Optimizing Your Title Tags For SEO

Brandon LazovicFebruary 21, 2021

Looking to create the perfect title tag for SEO? 

Read our guide below to learn more about what a title tag is; why they’re important for SEO; and what you should consider when creating title tags for your web pages. 

What Is A Title Tag? 

A title tag (or meta title) is an HTML attribute that defines a web page's title. Title tags are seen as the clickable headline for a given result on search engine results pages (SERPs). A web page's title tag is intended to be an authentic and succinct summary of the content of a page.

Difference Between H1 and Title Tag

In short, they are all completely separate HTML identifiers.

The misunderstanding exists because webmasters often use the same copy for the title and H1-tag.

For most blogs, this is a common practice as it aids in transparency and accuracy. If users click through the SERPs for a specific title, they are likely to assume there will be the same (or at least similar) title on the website.

Your title tag is displayed only in the SERPs. For H1-tags, these serve as the visible "title" that users will see when visiting your web page.

Why Are Title Tags Important? 

A big component in getting search engines to realize what your website is about is meta title tags. In three main areas, title tags are used: (1) search engine results pages (SERPs), (2) internet browsers, and (3) social networks.

For search engines, title tags are considered the most heavily-weighted factor for on-page SEO. They also serve the purpose of influencing clickthrough rates - if you have an unoptimized title tag, you may be losing users who aren’t clicking through to your website. 

This is also true for social networks when you share your content as social media posts, where title tags and descriptions are used to show followers what the content your sharing is all about. 

Optimizing Your Title Tag

Now that you have an understanding of what title tags are and why they’re important for SEO, we’ll walk through how to optimize your title tags. 

Title Tag Length

If the title is too lengthy, search engines may break it off and could end up omitting essential terms by adding ellipses (...) at the end of your title tag. Typically you’ll want to keep your title tag below 60 characters, or 600 pixels in length. 

Pixel length is a better baseline to gauge how long your title tag should be. 

Certain characters take up more space normally. A character such as "W" in the upper case is narrower than I or "t" in the lower case.

You also want to avoid using all CAPS for words in your title tag. They can be difficult to read by search visitors, and may significantly restrict the number of characters shown by Google.

Bear in mind that search engines may want to show a different title from what you have in your title tag, even within an acceptable length limit. Google can add your brand to the show title, for example.

In some circumstances, longer titles can fit best for social media posts, and some titles have to be naturally long. While there are no penalties for having long meta titles, you’ll want to ensure they’re optimized for search engines and avoid the most important bits being truncated due to length limits. 

Include Your Primary Keyword

You’ll want to perform keyword research for your web page. What is the primary keyword you’re trying to target / get your web page to rank for? SEO keyword research tools like SEMRush or 

Keysearch are helpful for identifying a primary keyword. Once you’ve performed your research, make sure that the primary keyword is included in your title tag. 

Best Format For Title Tags

Typically, we’ve found this to be the best format for a title tag on most pages: 

  • Primary Keyword + Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

You want to ensure your primary keyword is placed at the beginning of your title tag to make it easier for search engines to identify and to also avoid that keyword from potentially being truncated by Google or Bing. 

If you’re looking to optimize the product pages on your website, try out the following combinations: 

  • Product Title | Brand 
  • Product Title | Category | Brand 
  • CTA + Product Title | Brand 
  • CTA + Product Title | ISBN/serial number | Brand 

You can also try these out for your category pages: 

  • Category | Brands 
  • CTA + Category | Brands 

Lastly, here are our recommendations for more localized web pages, such as a restaurant:

  • Restaurant Name, City — Town | Category | Brand 
  • Industry in City | CTA — Brand

Provide Unique Title Tags For Each Page

A big negative factor for SEO is duplicate content. You never want multiple pages containing the same title tags, or you may risk your chances of ranking well on Google because search engines have trouble identifying which of your pages should rank for a specific keyword when they all contain similar copy or on-page SEO elements. 

Google may elect to not show any of your pages for that specific keyword if it can’t determine which one best fits the intent of the search query. Keyword cannibalization can also occur, where those pages will rank worse on Google because they’re all fighting for a given keyword position. 

Include Brand Name

If you have a strong brand name, include it at the end of your title tag to influence users to click through to your website. This helps with users recognizing your brand authority and choosing your content instead of a competitor because of that brand familiarity. 

Include Emotion Or Spur Interest

In marketing, there are power words that reach into the feelings of people. For CTR, combining these into title tags will do wonders.

Having said that, you’ll want to choose these types of words carefully. 

Here are some considerations to determine when power words are appropriate to use for your title tag: 

  • What does it bring to the table that's unique?
  • What are the pressure points that individuals searching for this query have? 

You can also use the “curiosity gap” to spur interest. 

According to Joanne Wiebe from Copyhackers, “The curiosity gap is the space between what we know and what we want or even need to know.”

I’m not advocating the use of clickbait, but think about what you can do to spur interest from readers in the search results and what language you can use to entice them to click your result.

Use Parantheses Or Brackets

Brackets/parentheses help to enhance the readability of your title tag. Parentheses also help boost CTR, which can drive more organic traffic to your website. 

Stand Out From Your Competitors

When analyzing other title tags from your competitors that rank for your topic / keyword, it’s easy to emulate their title tags, but this is a double-edged sword; you run the risk of not standing out, and your content being lost in a sea of other similar title tags. 

Using the tactics I’ve outlined above, use power words, special characters or your brand name to effectively stand out and entice users to click on your page in the search results. 

Reasons Why Google Doesn’t Use Your Title Tag

You may notice Google not using your specified title tag in the search results. We’ll cover why this may be happening below: 

Keyword Stuffing

If you try to stuff your meta title with too many keywords, Google may view this as “keyword stuffing” and choose to rewrite your meta title to something that’s more appropriate. Don’t over-optimize your title tag. 

Doesn’t Match User Intent

Another reason is that your title tag doesn’t exemplify the content or purpose of your web page, or it doesn’t match the intent of the query that your web page ranks for. 

Alternative Titles Displayed In Other Meta Data

If you have different titles for your meta data, such as specifying a title for sharing social media posts on Facebook or Twitter, Google may choose one of these other titles, rather than the title tag you set for your page. 

Inbound Anchor Text From Other Pages

Depending on your internal linking structure, Google may infer different intent for your web page and pull a different meta title using the anchor text from the internal links that are pointing to your page, as quoted by Google: 

“If we see anchor text from website A linking to website B, sometimes we can pick, depending on the user’s query, sometimes we pick the anchor text that links from A to B as the title for that particular search result. Again, we obviously want to serve results that make the most sense for the users, users are what we try and make the best possible results for and in some cases if we think the anchor text is a good title, and it is more relevant for that particular query, then we’ll serve the anchor text.”

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