Today, you’re going to learn about your website’s HTML title tags—super riveting stuff, I know.

Your title tags are a massively important part of the entire Search Engine Optimization equation (particularly, for on-page SEO). You really need to get these right if you want to rank your website higher and drive more traffic and customers to your business.

I’m going to talk about all the down-and-dirty details, what makes a good title tag, what makes a bad title tag, and how you can implement all of that today.

Let’s get going.

What is a Title Tag?

Title tags (or meta titles) are the most important element of the entire on-page optimization equation. Title tags tell both users and search engines what that page is about, so you really want to get this right.

A couple of other high-level points on title tags:

Title Tag Length

In general, you want to keep your title length under the 60 character limit. This varies a little bit because it’s not an actual character count, but the pixel width.

Sometimes, some letters are a little bit wider and others are narrower. So, you will notice that sometimes, 58 is the maximum, while other times, 64 is the maximum.

Rule of thumb is 60. If you’re title tags are 60 characters or less, you’re probably going to be fine.

Title Tag Keywords

The consensus in the industry right now is that you should have your primary keyword (the primary phrase that you’re optimizing for) in your title tag.

Some people say that you should put it as close to the beginning as possible, but I’ve seen studies both proving and disproving this. .

To me, intuitively, it makes sense to put the keyword closer to the beginning because, even without taking Google’s ranking algorithm into consideration, it makes sense that users would be scanning for this primary keyword at the beginning of the title tag.

So, our recommendation is this: if it doesn’t really affect your click-through rate (i.e. if you’re force to write a super-awkward title tag), you should try and get your primary keyword closer to the front of the title tag.

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Title Tag Uniqueness

Your page titles should also be unique for every page.

A lot of people mess this up if they’re doing back-end engineering for a web application and they’re writing titles that are static across all their pages.

This isn’t good.

A lot of eCommerce content management systems also do this poorly. For example, they’ll scale out a bunch of category pages that use the exact same title. That’s not good, either.

Rule of thumb here is that every URL should have a unique title tag and it should be about the topic of that page.

That’s really all there is to it.

Title Tag Copywriting

Finally, you write for humans.

I can’t tell you how bad I messed this up when I first got into Search Engine Optimization.

People get really excited about SEO and they just overdo it. They really try to reverse engineer everything that Google’s looking for, and they try and jam as many important keywords into their title tag as possible.

You don’t need to do this.

More importantly, what you want to keep in mind is that your end users are humans. Yes, it’s really good to keep in mind what Google’s looking for, but at the end of the day, it’s a person that’s going to decide whether or not they want to click that result – and keyword stuffing is highly unlikely to help with that.

Writing compelling titles is more important than trying to think what Google might prefer.

Come at it from an editorial perspective. Come at it from a content marketing perspective. Ask yourself what would compel a person to click on your title.

Yes, of course, get the primary keyword in there. Yes, do all the things we’re about to talk about in this post—but, ultimately, make sure you do read it out loud.

Maybe even show it to a couple people. Take a look at it in the results yourself.

Don’t just jam all your keywords in there.

Write for humans. Make it compelling, and keep the click-through rate in mind because, ultimately, even if you write a great title tag for search engines (be it Google, Bing, or any other search engine), if users are disgusted by it and they’re not going to click, that’s a massive component of the ranking equation.

If users don’t click your result when shown in Google, you’ll start to drop down in rankings.

How to Write Click-Worthy Title Tags

Since we were discussing writing for humans, I would also like to share with you a couple of tips to help you write click-worthy title tags:

Use Power Words

I think this was popularized by BuzzFeed.

The basic idea here is there’s a handful of words that you can use to really get people intrigued. Use curiosity, stir up emotion, and compel people to click.

Try and differentiate yourself from some of the other results.

Sumo has a massive list of power words you should check out if you need inspiration.

Use numbers and brackets

This is super popular now as well. Using a number and ending your title tag in parentheses or brackets seems to be very helpful with click-through rates (or at least on our site).

I can’t really explain it, but numbers and brackets seem to work.

Indicate the month or the year when the content was updated

Month is tough to do because you really need to be updating your content a lot (or you need to write some backend engineering to do this for you).

