When your website was being developed I bet you were told: “Make sure your meta titles are epic and this will help your SEO”. At the time you smiled, took note and vaguely nodded pretending you knew what your developer was on about (along with a million other things). Whether they are called ‘meta titles’, ‘page titles’ or ‘title tags’ these little snippets of information are important to your search engine success and can affect whether your pages get viewed or skipped over.
In this post, I will explain what these ‘title’ thingies are, what they are for and how to use them to your advantage.
What is a Title Tag?
The Meta Title or Title Tag is the heading for your web page. It describes in a few short words what a page on a website is about. It is displayed on every web page such as your home page, any blog posts you create and every product you have.
What is the Title Tag for?
Search Engine Optimisation
First and foremost your title tag contributes in a small, but very important way towards your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Google uses this simple bit of code to determine what your page is about and if it is a close match to the keywords that a person used searching – ever noticed how your search words appear in bold on the results. Since the title tag is often very high up in the code behind your web page, it can be the very first piece of content the Google ‘bots’ read – the higher up a piece of content is, the more important Google ‘thinks’ it is. Think of a newspaper article; the headline is the attention grabber and explains what the article is about, the summary of the article gives you the details and usually most of the important facts and the body of the article gives you the finer details of the story that are not as important – you’ll never read a newspaper the same again.
A Summary On The Search Engine Results Page
When a person adds their search term into Google search (or other search engines), they get a list of results, on each result, the title tag is what is displayed in blue. While your title tag is something that Google may see first, it is also the first advertisement or point of contact a potential customer will have with your page. It is a form of advertising to the person searching and shows them that your page may be just what they are looking for, this emphasises the importance of the title tag when it comes to your customer finding just what they were looking for. If your title does not answer their question then you will get passed over.
The Page Title Displayed On The Browser
It also appears as the title of the page in your web browser. This is a vital element in categorisation for your reader. If they have several tabs or windows open, the title that you have chosen is displayed in the tab or page. Making this title well structured and with they keywords in the first positions will contribute to your page being kept open and used.
Social Media Summary
Just as with the search engine results, your title tag is also the first point of contact your user has with your web page on social media. When you add your link into a post on most social media platforms and now on text messages with some smartphones and devices. The title tag is the heading that is displayed to the reader, this gives them an idea of what they are going to be reading before they click on your link.
How To Make The Most Of Your Title Tag
What Length Should My Title Tag Be
The length of your title tag can vary, as Google has assigned a space of 600 pixels wide, rather than a number of characters. If your title is too long it ends in an ellipsis (…), if this happens you may also be losing the opportunity to display vital keywords. You can fit between 40-80 characters depending on the size of the letters used. For example if your title tag had words with lots of ‘l’, ‘i’ and ‘t’ in it, you could fit more words in as they are skinny letters however if you have lots of ‘w’, ‘m’ or rounded letters like ‘g,o,a’ then your tag will take up more space. The recommended length for a title tag is to stay under 60 characters to be safe. Google does not penalise you for using a long title because some pages simply need a longer title, particularly some blog posts. You can use your judgement here and if you’re clever with your titles it may not matter.
Best Format For Your Title Tag
The best format according to research by Moz.com, Neilson Norman Group and many others, is to have your keywords or article title, separated with a pipe divider | and your brand name after it. This way your brand gets exposure but is not interfering with the summary of what the page is about. As I mentioned above Google also reads pages from top to bottom and your most important words for SEO purposes should be placed at the front.
Every Page Needs It’s Own Unique Title
It’s not always your home page that appears in the search engine results, it can sometimes be a product page, blog post, services page or even your contact details that are shown to the users. By having a unique title on every page you increase your click through rate because you are showing the person searching what that page is about. Not only are you describing your page to the person searching but you are also telling Google what your page is about. Google uses each title to help understand the content, by having a different one on every page Google can determine that each page is different and not a duplicate – Google will automatically demote one page over another if it feels there is a duplicate.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that you are not using default title that your CMS (Content Management System) applied – e.g. Home, About, Untitled. Most CMS will allow you to update the title to suit. If you have a WordPress site installed the ‘Yoast SEO’ plugin (LINK) and this will allow you to change the title on almost every page, post and product.
Put Your Words in Order of Importance
Your most important keywords should be the first in the title, not your brand. As odd as this may sound, you have to remember you are writing your advertising copy to an audience that is scanning a search engine results page or social media news feed. You have to get their attention with words that will tell them what the page is about as quickly as possible. Your title can be cut short by the search engine and end in an ellipsis, so you can loose your most important words if they are not first.
Last but not least, write naturally. This is something that I repeat time and time again. First and foremost you are writing for a customer, a human, so your titles should reflect this. Your main aim is to get a click through and answering the search query is what matters the most. The best way to compose your titles, (and all content for that matter) is to keep your keyword objectives, search engine and formats in the back of your mind as you write for your readers.
Google in particular, has been designed to put the human first and has created an algorithm that promotes natural writing over search engine manipulation, use this little snippet of knowledge to your advantage coupled with your formatting to create quality titles that promote your content and answer the person’s questions.