A Title Tag is an HTML element that tells users and search engines the main idea of the page. The <title> tag is located within the <head> section of the page. Within the browser, it is displayed within the tab. It also appears in social sharing and search engines typically as the headline. Within search engine results pages (SERPs), the title is displayed as the large headline that users click to navigate to your website.
Why is the Title Tag Important to SEO?
Title tags give search engines information on what is likely on the page. This short synopsis helps search engines to determine if the page is relevant to the search query’s focus keyword. For users, it appears as the clickable headline in search results and also serves as a reason for users to click into the page. Often, small changes to the title can lead to large differences in rankings within SERPs and stand out among other search results.
When compared to other on-page SEO elements, it’s crucial to realize that the title tag is at the top of the page hierarchy. Google and other search engines use this as a key determining factor in understanding the content on the page. The hierarchy structure that follows the title are other tags, such as H1s and H2s, etc.
Using Title Tags
Title tags are within the <head> section of the site, and marked by the <title></title> tag. Depending on your site, you may be able to edit these tags within a CMS like wordpress or need to work with your dev team to align SEO and the dev team’s titling practices.
Benefits of Title Tags
Nailing the title tag can take significant work, especially on sites with millions of pages, but the benefits can be huge. Apart from ranking well, an optimized meta title tag will drive more conversions from search to your site.
- Search Engine Indexing – Tells search engines what is important about your page
- Drives Traffic – Punchy and unique titles can convert more users from SERPs to your site. Isn’t this what SEO is all about?
- Keep Users on Site – When titles make sense and are accurate to the user, when they get to your site’s content, then they are more likely to stay.
Title Tag Best Practices
Here are several tips to help you create meta title tags that woo users.
- Length – Within SERPs there is a limit on how much of a title will display. Our advice is to stick to 50-60 characters in length to take advantage of of the space. When titles are 60+ characters long, it becomes more likely that the title will be cut off when displayed.
- Capital Letters – With display space constrained, a title with all CAPs will take up significantly more space than one with mixed case. Don’t ALL CAPs your title. We recommend either Title Case (every word is capitalized) or Sentence case (the first word is capitalized). Ok ok, sometimes, it makes sense to ALL CAPs one word within a title – to give that one word some extra pizzazz.
- Keywords – Make sure to put your focus keyword or keywords in the title. Without putting the keyword/keyword phrase in the title, you’ll give up much of the SEO power of your page. Make sure not to stuff your title with 4 versions of the same keyword – one focus keyword / keyword phrase is enough to rank well.
- Fragment – Title tags don’t need to be a complete sentence. In fact, you should remove unnecessary words so that it is short and punchy. Some SEOs strike all stop words from title tags (ex. a, the, and, but, or, so on, was, with) since it’s a title and not a sentence.
- Uniqueness – Don’t use the same title tag in multiple places throughout the site. And, don’t use obvious and non-descriptive titles, like <title>Home | yourwebsite.com</title> for your home page. Say what the page is about..
Google Changed My Title
So, you’ve worked hard at making all your titles unique and bam – Google displays something different than the title tag you’ve added to your code. There are several reasons why this could happen.
- Keyword Stuffing – You’ve stuffed your title with too many keywords. Did you use your keyword four times to include it as a version of ing/plural/singular/etc? Just use one keyword or one keyword phrase to avoid a rewrite by Google.
- Alt Title – Sometimes a meta tag for facebook or twitter will become the title displayed by Google in SERPs. The easiest thing to do here, is to rewrite those meta tags to be aligned with your optimized title tag. At least Google didn’t come up with their own.
- Not Relevant – When the title is very different from the search query, the title displayed can be rewritten. Not every title will match all the search queries that the page ranks well for, so this can be desirable. If not, consider rewriting your title to match the queries that are most important to that page.
- Too Short/Long – With very long or very short titles, it may become not relevant to the query. Like above, Google may rewrite because it’s too long or too short and doesn’t match the query well.
- Open Directory Listing – If your site’s open directory listing title matches the title displaying within SERPs and is different than your title tag, Google may be confused and looking there to create your title. There are ways to prevent Google from doing this by changing your meta robots file. [https://searchfacts.com/noodp-noydir-meta-tags/]
- Developer Changes – Often developers or product managers end up changing titles or adding ones that don’t align with the SEO team’s strategy. Sometimes this is an error and other times it’s just difficult to make sure that all pages adhere to the implementation plan set forth by SEO managers. Tracking and monitoring title tag changes via an automated software tool (like SEORadar) can help avoid these situations from happening.
Identifying Changes with Title Tags
When a title tag changes within your site’s code, the impact can be large. Titles can be deleted or changed easily by many different people on a team without everyone understanding the SEO importance. Below are important changes to be alerted to when they occur and what can happen if these changes make it to production unnoticed.
- Title tag too short (<30 chars) – Title may not be displayed in SERPs
- Title tag too long (>59 chars) – Title will be truncated or rewritten by Google
- Title tag missing/removed – Lose ranking and Google will write a title for you
- Title tag changed – Lose/gain ranking
Common Questions About Title Tags
What are the challenges in implementation?
First understanding the goal and constraints placed on creating a title can help to focus SEOs. Avoiding pitfalls like site migrations where titles are changed and making sure Google doesn’t rewrite your titles.
What makes a good title?
Writing the title in a succinct manner that drives rankings and conversions is often the biggest challenge.
How can you test if title tags are implemented properly?
Most audit tools will tell you if your titles are missing or are the correct length. After that you have to get them written and then monitor them to make sure no one changes them without your approval.
Future of Title Tags
Title tags are still one of the most important technical SEO elements to get right. It’s possible that Google ends up writing their own titles more and more.
Track Title Tag Changes via SEORadar / Additional Resources
To make sure that your titles don’t change without your knowledge, SEORadar tracks and monitors title tags. When anyone on your team makes any SEO changes, you’ll get alerted via email, SMS or slack notifications. Many times PMs, engineers or marketing will change titles or create a title for a new page without realizing its importance. Never miss another change – get a free trial today to make sure you track your website’s SEO relevant code changes.