What is a title tag?
A title tag is a web page property – it describes the content of a web page but is not part of the content seen on the web page itself. A title is not to be confused with a heading (which is displayed on a web page).
The content of a title tag is used by search engines to help them understand what a web page is about, so they can assign relevance and rank to it. For this reason, it is one of the most important checkpoints in search engine optimisation (SEO).
It is also displayed in a search results as the link text:
And it appears when a web page is shared on social media (unless the website administrator chooses to override it with something different):
How to create a title tag
A title tag forms part of a web page’s HTML source code, and is created by the web designer, SEO specialist, or content author. They might update the web page file by hand, or they might use software such as Dreamweaver; or they might use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress.
Title tag text is wrapped in <title> … </title> tags:
It can be seen by viewing the source code of any web page (on Windows desktop, CTRL-U will display the source code):
Why it’s important for SEO
A properly crafted title tag is one of the most important checkpoints in a web page’s SEO. It tells search engines what the page is about, helps them rank the page appropriately, and it plays a vital role in increasing click through rates (CTR) – that is, attracting people to click your link when seen in the search results.
It is thought that CTR influences ranking too. If a web page is getting more clicks from search results than those competitor links around it, it might be ranked higher in the future.
The title tag text works in tandem with a page’s meta description (the line or two of text beneath the title in search results) to encourage click throughs.
How to write an effective title tag
Put simply, the title tag should be clear, concise and accurately describe the contents of the page. As it is so important for SEO, it should incorporate a small number of target keywords such as the product or service on offer, and geographical location if appropriate.
Every page on a website should have its own unique title tag.
Let’s use the example of the homepage of an imaginary firm of solicitors called “Acme Law”, located in Highgate, London.
A first stab at a title tag might be:
London Solicitors – Acme Law
It has their location, profession and brand name. Good start, but it’s not especially helpful for SEO. That’s because there are thousands of solicitors operating in London, and that level of competition makes it too difficult to rank well for a search for “london solicitors”.
In cases of high competition, we recommend adding more relevant keywords to narrow things down. How about:
Solicitors in Highgate, London – Acme Law
This still won’t rank well for “london solicitors” but it might do better for “solicitors in highgate”. But there still might be an issue with competition, so think about what specialities the firm offers:
Employment Law Specialists – Solicitors in Highgate, London – Acme Law
This should pick up some search engine referrals for people specifically looking for employment law solicitors in Highgate. Whilst that is obviously a narrower pool of customers than “london solicitors”, it’s more realistic.
Things to avoid
Doing any of these things can have a negative effect on the page’s SEO:
- keyword stuffing (lists, often long, of keywords you want to be found in search for)
- including keywords that are not relevant (in an attempt to rank for a greater spread of keywords)
- spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (signals of low quality)
- having the same, or similar, title tags on every page
Title tag length
The W3C (a consortium that defines standards for the web) recommends a title tag length of 64 characters.
As a further guide, aim to use all the available space in Google search results without the title being truncated with an ellipsis (three dots). There is further variation here because the truncation point is different according to device used, the character width, and kerning.
If you are using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plug in (see below) also helps the author write a tag of the correct length.
So “around 64 characters” is sound advice.
The title I wrote is not being used in search results
There are a couple of reasons why a title tag might not show as intended in search results:
- it’s too new – it can take days or weeks for search engines to pick up changes to title tags
- sometimes search engines use an alternative to the title tag, if they feel it reflects more accurately what was searched for – this is particularly true if the search is for a brand name; the brand name will appear in place of the defined title tag
A page for each product or service
It makes sense to have multiple pages – each dedicated to each product or service on offer. This means each product or service can be search engine optimised through its own unique title tag, meta description and copy.
WordPress Yoast SEO plug in
The Yoast SEO plug in for WordPress is an industry-standard tool. One of its many features is to facilitate the creation of title tags, of the correct length, on a per-page basis. It also allows for automated title writing based on the page’s heading, category and other factors.
Need help with your SEO? Get in touch with us to see how we can help.