A high-level SEO strategy is required. The specifics are also important.
Many on-page elements, including the title tag, are taken into account when optimizing pages and content.
It is unlikely that optimizing it alone will result in significant changes in rankings. However, when combined with other on-page elements, it can aid in the development of important context and subject-matter relevance for a page, section, and site as a whole.
We must consider the impact of title tags on the clickthrough rate and entice our target audience to visit our site in addition to the SEO impact and focus we place on them.
The contents of our title tag can make or break a searcher’s decision to click through to our site when search engines use it as the blue link on the search results page.
This chapter will teach you the eight best practices for implementing a strong, optimized title tag strategy into your SEO strategy.
What Is a Title Tag, Exactly?
The title tag is a type of HTML tag that appears in every webpage’s head section. It acts as an initial cue or context for the topical subject matter of the page.
Because it is typically used as a clickable link and also appears in the browser window, the title tag is prominently displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs).
The title tag isn’t as visible as other on-page web content outside of these two places (e.g., body copy, image content, and other aspects). As a result, the title tag is occasionally overlooked.
On its own, the title tag has little impact on organic rankings. There is no such thing as a magical or powerful ranking factor – especially if your content is of poor quality or you have neglected technical SEO.
Here are eight things to consider when optimizing your title tags for search engines.
1. The Position of the Page on the Site
Before you can write an optimized title tag, you need to understand where the page fits into the overall website hierarchy.
A title tag for a home page is not the same as one for a blog post or product page.
For websites with a large number of pages, it can be difficult to come up with tags that differ from one page to the next. That is why it is critical to plan out your site and understand how each page fits into the context of your subject matter.
The deeper you go into the site, the more specific you can and should be.
You can use the same words and phrases again and again, but you should be more specific with each step down into the site. Make a strategy to avoid using duplicate title tags on any pages (more on that below).
Here’s an eCommerce example of title tags with relevant context at different levels of the site:
- The home page of The Man Registry features groomsmen gifts and unique men’s gifts.
- BBQ sets and utensil gifts for groomsmen on The Man Registry’s Product Category Page.
- The product page for The Man Registry’s 5-Piece Customized BBQ Utensil Set.
2. Use of Keywords with Searcher Intent
We’ve all experienced the frustration of wanting to find an answer to a specific question but discovering that the top ranking sites are answering a different question. The same can be said for good content that goes unnoticed.
It is critical for title tag optimization to understand what your audience is looking for and how they are looking for it.
If you don’t know what words and phrases people use when searching, you run the risk of guessing incorrectly.
When optimizing title tags, don’t skip or ignore keyword research.
You don’t have to worry about every literal version of a keyword or phrase in the current context-based era of SEO, but you also can’t ignore the searcher and their intent. Find a happy medium, use consistent terminology, and write in a way that your audience will understand.
As long as the page’s content is focused on the perceived intent, your goal for an optimized title tag is to match the wording you use with what is being searched for.
3. Topical Relevance at the Page Level
The next step in determining where the page fits in the overall hierarchy of the website is to evaluate the page’s content.
The title tag has the greatest impact on search engines and users when it introduces the topic of the page and the same important keywords are used in the body copy, image alt attribute, meta description, URL, and other aspects of the page.
Don’t waste your opportunity to use this element, as well as the other on-page items, by attempting to write it with words, terms, or phrases that aren’t in the page’s content.
Tags that aren’t relevant or useful to the rest of the page can and will be ignored by Google.
To tie the topic together, use words in the title tag that appear elsewhere on the page.
4. Identifiable Tags
Title tags that are duplicated are ineffective for both searchers and search engines.
Duplicate tags will be visible in reports from Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools. Search engines frequently ignore your title tag and instead use other content on your page for the blue link text in the SERP.
This is especially true when it comes to the common issue of missing or duplicate title tags.
When the same tag appears on multiple pages, the search engine ignores those tags if they are too generic or simply list the company or organization’s name. For instance, when the entire site uses the same title tag, which is simply the domain or company name.
For years, Google has substituted page content for the blue link in the search results page, whether due to widespread duplication, improperly formatted tags, missing tags, or simply tags containing content that Google does not find helpful or useful.
This is acceptable in some cases; in others, it results in less desirable content in terms of context for the page and also for optimizing for searcher clicks.