All in all, if users get a signal that this content is fresh, they’re generally compelled to click—and this can increase your click-through rates.

For example, Trip Advisor does a great job with this. I competed with them and they’re really good at using the current month in their title tags.

The easiest way to pull this off one is by using the year you’re currently in. You’ll have to go back and update once a year, but if you’re using the current year in your title tag, it’s a great 80/20 for “this is fresh content”.

Optimizing the Title Tag

Just as a reminder, title tags are used in a couple of places:

The search engine results pages. As you scan Google, all the blue links you see are generally populated by title tags webmasters have put in (and underneath, you will see a meta description for each of these web pages).

example of a good title tag

Your browser window. If you use Chrome, or Firefox, you have tab browsing. You’ll actually see the title tag up there in the tabbed window (see screenshot below).

example of title tag in browser window

Social media sites. A lot of social media sites will actually use the title tag of the document as the initial default title that gets shared on social media (although you can overwrite these with open graph tags.)

title tag - facebook post example

Now, let’s dig into the actual code. A lot of people won’t handle code anymore—and you too are probably using a content management system, like WordPress or a similar CMS (and in that case, Yoast can help you edit these meta tags without having to code any kind of HTML element).

Here’s how the title tag looks under the hood. As you can see, the actual title is wrapped in “title” tags.

html title tag code

Take a look here in the search results with what that looks like.

My title here is “My Title Tag – website.com”, and you can see here in the simulated Google results that big blue link at the top. That is the actual title tag. That’s what it looks like.

google mock up example of title tag

This is obviously a terribly written title tag, so let’s go ahead and optimize it next.

Let’s dive into how we would do this ourselves.

Let’s say I had a website. That website was called ASiteAboutEmojis.com. I would be in the business of selling emojis and I’d be optimizing a page for “red emojis.”

Let’s go ahead and optimize the title tag using this keyword.

For round one, I might do something like “Red Emojis – Website.com”

descriptive title tag
descriptive title tag in google preview

I’ve got the primary keyword in there.

At this point, this title tag tells both search engines and users what the document is about.

That’s great, much better than it was before, but this could definitely be improved.

Now, let’s add a little bit more flavor to it and design for humans a little bit more.

Think of what would compel your readers to click. It may be something like “The Best Emojis – Website.com”

html title tag example 2
html title tag example in google 2

I still have my primary keyword in there. It’s a little bit more compelling. I like this a lot better than what we had before.

This works for now, but if I really wanted to go nuts and really think about click-through rates, what would really compel me to click on that title?

When you’ve reached this point, start to think about some of your favorite sites that you read every day and how they write title tags, then apply some of the principles we talked about earlier in this post.

Maybe it would be something like this: “17 World Class Red Emojis for 2019 Updated”.

best html title tag example
best html title tag example in google preview

I’m using a number. I’m ending it in parentheses there. I have the date. I have a compelling marketing power word (like “world-class”), and I’m good to go.

Looking at the title tag I came up with above, some people will say, “Hey, Tommy, you said put your primary keyword at the very beginning of your title. You’re not doing it here.”

This is where it’s a little bit more art than science. Maybe I could come up with a different title tag that had “red emojis” at the front, but I actually like this one a little bit better because my primary keyword is in there, and I’m designing for humans. It’s a little bit of a balance.

This was the one I came up with because it felt the best to me.

Maybe I’m not going to be fully optimized in the eyes of Google, but my hunch is that my click-through rate is going to be so much higher that it doesn’t even matter. In this case, it is actually more advantageous to do it this way.

What I really like to do, what I really like to think about, is understand what the search engine’s looking for and then try and forget it. Try this when you want to get the best balance between optimizing for humans and optimizing for search engines.

Tracking Title Tag Performance

As for monitoring click-through-rates, the easiest way to do this is actually Google Search Console.

If you jump into Google Search Console, you can dive in and check out your click-through rates. You can go into very specific URLs and look at the actual keyword and see what your click-through rate is for it.

Let’s say I have a page on our site that’s ranking very well for the term “SEO checklist”. I just dove in and took a look at some of the click-through rates for that terms. This is a great way to test how your title tags doing.

click through rate example from google search console

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