It’s important to have a high-level SEO plan. The details are too. When we optimize pages and content, we pay attention to a lot of things on the page. The title tag is just one of those things.
It’s not likely that its rank will change much just because it’s been optimized. But using it with other page elements can give pages, sections, and sites as a whole important context and subject-matter relevance.
We shouldn’t just think about how title tags affect SEO and how much attention we give them. We should also think about how they affect the click-through rate and how they convince our target audience to visit our site.
When search engines use our title tag as the blue link in the search results page, the content of that tag can make or break a searcher’s decision to click through to our site.
In this chapter, you’ll learn eight best practices for building a solid, optimized title tag plan into your SEO strategy.
What Is A Title Tag?
The title tag is an HTML tag that is in the head section of every webpage. It gives you a first idea of what the page is about or what it is about in general.
The title tag stands out on search engine results pages (SERPs) because it is often used as a link and also shows up in the browser window.
Other than these two spots, the title tag doesn’t stand out as much as other content on the page (e.g., body copy, image content, and other aspects). Because of this, the title tag is sometimes missed.
The title tag doesn’t have much of an effect on organic rankings by itself. No single ranking factor is magical or all-powerful, especially if your content is low-quality or you haven’t paid attention to technical SEO.
Here are eight important things to think about when trying to make your title tags work better for search engines.
1. The Page’s Context Within The Site
Before you can write an optimized title tag, you need to know where the page fits in the website’s overall hierarchy.
A title tag for a blog post or product page will be very different from a title tag for a home page.
When a website has a lot of pages, it can be hard to come up with different tags for each one. Because of this, it’s important to plan out your site and know where each page fits in the context of your subject.
As you go deeper into the site, you can and should be more specific.
You can repeat words and phrases, but as you go deeper into the site, you should give more details. Have a plan so that no two pages have the same title tags (more on that below).
Here’s an example of title tags that make sense at different levels of a site that sells things:
- Home Page: The Man Registry’s home page has gifts for the groomsmen and other unique gifts for men.
- Product Category Page: Page of gifts for groomsmen from The Man Registry, including BBQ sets and cooking tools.
- Product Page: The Man Registry’s 5-Piece Customized BBQ tool set.
2. Searcher Intent Keyword Use
We’ve all been in situations where we really want to know the answer to a certain question, but the top sites answer a different question. The same is true for great content that doesn’t get any attention.
For title tag optimization, it is important to know what your audience is looking for and how they are looking for it.
If you don’t know what words and phrases people use when they search, you might make a wrong guess. When you are optimizing title tags, don’t skip keyword research or don’t pay attention to it.
In this context-based era of SEO, you don’t have to worry about every literal version of a keyword or phrase, but you also can’t ignore the searcher and what they want. Find a good balance, use the same words in the same way, and write in a way that makes sense to your readers.
The goal of a well-optimized title tag is to use words that match what is being searched for, as long as the page’s content is focused on what the searcher thinks they want.
3. Topical Relevance Within The Page
The next step in figuring out where the page fits in the website’s hierarchy as a whole is to look at what’s on the page.
The title tag has the most impact on search engines and users when it explains what the page is about and when the same important keywords are used in the page’s body copy, image alt attribute, meta description, URL, and other places.
Don’t waste the chance to use this element and the other things on the page to your advantage by trying to write it to include words, terms, or phrases that aren’t in the page’s content.
Google can and will ignore tags that aren’t useful or don’t have anything to do with the rest of the page’s content. You should use words in the title tag that are also used elsewhere on the page to tie the topic together.
4. Unique Tags
Both searchers and search engines don’t benefit from duplicate title tags. If you have duplicate tags, Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools will show them in their reports.
Often, you’ll find that the search engines have chosen to ignore your title tag and use other content they found on your page for the blue link text in the SERP. This is especially true when title tags are missing or there are too many of them.
When multiple pages have the same tag, the search engine doesn’t know what to do with those tags if they are very general or just list the company or organization’s name. One example is when the title tag for the whole site is the same and is just the domain name or company name.
Google has been using page content instead of the blue link content in the search results page for years. This is because there are a lot of duplicates, tags are not formatted correctly, tags are missing, or tags have content that Google doesn’t find helpful or useful.
In some cases, this is fine, but in others, it leads to content that fits the page less well and is less likely to get clicked on by searchers. If you don’t want to leave it up to chance, the best thing to do is to make sure that both users and search engines can read your title tags.
