Title tag optimization is one critical piece of the SEO puzzle. But many business owners and marketers often need help figuring out where to start and how to optimize title tags. So we roped in our in-house SEO expert James Gibbons to shed light on title tag SEO best practices and help you get the most out of your optimization efforts.
James is the Senior Customer Success Manager at Quattr. He has ten years of experience in SEO and has worked with multiple agencies, brands, and B2B companies. He has helped clients scale organic and paid search presence to find hidden growth opportunities. James writes about all aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. Follow him on Twitter to get regular SEO insights.
In this blog, James will explain what you need to know about title tag optimization and what steps you should take to improve your website rankings and SERP visibility. Read this guide to optimize titles for search engines & improve click-through rates.
A title tag is an HTML component that specifies the title of a web page. It provides a brief and concise description of the page's content. Page titles are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) as clickable headlines and are essential for usability, SEO, and social sharing.
From a search engine's perspective, a title tag is the primary piece of content that describes the content of an individual web page. Search engines use the title tag to decide what information to display in the search results.
The title tag also creates a headline for the search engine results page.
Title tags help search engines determine which keywords and phrases to align and rank the page in the search results for those queries.
From a user's perspective, a title tag provides an immediate understanding of the page and facilitates decision-making on whether they should click through it. A unique and descriptive title tag will make your page more distinguishable and attractive to users.
A title tag is visible to users in the browser tab, the page's listing on search engine results pages (SERPs), and social media sharing links. The title tag is also visible when the page is bookmarked or added to a user's favorites.
Let us understand a title tag's different appearance and visibility styles before diving deeper into title tag optimization.
The SEO title tag is the first thing potential viewers will see when searching for your website, significantly driving traffic. It is best to have a unique and keyword-rich title tag for each web page.
Title tag appearance on search engines is essential in getting your website noticed by potential viewers. It is displayed on the search engine result pages (SERPs) when a user searches for a keyword or phrase.
Google uses web crawlers (or "spiders") to scan HTML code and extract information from a website, including the title tag. When the crawler encounters a title tag, it reads the text between the opening and closing tags and stores it. This text then indexes the page and determines what appears in search results.
Read Google documentation on how title links in Google searches are created.
Title tags are essential to your website's appearance on user browsers. They appear in the browser window tab and display the page's title, which helps users quickly identify which page they are currently navigating.
Page titles are critical for SEO and affect how your content looks when someone shares it on social media. Your title tag is not just limited to search engines. Social media platforms display title tags when users share the web page link as a post.
A well-crafted title tag can capture attention and encourage more people to click through your content.
“Title tag optimization can be one of the most impactful growth levers and often show results quickly,” James points out.
Title tags tell Google what you want the page to rank.
It tells search engines and users about the page content in a few characters. It is, therefore, a crucial element of a website’s SEO strategy and plays a significant role in the rankings of web pages on search engine results pages (SERPs).
The H1 or the page heading is what a user sees when they land on a web page. But the title tag is what the users see on search engines and gets them to click on the SERP listing.
Brands need to customize their title tags to take advantage of an ample opportunity to grow on SERPs.
For brands, title tags are integral in optimizing web pages for search engines and encouraging users to click on their websites. Here are some of the benefits of title tags:
1. Title tags help search engines determine what a page is about, aiding in the crawling and indexing.
2. Optimized title tags relevant to a web page’s content will help increase click-through rates (CTR) from SERPs.
3. Title tags can display a descriptive headline on social media posts that link to the website.
4. Title tags inform the user of the website’s purpose, helping to create an expectation for the page’s content.
5. Title tags can promote brand identity using a distinctive, keyword-rich brand phrase.
6. Title tags are crucial for accessibility, providing a one-line page description for those using assistive reading devices.
“One of our customers at Quattr optimized their title tags regularly, among other optimization efforts, and saw an increase in organic clicks. A boost in organic traffic led to the need to scale this effort, which required more tile tags to optimize and more page creation.” James explains that title tags are directly related to improved CTRs.
