engine Optimization equation, if not the most important aspect to on-page SEO. If you are looking to increase ranking and/or drive more traffic and customers to your business, then you are in the right place.
What Are Title Tags?
Title tags or HTML title tags, as they are also known, are HTML markup that identify the title of a web page. The most common places you will see these titles are within search results pages, browser tabs and most social sharing links, as seen below:
Unfortunately, title tags are often the most neglected area of SEO copywriting, BUT they usually need the most attention. They highly influence your click through rate in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). And, as many SEO experts will tell you, higher click through rates can increase your rankings.
How so? Well, Google is in the business of providing accurate and valuable results to your search query. To help do this, Google relies on user behavior to determine if a webpage is relevant based on user interactivity with it.
It works like this: If someone is searching “chocolate chip cookies,” and your page shows up for how to make chocolate chip cookies and your site is constantly clicked on, Google will automatically make some assumptions.
Google will conclude that 1) People searching chocolate chip cookies are generally looking into how to make them and 2) Your site should be well-ranked among all the other sites listed within the results page.
My hope is to demystify the complexity of title tag optimization and take a more user-centric approach to crafting high quality, engaging title tags. Continuing reading for 4 key items in accomplishing this goal!
What Makes a Good Title Tag?
Much like a good article headline, a good title tag provides an accurate yet concise description of a page’s content, and provides clear insight into what a prospective site visitor might come to expect from your webpage.
Here are two “Do’s” and two “Dont’s” to help elevate your current SEO efforts:
The Do’s and Don’ts of Title Tag Optimization
Do Use Numbers and Dates
Numbers have a powerful impact on engagement/click-through rate, quite simply because they have a tendency to stand out within search engine results pages (SERPs). This stand out ability has nothing to do with the actual search engine, but has everything to do with the actual user.
The psychology behind this is based on what is known as cognitive bias. It is essentially the brain’s way of processing information quickly, kind of like a mental shortcut.
When a search engine yields an immense amount of information, cognitive bias simplifies it by helping the user focus on information that stands out or is different from everything else being shown.
By using numbers, like in the examples below, this natural brain process will drive the user to narrow in on the highlighted titles:
Dates, similar to numbers, have a way of standing out as well. Beyond that, though, they create a sense of recognition and “relative-ness.”
Dates also help users determine appropriateness based on recency.
Here are some examples:
Do Ask Questions
Remember our chocolate chip cookie example? Well here is where a highly optimized title tag can win you a featured snippet. This is also called position zero.
On a Google search, it could look like this:
Google is in the business of understanding user behavior. In recent years it has made great efforts in understanding the behavior behind search intent.
For example, have you ever typed in ‘movies’ or ‘restaurants’ into Google and received a list of movie showtimes and locations and/or restaurants near you?
Search engines are yielding results based on search intent, even if you didn’t phrase your search as a question. Using questions or even answers to questions within your title tags connects the user’s search intent with your site.
This is a sure fire way to connect with your audience and increase click-through rate.
Not sure how to phrase your question? Take a look at the “People Also Ask” section within Google for the keyword(s) you are looking to show up for.
Don’t Keyword Stuff
People have taken a recommended title tag structure, like the one below, and either overly exploited it or made it a requirement for every title tag on their site.
These types of SEO title tag strategies rely on listing out variations of a keyword or use a keyword repeatedly.
This strategy is not ideal because it could do more harm than good, both from a user perspective as well as with most search engines, as it can result in a penalty against your site.
In addition, this practice is not necessary since search engines like Google already accounts for keyword variation.
An overly optimized title tag that overuses keywords also misses the mark on being a concise, as well as being a SPECIFIC description of the true content of the page; not a good first impression with users.
Title Tag Structure Outline:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword Phrase | Brand Name
Buy Widgets, Best Widgets, Widgets for Sale | Acme Widgets
Best Widgets for Sale Online Under $10 | Acme Widgets
Don’t Repeat Yourself
Duplicate title tags are not ideal because they result in a negative influence on page rank and SEO. Google measures its content as a quality factor and penalizes sites with duplicate content. Duplicate title tags are often a result of a coding error (global html header), dynamically generated title tags, and/or poorly implemented SEO tools.
For sites with hundreds of thousands of pages it is best to use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your site and identify any duplicate title tags.
By using Screaming Frog tool you can get a complete crawl of your website and pin-point missing and duplicate data.
If you are looking for something a little more robust (all-in-one SEO solution) or you would like a tool that will continue to monitor your site and provide you with ongoing site recommendations, rather then having to run a report yourself and interpret your findings, then SEMrush is the solution for you. SEMrush offers a powerful feature within its arsenal known as Site Audit.
The Site Audit component of the projects dashboard will monitor your site and provide you with an overall site health report and will identify issues within your site that need to be resolved.
These issues include information regarding your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions as well as much more.
So here’s the big recap: title tags matter. If you’re going to spend the time and money to invest in this area of SEO, utilize them well. Using dates and numbers, and asking the right questions will get you on track for earning top spots. On the flipside, keyword “stuffing” and repetition are not go-to strategies anymore. If you have questions on implementing these optimizations or would like further information, we’d love to help.