You can use the information provided by Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to figure out where your problems are. You can also run your own tests with any number of on-page auditors and crawling tools, like my favorite, Screaming Frog.
If your site has duplicate tags, you should write custom tags as part of your SEO plan.
5. Use Dynamic Options When Possible
If you have a large website or one with a lot of dynamic data, like an ecommerce site, you need to find ways to code your tags in a way that makes sense. Most website platforms and content management systems will make the title tag for you automatically.
If you want to change the default title tag on a large scale, talk to your developer or look in the settings for your website platform to find ways to add more detail and change things at different levels.
The better, the more you can grow without having to manage hundreds or thousands of tags by hand. As an example of a dynamic structure, all product page tags could have the same text, but the name of the product would be pulled from the database.
For example, “[product name] gifts for the groomsmen from The Man Registry.” “product name” in brackets would be a variable that would fill that part of the title with the actual name of the product in the database.
In this case, you wouldn’t have to write each title tag by hand, and you can be sure that each one is different. You can also look for ways to add more variables from the database if you have the same products with different features or attributes, like different colors.
A quick word of warning: you can do a lot of damage quickly with dynamic tags, even though they are easy to use and can be scaled. Make sure to check your tags at the beginning and on a regular basis to make sure that the database and code are still showing the tags you want.
6. Call To Action In SERP
Remember that the text in the blue link on the SERPs will be the title tag. This is prime real estate, and the message here has a big effect on whether the searcher clicks through to your site or moves on to the next result.
Your main goal should be to answer the searcher’s question, need, or want. Give the searcher a reason to click on the link that fits with your content, goals, and what they are looking for.
It’s important to have a clear idea of what your page is about and what you and your visitors want from it. If you’re trying to reach too many business goals on one page, it can be hard to figure out what the call to action (CTA) should be.
If this is the case, you might want to divide your content into more topics and pages. Like writing a good headline for a PPC text ad, the title tag must match the searcher’s intent to get them to click.
When writing your title tag, remember that Google will cut it off at about 70 characters. The user won’t see any more words after that number.
Google, on the other hand, has said that they index more than that. No matter how long you want your title tag to be for Google to index and understand it, keep your goals for getting searchers to click through in mind as well.
Think about how the title will be cut off and what will show up in the SERPs. Put in your most important words and phrases. Be brief and to the point, and make sure that the most important words appear as early as possible in your title tags.
For example, you might have a home page title tag that says, “Groomsmen gifts and unique men’s gifts by The Man Registry.” This is a pretty standard sounding tag.
You could try out more actionable language like “Shop at The Man Registry for the best groomsmen and unique men’s gifts.”
7. Don’t Try Too Hard
Avoid titles that sound or look like spam. Don’t make your title tag too long or complicated. The search engines pay attention to context, not the exact use, frequency, and density of keywords.
Choose words that make sense for the page’s topic and the searcher’s goal. You can explain and build on that context in the longer sections of the page. “Groomsmen gifts, groomsmen gifts, gifts for men, unique gifts” is an example of a dangerous title tag.
Overusing and repeating words makes your site look like spam to both Google and searchers.
8. Keep The Title Tag’s Impact In Perspective
Don’t put too much importance or weight on the title tag by itself. Even though optimizing all of your site’s title tags might give you a small boost, you can’t think that the title tag alone is the key to SEO success.
Optimizing for search in a more complete way is much more important.
Title tag optimization is often just the beginning or a way in. Until you are at the top of the SERPs, it probably doesn’t make sense to obsess over small changes and minor changes in the language used to see how they affect rankings one position at a time.
- URL Optimization: What Makes a URL Properly Optimized?
- How to Find Low Competition Keywords and How to Use the Google Search Bar to Find Keywords?
- Which is the Best Keyword Tools for SEO?
SEO has a lot of different parts, from the technical to the on-page to the links and more. Even though no single part of a strategy will make or break it, you can’t ignore title tags as part of the whole.
By following these eight best practices, you’ll be able to get the hierarchy and context of your website right and get the most out of your work.
Always think about the person doing the search and your audience. Find the right balance between using important keywords and making sure they fit with the topic’s main idea.
Include the title tag in your plan for optimization, learn how it helps get click-throughs, and try to optimize it as best you can for your content and needs.