When optimising a page, one of the elements I focus my attention on the most is the title tag. I can become quite obsessed over title tags: I write and re-write them many times before finding the one that may be OK. I believe you can never give enough love to your title tags, and in this article I am going to explain why you should care about title tags too.
What is a title tag?
The title tag is the phrase or chunk of text that describes an online page, which you edit in your meta data. Most SEOs will agree that title tags are the most important element within on-page optimisation, and I certainly do.
Imagine having to give a one-sentence definition about yourself. That’s pretty much the same with title tags. They give a relevant, one-sentence definition about the content of the page.
Title tags are important because they appear in three of the most key spaces in the internet: SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Positions – i.e. where you rank on a search results page), on external websites and in browsers (at the top in your page tab).
Should I care more about title tags than H1s?
In my opinion, yes, you should,. A web page can have more than one H1 (although it’s always used as a ‘title’ for pages and blog posts). On the other hand, you have one and only title tag to define. That doesn’t mean you are allowed to use sloppy H1s!
Whilst a modern CMS makes sure that H1s also define the URL slugs (which are not easily editable without 301s and other expedients once indexed) title tags can be changed and improved anytime, according to the data you gather once the page is up and running. For example, say you see one of your web pages is not performing as you expect: could it be the title tag? A single change on it can make a huge difference in the SERPs.
Does the perfect title tag exist?
Nope. SEO is in constant motion, and whilst I am writing this article, search engines are already coming out with another slight change in their algorithms and in the way of reading title tags.
However, there are some evergreen tricks to bear in mind if you want to provide a search engine friendly title tag for your web page:
Mind the length.
Google recommends to not exceed 55-60 characters, which is about 8 to 10 words or 512 pixels length. If you overrun, search engines will cut your title and display it in the results with quote marks.
Personally I don’t mind writing a little bit more than what Google suggest for title tags. Search engines are all about UX and readability nowadays, and if it’s true that a long title tag can’t be read on the SERPs, it’s also true that I don’t like to sacrifice the readability of my title tag for something 100% displayable. Most of the time the problem doesn’t occur to me at all as there’s also a way to reconciliate UX and SE needs. It’s a matter of practice.
Placing relevant keywords right at the beginning of the text is a good practice to maximise the title tag super power. As we’ve got only 8 to 10 words to place in that, why not using the best ones straight away? That would be the first words the search engines will scan, after all.
Think like a pragmatic human.
Every time I write a title tag, I think what a pragmatic mind would like to read in order to trigger a click into the page. Pragmatism is the closest human virtue I can think of that relates to an algorithm (which is more functional than pragmatic), hence matching also what a search engine would like to see in a title tag. A successful title tag is functional, consistent with the topic of the web page, relevant and easy to read. Moreover, it’s clear enough to explain what a reader will find inside and persuade him to click the link. When a title tag fulfils all these requirements, the CTR and the bounce rate get positive figures – and so can the SERPs for relevant keywords.
Google can change it.
Don’t get offended if one day you discover that Google have changed your title tag on the snippets with something else chosen by them. Forced rewritings are becoming more common than ever lately as Google is pushing the user experience and relevancy aspects over many other elements. While it’s quite easy to write some strings of code to block search engines from rewriting my titles, I am personally not against this forced rewriting if I notice they make more sense than mine.
Duplicate content has always been one of my darkest nightmares as an SEO. Although duplicate content doesn’t directly affect a site’s ranking anymore, it can mean that your web pages compete over the same keywords, therefore jeopardising any optimisation efforts. Try to treat any web page as if it is a website itself – that’s my personal SEO mantra. That will put you in the right mindset to not forget to make every single online page special. The more every single web page of your site is unique, the more Google Panda stays cool – and also keeps you away from any risk of duplicate content.
Along with meta descriptions, title tags are the business card of any web page. Every digital user should care about title tags to assure maximum exposure and better positioning on SERPS.
Hopefully those few hints about title tags can help you take care more about title tags and improve your SEO approach toward them.
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SEE ALSO: How to balance SEO and web design