Rather than leaving it to chance, having solid, optimized title tags for users and search engines is the ideal scenario.
To identify problem areas, you can use the data provided by Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, or you can run your tests using any number of on-page auditors and crawling tools, including my personal favorite, Screaming Frog.
Include writing custom tags in your SEO action plan if your site has duplicate tags.
5. Use dynamic options whenever possible.
Finding ways to semantically code your tags is critical if you have a large website or one with a lot of dynamic data, such as an eCommerce site.
The majority of content management systems and website platforms generate the title tag automatically. If you want to override or customize the default title tag at scale, work with your developer or within your website platform’s settings to find ways to add more detail and customize at different levels.
The more you can scale without manually managing hundreds or thousands of tags, the better.
In a dynamic structure, some standard text may be included in all product page tags, but the specific product name is populated from the database.
“[product name] groomsmen gifts from The Man Registry,” for example. The variable in the brackets, “product name,” would be a variable that would populate that part of the title with the actual product name in the database.
You won’t have to write all product title tags by hand in this case, and you can ensure they’re unique. If you have the same product with different variations or attributes, such as different colors, you can investigate ways to add more database variables.
A word of caution: While dynamic tags provide convenience and scaling, they can also deal a lot of damage quickly. Audit your tags at the beginning and at regular intervals to ensure that database and coding implementations continue to produce the tags you expect.
6. Call To Action In SERP
Remember that the title tag will be displayed as the text in the blue link on the SERPs.
This is prime real estate, and the message displayed here has a significant impact on the searcher’s decision to visit your site or move on to the next search result.
Your main goal should be to answer the searcher’s question, need, or desire. Give the searcher a compelling reason to click on the link that corresponds to your content, goals, and what they’re looking for.
It is critical to have a clear vision of what your page is about and what you want to achieve for both you and your visitor.
It can be difficult to focus clearly on what the call to action (CTA) should be when you’re attempting to achieve too many business goals on a single page. If this is the case, think about breaking up your content into more topics and pages.
To earn a click, the title tag, like the art of writing a solid PPC text ad headline, must match the searcher’s intent.
Keep in mind that Google truncates title tags at around 70 characters. Any word that exceeds the character limit will be obscured to the user.
Google, on the other hand, claims to index more characters than that. Keep in mind your goals for attracting clicks from searchers regardless of how long you want your title tag to be for Google’s indexing and interpretation.
Consider how the title truncates and what will appear on the SERPs.
Fill in the blanks with key phrases and words from your experience. Be concise, direct, and prioritize important words to appear as early in your title tags as possible.
For example, the title tag for your home page could be “Groomsmen gifts and unique men’s gifts by The Man Registry.”
Try more actionable language such as “Shop The Man Registry for the best groomsmen & unique men’s gifts.”
7. Don’t put in too much effort
Repetitive and spammy titles should be avoided.
Refrain from going overboard with your title tag.
Context is more important to search engines than keyword use, frequency, and density.
Choose words that are related to the topic of the page and the searcher’s intent.
Longer form areas of the page can be used to expand and expand on that context.
A risky title tag might be “Groomsmen Gifts, Groomsman Gifts, Gifts for Men, Unique Gifts.”
Overplaying and repeating words appears spammy to both Google and searchers.
8. Consider the Title Tag’s Importance
Don’t overestimate the importance or impact of the title tag on its own.
While optimizing all of your site’s title tags may result in a small boost, don’t expect it to be your only key to SEO success.
The significance of overall search optimization cannot be overstated.
In many cases, optimizing the title tag is only the beginning or a starting point. It probably doesn’t make sense to obsess over minor changes in the language used to see how they affect rankings one position at a time until you’re at the top of the SERPs.
SEO covers a wide range of topics, from technical to on-page to links and beyond. While no single element can make or break a strategy, title tags must be considered as part of the overall picture.
Following these eight best practices will help you optimize and scale your efforts, as well as contribute to your website’s proper hierarchy and context.
Always keep the searcher and your audience in mind. Find a happy medium between including important keywords and matching the topic’s intent.
Include the title tag in your optimization strategy, learn how it affects click-through rates, and work to optimize it for your content and needs.
Learn more from SEO and read SEO for Small Businesses: 5 Ways to Outperform Your Competition.