Now that we know all the benefits of title tags, let us look at how to write a good title tag.
Crafting the perfect title tag is essential to any SEO strategy. However, it is important to remember that title tag optimization is a continuous process (more on that later in the blog).
Here we are sharing a few things to remember when writing title tags & what SEO best practices to follow:
“Each page on your website you have a unique and distinct title tag,” James notes. Ensure no two pages have the same title tag since that can confuse Google about what page to rank for that topic.
Avoid using generic titles and make them customizable and relevant for web pages.
A title tag should be at most 65 characters, as this is the maximum length search engines will display in their search results. So keep your web page titles short, crisp, and precise.
Search engines like Google may cut off title tags on different devices.
That is sometimes good since it can create a bit of mystery and get users to click. Sticking within the character limit and utilizing the opportunity is always advised.
Use keyword phrases that accurately describe the content of your page. You have 55-65 characters to utilize. Add your primary keyword at the beginning and a secondary keyword phrase afterward as appropriate, given the length.
The key is to keep the page title relevant to the page’s content. For example, if you were to have a long-form blog discussing a topic, a good page title would have the topic name in front and words like benefits and use cases as secondary keywords.
Adding secondary keyword phrases tells users what more they can expect from the page content. Multiple keywords will boost your SEO ranking, as search engine algorithms will more likely recognize your page as relevant to a given query.
Historically speaking, users have seen ten links per page on Google SERPs. Most of the time, the page title contains similar keywords and phrases. So how do you stand out on SERPs?
Use numbers, emojis, or special characters like parentheses in your page titles.
James explains, “The aim is to make your title engaging and relevant.” The title tag is not just about SERP visibility and rankings but also about click-through rates. Your ultimate goal is to get users to click and land on your site. Thus the CTR aspect is very relevant to title tags.”
“It becomes especially relevant regarding A/B testing of title tags and measurement. URLs getting meaningful traffic and visibility can be separated in a different cohort as CTR movement will be much more meaningful.”
Another tactic to improve CTRs is to add a number element to your title tag. Two ways to incorporate numbers are either in the beginning or the end. Creating listicles or adding numbers as pricing or date years makes your title tag stand out from standard text-based content.
“75 ways to arrange photo frames on a wall…Your user is interested to know how someone thought of 75 ideas”, adds James.
Add the year or date at the end of your page titles. James explains, “Dates help identify the freshness of your content and make it relevant.” Ensure you update dates every year, however.
As highlighted previously, title tags are vital to improving your click-through rate. Creating urgency with deadline-based offers or adding enticing keywords can improve CTR. Keywords like ‘Sale’ and ‘Discount’ can benefit e-commerce websites.
Similarly, adding a call to action is advised. “While your meta description should have a call to action, add a CTA if you have room in your title.”
A common question to which James replies with a Yes and No. He further explains, “If you don’t mention your brand name, then Google will automatically add it if necessary. Sometimes it can be worth it to utilize the full title tag space for a highly relevant title about the content that may omit the brand name.”
However, adding the brand name on product pages and critical service offerings can help differentiate your product from competitors.
Adding brand names can also reinforce brand authority.
"Wikipedia always adds brand names at the end of each page. Since Wikipedia is an authoritative source of information, adding a brand name on every page improves their CTR & rankings. Adding brand names can play out differently in many different search verticals," James adds.
Authoritative websites and brands looking to generate brand awareness should ideally add brand names but don't stop there. Add more branded messaging to weave in your brand with the non-brand segment.
Following these tips and tricks, you can create the perfect title tag optimized for SEO and engaging potential visitors. The title tag is a crucial element of any SEO strategy, and taking the time to craft it properly can pay off in the long run.
Crafting a good title tag on the launch of a web page is just step one. The real opportunity lies in regularly optimizing your title tags.
Google recommends updating your title tags as needed as search algorithms and user preferences evolve. As a best practice, review and update your title tags every 3-4 months to ensure they remain relevant and current with the latest search trends.
