Meta Title for SEO
The page title is often referred to by different names such as title tag, SEO title, HTML title, and website title. The title is clickable and appears on search results to help searchers know what your page is about.
The page title can be different from the H1 tag even though by default it’s one and the same thing. For example, you may have a different H1 but then, you decide to change the page title as you would like Google to index it differently.
Firstly, What is a Meta Title?
When you view the HTML code of a webpage and look at the <head> section, you will see the title of the page which is stored in between the <title></title> HTML tags. See below for reference:
Where do Title Tags Appear?
Notably, title tags will appear in a variety of places. In all the areas you find these tags, they will be clickable. These tags are important because they inform potential visitors of what they can find in your pages.
The importance of the title tag should not be understated. It is a vital part of On Page SEO as well as acting as the medium to help users click on your website from search results.
1. Search engine results pages
Most of us are aware of these tags that appear on search results. These title tags often describe the contents of the page.
2. Web browser tabs
Whenever you open a website for the first time, the SEO title tag of the homepage appears at the top of the web browser.
3. Social media platforms
If you are an active social media user, you’ve most likely seen clickable links that appear whenever someone shares content. The title tags describe what the user is likely to find if they click on the page. This is one of the best ways to create brand awareness and the reason why we encourage website owners to have social media share buttons on their website.
4. Browser bookmarks
Most web browsers including Chrome will display the SEO title tags as a bookmark. If you have so many websites bookmarked, then the links are truncated.
Are Title Tags Important for SEO?
There is so much contradictory information regarding title tags and SEO. Different blogs have different ideas with others claiming that the strategy is outdated. Well, as an SEO consultant in London, I have tried and tested the use of page titles for SEO with brilliant results. Here are some of the reasons why you need to optimize your title tags.
1. Titles determine user engagement
It’s a no brainer that the more attractive your SEO titles are the more users engage with your content. If you don’t focus on creating engaging headline titles, people will not have an interest in clicking to your pages and reading the rest of the content.
2. Contributes to higher rankings
Placement of keywords on the title tags can help in improving your rankings. In the beginning, you might not notice the change but eventually, your pages will start ranking high on the search results.
3. Promotes social media sharing
Usage of clickbait title tags can help you get lots of shares on social media. There are a lot of debates on whether it’s ethical to use clickbait titles to lure users into clicking on your pages. However, one thing is for sure – attractive title tags can guarantee shares, likes, and comments on social media.
Width versus Length in SEO Title Tags
You need to apply the optimal width when writing your title tag. Otherwise, Google will cut off some of the characters. You have to ensure that the title tag has the optimal width for both desktop and mobile versions.
You may have noticed that we are focusing on width and not length when talking about page titles. This implies that Google doesn’t have a limit on the number of characters you use but rather the size of the writings. As a general rule of thumb, Google uses 600 pixels as the optimal width for all SEO title tags. Anything beyond 600 pixels is truncated.
Adding your Brand Name to the SEO Title Tag
There are many debates by SEO experts regarding whether to include the brand name in your title tag or not. According to my research, Google changes the title tags that don’t include the brand names. Besides, having your brand name on the title will create awareness.
You see, when a potential visitor sees your brand name on a title tag, they may not click on it at first. However, if they continue noticing your brand, eventually they may end up wanting to know what your brand is all about.
How to Write SEO Title Tags
You see, title tags signal to the search engine what your pages are about. If you want to rank high on SERPs, you need to get it right. Here are some tips to help you craft the best page titles.
1. Keep the user in mind
While most people will focus on writing for the search engines, the best practice is writing content that resonates with your users. Make the title such that it attracts the users and makes them want to read the rest of the content.
2. Pay attention to width and length
You also need to pay attention to the length of the page titles. The best practice is having between 60-70 characters which translate to about 60 pixels in width. Otherwise, the words beyond the optimal length will be cut off by Google.
3. Don’t stuff the keywords
Placing one of your main keywords on the title tag is a good practice. However, if you overuse the keywords, the title becomes incoherent. If Google doesn’t penalize you, the users may not comprehend what your page is about. Guess what this means? You won’t get as many click through rates as you anticipated.
4. Be specific
It’s tempting to try to market what your brand is about on different pages. Well, this practice will not amount to any rankings or even clicks. You see, when a user looks for a specific product like a spring foam mattress, they will not click on pages whose title tags describe general furniture. You may have a page that talks about spring foam mattresses but if you don’t describe the specific item on the title tag, users may not be sure that you have what they want.
5. Be compelling
It’s not just about writing a title tag, you have to convince your audience that you have what they are looking for. If you don’t compel them to click onto your page, you miss the clicks, traffic, and probably sales.
6. Have unique page titles
If you have different pages with similar title tags and keywords, you may experience traffic cannibalization. This is whereby two or more pages from one domain compete for traffic because they are ranking for the same keywords. Therefore, it’s essential to make each page title unique and target different keywords for each page.
7. Leverage on the first few words
Google mostly considers the first few words of the title tag. You need to take advantage of these first characters to write your title and keyword phrase first. Avoid placing your brand name at the beginning of the title because you are not trying to rank your website but rather the specific pages. If the CMS you have places the website name at the front by default, you have to manually edit the name at the HTML header field. This way, the brand name will appear towards the end of the title page.
8. Include your primary keyword
Having a primary keyword at the beginning of the title can help users and Google decode what the page is about. Alternatively, you can have variations of the primary keyword to satisfy user intent. At times, users may use a long-tail keyword to search online. Using a long-tail keyword can thus help you capture user intent and benefit from more clicks.
How Does Google use Title Tags to Categorize Pages?
When a user searches for anything online, Google will look into its database to see what pages have content relating to what the user wants. Google uses page titles to determine what different pages are about. Google will only display pages relevant to the search query and which happens in a fraction of a second.
Now, if your title tag isn’t well optimized, Google will not display the page for the users because they will assume that it doesn’t contain useful information. Assuming that your page gets displayed on the search results but users don’t click on it, Google will get signals that your page is not relevant to users. All these negative signals will go into Google’s algorithm and your page will stop ranking for the particular keyword.
Can Google Rewrite your Page Titles?
Just like we saw Google can rewrite your meta-description, the search engine can also rewrite the page titles. As frustrating as it can be, there is nothing you can do about it other than improve the title tags to fit into Google’s criterion.
Here are some of the reasons Google may use a different SEO title tag from the original one you submitted.
1. Keyword stuffing
If you stuff keywords in your page titles, Google will rewrite the titles. You should only use one main keyword or keyword phrase and that reads naturally for users to understand.
2. Replacement with your DMOZ listing
Search engines will at times pull title tags from the open directory project. If you don’t want Google replacing your original title with the one on the DMOZ, you can block the replacement option using the Robots NOODP.
3. Title not matching the search query
At times, Google will rewrite your title page to match what the user is searching for. This means that your content is relevant but doesn’t match what users are searching online. If you realize that this keeps happening, then it would be best to rewrite the page title yourself.
According to Google, the trend of rewriting page titles will not stop any time soon. If you don’t want your original titles to be rewritten, you need to make sure that the page content and title match a hundred percent.
Page titles are what users see when they make a query online. The titles are clickable and have an optimal width of about 600 pixels and a length of 60-70 characters. Title tags can never be perfect because nobody knows what algorithm Google uses to rank pages based on SEO title tags. Therefore, we recommend that you keep improving the page titles after testing them.