An SEO title, or title tag, is your best chance to attract people to your webpage from search engine results. Your title tag can be the difference between someone noticing your page, or overlooking it even if it is the top search result. Following some simple guidelines can help you optimize your headline and improve your ability to be found through online searches.
Anatomy of the perfect SEO title tag
There may not be a "perfect" title tag for SEO, but there is a formula for creating a successful SEO title.
#2 Add wow factor
#3 Keep it simple
#1 KeywordsBegin with keywords from the page content
#2 Add wow factorMake your title interesting to read. Think of your title tag as a news headline or a catchy ad heading.
#3 Keep it simpleMake your title long enough to make your point, but short enough to fit in the space available
#4 What is it about?Your title must describe what the page is about to be effective
#5 PipeUse a small character such as a pipe to separate ideas if needed
#6 Who are you?If there is room at the end of your title, add your company name. This is a standard SEO title pattern, but not necessary.
- Lead with keywords
- Add interest
- The right size: not to short, and not too long
- Introduce the information the visitor will find on your page
- Separate ideas with small characters
- Add your company name
Let's get technical for a minute
Great SEO titles are successful because they combine the human and technical aspects of headlines. Search engine algorithms seem to place weight on the title tag. Essentially, the search engine is relying on you to use the title tag to tell people what information is going to be on the page. Understanding what a title tag is will help you know how to leverage the use of it. Balancing the technical guidelines with good content will give you the best results.
What is a title tag?
A title tag is an HTML element that allows us to tell the search engine what we want the headline (or heading) to be for our page on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The information in the title tag is:
- Displayed as a clickable headline on the search engine results page
- Displayed in the web browser tab
- Becomes the bookmark text for the page
- The default title for social media shares
Did you know that your web page title and your title tag are two different things?
Your page title is the headline at the top of the webpage. (e.g. "What is an SEO title, and how is it different from a page title?") Page titles do not have to be optimized for search engines if your title tag is set. Instead, page titles can be treated as a pure headline, and add interest to your page. Your page title should do two things:
- Let people know what content to expect
- Motivate people to read the page
A title tag is the headline for your page that displays on the search engine results page. Your title tag does not need to be the same as your page title. The title tag would serve you better if it is search engine optimized. Your title tag needs to:
- Let people know what content to expect
- Motivate people read the page
- Follow technical guidelines
- Include keywords
What happens when you do not have a title tag set?
If you have not set your title tag for the page, the search engine may pull information from your page title for the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) headline. Your page title does not affect anything on the SERP if you have set your title tag, but it does give you an opportunity to connect with your website visitors with an interesting headline.
4 guidelines for writing your SEO title
1. Get a great start with keywords
Begin your SEO title with a keyword. This will signal the people reading your headline that the information on your webpage is a good match for the information that they are looking for. Starting with a keyword will also signal the search engine that this content is relevant to a search. Following this one easy guideline will help you reach two goals.
2. Add some pizzazz
What you have to say is important. Whether your webpage is about a product or sharing an idea, your information is valuable and worth sharing. Your SEO title is an introduction, and creates the first impression many website visitors will have with you. Think of the SEO title as your headline or teaser. It is your best opportunity to convince someone that what you put on that page is going to answer the question they had when they typed their search.
3. Size matters
Technically, your title tag has to fit in a 568 (Pixel Width in SERP Snippets, Screaming Frog) to 600 (Title Tag, Moz) pixel container (for Google). Character width varies. An "M" takes more space than an "I" in your title tag, for example. Title tags can be over 60 characters long as long as the characters fit in the container. It is a good idea to adjust the target character length to allow several wider characters in your title. Generally, we recommend keeping your title length 50 to 60 characters. And yes, spaces count as characters.
What if your title is too long? Search engines will display an ellipsis at the end of the title, virtually cutting your title short.
From an SEO standpoint, the main concern with a title tag that is too long is loss of keywords. Rework your title with your most important keywords to fit into the space allowed by the search engine.
4. Your title should describe the information on the page
The best titles are a true short description of the information that follows with the most important idea highlighted. With your title, you are letting people know what information they will find on your webpage. You are also building trust with the website visitor as long as your title is a true description of the page content. If your webpage is about cute kittens, do not talk about giraffes in the title.
Now that you know the four key guidelines for writing your SEO title, give it a try. Building from your beginning keyword, describe what is on the webpage. Brainstorming titles is a great idea! Your first idea may not be your best title. Play with the keywords and main ideas from your content until you have several to choose from. Select the title that is the best fit. Save your title ideas. You can try a different title later if analytics show SEO for the page could be improved.
Take a second look
SEO is an ongoing process. Over time, you may find that different keywords work better for your content than keywords used for some of your past title tags. Getting to know your audience may also give you insight into ways to improve your title tags and page titles.
Take a second look at your title tags after some time has passed and you can review the analytics. Focus on pages that have fewer visits from search results pages, and consider ways to improve the title tag.