But what should you update all page titles every quarter? If not, then how should you prioritize optimization? Below, James gives a step-wise process to approach title tag optimization.
James suggests first starting with the lowest-hanging fruit. “Every SEO title below 40 characters is small and should be suspect as being under-optimized: missing out on an opportunity to grow exponentially.”
You can use a free SEO audit tool to build your list or utilize Google Analytics to find all pages.
1. From the Google Analytics homepage, select "Behavior" on the left sidebar navigation.
2. On the next page, select "All Pages" from the list of options.
3. Add a Secondary Dimension filter by searching for and selecting "Page Title."
4. Add a filter to the displayed data. Select "Page Title" from the list of available dimensions, "Exactly matching" from the list of operators, and enter the number of characters you want to filter pages by, in this case, 40 or less.
5. The result should display all pages with title tags equal to or less than 40 characters.
Once you have the list, add relevant primary and secondary keywords to utilize the full scope of the title tag. Follow the best practices stated above.
High-value pages can get you regular traffic, have high business and conversion value, or both. Create a list of these high-value pages. Include title tags, character count, and top keywords you rank for each page.
“Your optimization should be guided by striking distance keyword optimization.” Filter keywords that have an average position between 4 to 20. Start adding these keyword variations to your page titles. Find the relevant ones and optimize page titles for them.
Your striking distance keyword mapping may also show some interesting data points. You may see an acronym or an exciting variation. Think of how you can add that to your title," James explains.
Optimize high-value page titles every month; new technology around programmatic SEO allows that to happen. "Could they be enhanced? Do we need to change the wording a little bit? Maybe something's too competitive, and we must do another keyword variation. In less competitive situations, start optimizing for the head term immediately."
In addition, sometimes, before you can measure results, your teams need to conduct a log file analysis to understand precisely the day on which Google found a given piece of content.
Title tag optimization directly impacts your click-through rate and traffic. James adds, "You should constantly be thinking about how to make the title tag jump on SERP and get a user to click on your SERP listing and stop scrolling" The three golden rules to keep in mind:
1. Traffic Volume & Relevance - Include keywords with high search volume or generate the most impressions for your page. Ensure your keywords are relevant to the page’s content. However, like everything with SEO, it depends. In some cases, you need a mix of high-volume and trending keywords. These may be low volume, but users may click on them more because they are new.
2. Bold CTAs - Numbered listicles, special characters, enticing words, discounts, or low-price offerings; all are good CTAs to include in your title tag.
3. Brand value - Including your brand name allows brands to capture any brand equity they have built over the years to convey a sense of trust and compel a click in a SERP environment that may appear relatively open. However, if you are running short of title tag space, skip it.
Finally, remember to optimize regularly and keep your title tags fresh. "Regular optimization cycles will give you better insights into what works for your brand and what isn't. You can then let that learning guide your title tag creation strategy."
Numerous tools can help you scale and automate your title tag optimization. Quattr is one such tool.
Quattr is an SEO platform that generates, connects, and transforms data from various sources, such as Google Search Console, Adwords, and Analytics data, into a single coherent SEO Data Lake. The Data Lake contains information about your website and your top competitors. The platform then scores your website and top competitors based on performance, experience, and content quality.
The Quattr platform gives you a sandbox environment to test your content updates & optimization. It gives you a list of keyword clusters your page currently ranks for and how your page scores against any particular group. You can then improve title tags based on these keyword cluster combinations and also compare them against the title tags of SERP competitors.
1. Update your dates or year.
If you have added a year to your title tags, you must update them every new year. James suggests you update them before the new year kicks in. "Don't wait for the new year to optimize title tags. Sometimes, people search for future dates, even in the previous year.”
Update dates 2-3 months in advance and see the results in the new year. James adds that some SEO verticals, such as travel, have a more significant time window where users search via a new date pattern, say 90-120 days out.
