Is SEO title tag optimization still valid in the ever-changing world of Search Engine Optimization driven by content quality, video, AI, voice search and other highly sophisticated ranking algorithms? Absolutely…more so than ever!
Having well-crafted title tags should be part of SEO Content Strategy in order to help Google assess your page content better. This, in turn, results in more accurate exposure for your web page. Exposure equates to better click-through-rates to your website, which in turn influences and improves your rankings even more.
Sounds great right? How do you take advantage of using title tags on your website?
This article is inspired by Cyrus Shepard’s Moz Whiteboard Friday video on 7 Title Tag Hacks for Increased Rankings and Traffic. As he indicates in the video, not all suggestions will work in every scenario. You have to decide which ones might apply to your business and SEO efforts.
In this article, we have taken some of his best suggestions and added our own title tag SEO tips for you.
Before we start, let’s start with a brief explanation of what are title tags and the purpose they serve.
What are Title Tags?
HTML title tags (also called meta tags) are an element of a website page that describe the topic of the website page. The title tag will appear in two places:
1. Search Engine Result Page (SERPs)
2. Top bar of the user’s internet browsers
Why Title Tags Matter Today
It used to be that the keywords used in Title Tags were a major ranking factor and heavily influenced how the Search Engines understood and evaluated your web page content.
These days, Search Engines are much more sophisticated in understanding and ranking pages. You may even find Google rewriting your Title Tag to better match the searcher’s intent. In fact, Ahrefs has found that Google rewrites title tags 33.4% of the time. Does this mean title tags no longer matter?
No. SEO title tag improvements are still very important in suggesting to the Search Engines what the page is about. However, the more important function of the Title Tag is to tell the Searcher what your page is all about and reinforce that your website result has the information that they need.
In this way, title tags are important for both SEO and User Experience because they entice the visitor to take action.
Now that we understand what title tags are and why they matter, here are our 11 tips for improving your SEO title tag optimization.
1. Use numbers in title tags to attract attention.
SERPs are usually a wall-o-text on which you need to attract a searcher’s attention. For this article, I did a search for “what are title tags”. Scanning the results, I found only one result which included a number in the title: Title Tags and SEO: 3 Golden Rules.
It stood out quite prominently to me. Partly because of the number and partly because of Golden Rules, which suggest a proven set of guidelines to follow. Utilizing numbers in your title tags gives you an edge over the competition if they are not using them. Do a little research into whether many of your competitor’s pages are using numbers in their title tags. If they aren’t, try incorporating numbers into yours!
2. Use dates to make your title stand out.
Using dates in title tags is also a useful strategy. Quite often when I perform a search, I will include the year (ex. 2022) at the end because I’m attempting to find the most current information on a given topic.
Adding the month or year to your title tag (where relevant) can reassure searchers that your website page is up to date with current information.
For this article, I again searched what are title tags but added 2022 to the end. This brought up numerous results with 2022 in the title tag, many of which had not appeared in the initial results. Try some searches with dates in the title tag you generate to determine if competitors are using them. Try some searches with last year’s date to find examples of pages which ranked well for dates in title tags.
Note: This is a great tip to maximize user experience. You must keep in mind that you will need to revisit these pages each year to update the Title Tag.
3. Stick to the suggested Google title tag length.
The optimal meta title length is between 50-60 characters. Google SERPs actually display title tags based on pixel width and will show up to 600 pixels, which is usually 50-60 characters.
Many SEO title tags in use are either too short or considerably longer than necessary (and as a result get cut off). In fact, Google rewrites about half of all title tags that are over 600 pixels in length (source: Ahrefs).
Moz says that if you keep you title tag to 60 characters you can expect it to appear properly in about 90% of SERPs.
According to Shepard’s article mentioned above, Etsy experienced significant increases in ranking by shortening title tags after sampling 8,000 of their pages. It’s a proven measure which should be considered. Shorten your title tags over 60 characters long and add to the title tags that are under 50 characters to bring them more in line with acceptable title tag length limits.
Pro Tip: With such limited real estate in the Title Tag it is very important to include your target keyword (the page topic) at the beginning of the source code. This is the page topic after all and searchers need to see this prominently displayed in the title tag.
4. Use your brand in the title if it is well-recognized.
It can be beneficial to add your brand name to the end of a title tag to add authority to your page. This is a particularly successful title tag strategy for popular brands. Your name instantly adds trust. If your brand is less well-known you may opt to leave out your brand name and use your title tag for a strong call to action or selling proposition (ex. Free Shipping).
In this example, Starbucks has included their powerful brand name next to whole bean coffee. Their brand is synonymous with coffee and adds significant impact to their title tag.
5. Incorporate inviting call to actions in your SEO title tags.
Titles which incite the searcher to take action are rare but effective. If you tempt searchers with a new skill to learn, data to download, a unique product to purchase or provide them with something useful which they can use to perform an action, it is more probable they will click on your SERP link.
Action words and phrases such as Download This PDF or Use our white paper to plan your marketing strategy create excitement and incentive to visit your site. Consider what you can afford to give away as an incentive for increased click-throughs and site traffic.
If you are a retailer, you may be able to incorporate any of these purchase benefits to your title tag:
- Free Shipping
- Save 25%
- $10 Off Purchase Over $50
6. Match titles to search intent.
When you match your keywords with searchers’ intent you increase clicks on your website in Search Results. If I search for what are title tags and I find the exact phrase in the search results I’m more likely to click on the link because it specifically addresses my search terms.
It’s just as important to optimize an SEO title tag for keywords which already bring you traffic which may differ from the keywords you are currently using on the page. Use your Google Search Console query report to determine these phrases and meld them with your intended keywords to increase your chances of success.
7. Attract curious searchers by using questions in your titles.
Searchers are in effect asking Google questions. If I want to know about title tags I enter what are title tags into Google. Having a question in your SEO title tags content and directly answering the question in your page can potentially win you a featured snippet.
Google likes answers which meet searchers’ criteria. Furnishing the most effective response to a user query is Google’s sole purpose in life. Asking questions in title tags give you an opportunity to provide answers which meet the direct needs of searchers.
8. Avoid using ALL CAPS in your titles.
Nothing is more annoying than reading titles which are all capital letters. Depending on the font used, all caps can even cause physical discomfort to your eyes. Here’s why.
Our eyes are used to skipping over the tops of letters. We don’t read each letter individually. We visually graze content. Below are the tops of letters contained in a word. Try to figure out the word.
Not much to go on, is it? Because our eyes are so used to skimming the tops of letters, just the upper half of letters, we find it difficult to absorb letters in a word where all caps are present. All cap title tags slow down our reading and our ability to absorb the intended message.
Now, if we take the same word and capitalize just the first letter it immediately becomes easier to read and identify.
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Capitalizing just the first letter of each word in a title tag is the most convenient way to emphasize a title tag without making it difficult to read. Leave any articles in lower case as well such as the, a, an, etc..
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Make sure your title tags are easy to read and absorb. The average reader online only skims titles and article content. Make yours stand out through simplicity.
9. Pay close attention to word order.
Make your title tags easy to scan by placing important keywords near the front. This ensures users (and Google) understand the essence of your content immediately and can pick out the title of your article more readily on the SERP page.
Adding your keywords as an afterthought to the end of the title tag loses impact. It also forces the searcher to read through each SERP entry to determine which one best reflects their needs.
Keywords placed near the front of the title tag make this process much easier.
10. Avoid duplicate title tags.
Did you know that duplicate title tags can cause some of your website pages to end up in Google’s omitted results? You need to double check that the target keyword in each title tag is unique from those used on other pages.
Not only should every page on your website have its own unique title tag, you should also look at the title tags for other website pages competing for the click in the Search Result. Make sure that your title tag says something different and unique. What makes your title tag stand out from the rest?
Being different is what will you get the visitor click.
11. Remember, your title tags will also appear on social networks.
When an article is shared on social networks, the title tag is often displayed. This provides readers with an opportunity to quickly grasp the content.
Making your title tags clear and easy to read by following the tips and tricks can improve the visibility of your website in Search Results and increase the level of traffic to your website pages. This also holds true for PDF optimization.
BONUS: Title Tag Statistics to Test for Yourself
It’s always interesting to see if trends and statistics can be applied to your own website for improvement. Here are some interesting Title Tag SEO Statistics from Backlinko.com for you to consider:
- Try shorter – title tags between 15 – 40 characters have an 8.6% higher CTR than lengthier ones.
- Ask a question – title tags containing a question have a 14.1% higher CTR.
- Evoke emotion – titles with emotional sentiment have a 7% higher CTR.
- Remove power words – titles with power words have a 13.9% lower CTR.
As you adjust your title tags on important website pages it is a best practice to keep a log of previously used title tags to compare click through rates, impressions, and other key metrics. You can use this data to determine the best title tags to maximize traffic.
Closing Thoughts on Title Tags
Title tags have always been a key element of a sound SEO strategy no matter the size of a website and they aren’t going anywhere soon. At 1st on the List, our team of SEO Experts improve title tag clarity through keyword research and title tag strategies developed through years of experience. To learn more, call us today at 1-888-262-6687.
If you are just starting out with website optimization, you might find our post SEO for Beginners – 9 Tips very helpful. You may also want to check out our 15 SEO Tips for Blogging if you are looking for more tips on title tags and general blogging best practices.