2. Optimize for devices
In some situations, your web page may perform better on mobile. The character limit for the page tag on mobile is about 55 characters. "When you have pages ranking better on mobile, optimize title tags keeping mobile character limit in mind," James explains.
3. Remember the 80/20 optimization rule
"Per the 80/20 rule, 20% of your pages bring in 80% of your traffic." James says you should focus your regular optimization efforts on 20% of your top-value pages.
Here is a list of common errors website admins make when optimizing page titles.
1. You need to utilize the full scope of the 65 title tag character limit.
2. Your website has multiple pages with a page title below 40 characters.
3. Update and optimize the auto-generated title tags but your CMS. Often multiple website home pages have title tags as "Home Page | Brand." There is an opportunity to generate non-brand traffic here by adding relevant keywords.
4. Avoid having the same page title as the H1 heading. Blog pages succumb to this mistake in particular. You can target different keyword variations and styles in your title tag.
5. Web pages have brand names multiple times. Avoid brand-mention stuffing. Generally, always add the brand name at the end of the page title.
James highlights that you only have one title tag per page. "It can be difficult to convey the essence of long-form content within 65 characters. In those situations, having multiple pages targeting different keyword clusters and title tags can help boost SERP visibility."
"Long gone are the days of one keyword per page and spamming Google with multiple pages. However, this does not mean you create one page per topic. You should split content based on different search intents and create multiple landing pages. Which means a new title tag that you can optimize towards and be very targeted."
In August 2021, many SEOs started noticing and reporting on Twitter that Google is rewriting title tags for significant pages on SERPs. A 2022 study on Zyppy.com analyzed 2370 websites and more than 80,000 title tags to check for rewrites. They discovered that Google rewrote at least 61.6% of the title tags.
If Google is rewriting title tags, should you optimize your title tags? Is regular title tag optimization still necessary?
James exclaims, “But you can avoid Google rewrites by having relevant and optimized title tags.” Google documentation explains that rewriting title tags was a step to avoid issues like half-empty or inaccurate titles.
“It is a pure machine learning system, and sometimes you have low control over it.” Though James adds that rewriting does not always mean it negatively impacts rankings. "There are situations where Google has rewritten title tags, and the page has ranked for different queries."
Often Google rewrites the title tag and picks it straight up from the H1 or other page headings.
Thus, making your headings relevant and keyword-optimized is a good practice. You can avoid rewrites by following all best practices. Here are seven tips:
1. Include primary keywords and targeted phrases in your title tags to help Google show users the most relevant title tag.
2. Include a clear call to action in your title tag, as Google may use this in the rewritten tag.
3. Keep the title tag length within 60 characters so Google won't truncate it.
4. Use capital letters to separate words, making reading easier for users.
5. Keep away from keyword stuffing, as this may lead to title tags that are confusing and difficult to read.
6. Test your title tags to ensure they precisely match the SERP snippet on that page.
7. Lastly, regularly monitor your title tags and keep track of any changes Google may make so you can take corrective action if needed.
In summary, title tags are essential to any SEO strategy and should be optimized regularly. Title tags are what search engine users see in the search engine results pages, so optimizing them can help improve click-through rates and increase website traffic. Focussing on keyword research, relevance, and length will ensure you get the most from your title tag optimization efforts.
Tools like the Quattr SEO platform can help track title tag optimization efforts and help scale them to make the process faster. With the proper optimization, you can reach more people with your website and help improve your ranking.
A title tag is an HTML code element that specifies the page title of a web page. Browsers and search engines typically use it to display the page title in the search results and the browser window's title bar. The title tag is inserted in the <head> of an HTML document right after the meta tags. It should include an accurate, concise description of the page's content.
An optimized SEO title tag should be short, descriptive, and include relevant keywords. It should consist of searchable and user-friendly keyword phrases. For example, an optimized SEO title tag for a website about green sweaters for a female could be: "Women's Green Sweaters | Stylish & Comfortable."
The advantage of page titles is that they give users a brief description of the page content and allow search engines to index and rank a website appropriately so users can easily find it.
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