Title Tag Optimization Tips and Best Practices
I consider title tags optimization to be a very important element in any optimization campaign. It is one of the more simple changes you can make to your site, and can have a noticeable impact relatively quickly.
In case you are a bit unfamiliar with SEO, the Title Tag is a tag that is placed within the <head> section of your website. The contents of this tag is the text that is displayed in search results as well as at the top of your browser when you are viewing the site, or in your bookmarks.
An optimized title tag can not only lead to better search engine rankings, but can also improve traffic and conversions. A descriptive and helpful title tag will result in more clicks from users, and stand out from the other search results.
Title Tag Optimization Tips
Unique Titles Throughout Site:
Make sure every page on your site has its own unique title tag, it should clearly show what that page is about. If using the same title tag on multiple pages, this could result in SEO Cannibalization issues with Search Engines not being able to determine the best page to show for a query.
Use of Keywords:
Whenever possible, try to make sure that the keyword being used in your title tag, is also used within that page. I also do not recommend using a keyword in the title tag more than twice, and even if you use it twice – attempt to space the keywords apart by putting it once at the beginning and once at the end. Too many uses of a keyword within a title tag set off a spam signal to search engines, so know your targeted keyword and add it to your title, but write the title naturally.
I suggest using your main keyword as the first word within your title tag. The keyword is the first thing read by search engines, and being in first place reinforces that words importance. Keep in mind that algorithms constantly change, and I have not done any recent testing on this – but in the past tests this has proven accurate. Also remember that search terms which match keywords within your title tag will be displayed in bold text. In my own experience, I have seen better click through rates with a keyword bolded at the beginning of a sentence, rather than the end as it is more noticeable.
Generally, your title tag should appear after your websites name. This means that your title tag for a page might be “Title Tag Optimization Tips and Best Practices” and your site name may be “Title Tags” if you were to see this at the top of your browser, it should appear as “Title Tag Optimization Tips and Best Practices | Title Tags” . However, if you have a well known brand it may be better not to switch the placement of title and site title. The trust and reputation your brand has gained may work to your advantage with click through rates and conversions when it is one of the first things a user reads.
Title Tags should be limited to 65-70 characters or less. If you exceed this amount, your title will be cut off with a “…” which is not appealing to audiences because it is not easy to scan with the eye. An interesting discussion regarding title length was brought up about a week ago in the SEO Dojo chat (if you aren’t a member you are definitely are missing out on networking with some great people, and a wealth of knowledge). A common belief is that Google will not index title tags longer than 65-70 characters in length. Terry Van Horne brought up some information about this that shows that belief is in fact, not true and Google will index the full title tag. Other testing shows that Google indexes up to 300 characters in a title tag. Keep in mind that although this is indexed, the first 65-70 characters of that are displayed. Yahoo will display about 120 characters, but they will soon be integrated with Bing. I am not positive on the amount of characters Bing displays, but if anyone reading this knows – feel free to leave a comment
Regardless of the amount of characters indexed, I personally don’t recommend having a very long title tag (above 70 or so characters). In my opinion, the purpose is to be descriptive while still remaining succinct to capture interest. Additionally, by having a longer title tag you are diluting keyword density within your title – and it would not be smart to just repeat that keyword more times to make up for that, this can be seen as keyword spam.
I normally do not recommend placing much value on keyword density, however in the case of title tags I suggest you use keyword density as a way to determine if you are using your keyword a bit too many times. Keyword stuffing or over-optimizing your site can hurt, so if unsure – don’t push it and play it safe.
Don’t write for search engines. While optimization should always be considered when writing anything on your site – users should be a primary concern. It won’t matter how optimized your site is if the title isn’t appealing enough to click on. I always recommend balancing these two, the majority of the time I found that they play nicely together. When it has to be one or the other, then choose the option your readers would identify with best.
Your title can always be changed. If you aren’t sure what to use, I suggest trying out multiple ideas and testing them. You will notice I am a big fan of testing, so I would go so far as to suggesting coming up with multiple ideas for the purpose of testing your click through rates and conversions with various title tags. Here are some ideas to consider testing:
- Use of a special character between your brand name and title tag. Test out the pipe |, arrow >, hyphen –, or any other allowed characters to see which one works best for your site and specific audience.
- Try some tests with your brand name before the title, and another test with your brand name after the title.
- Test various title tag lengths
- Test the wording itself. Do your readers respond better to a descriptive statement or a specific call to action?
Remember, there are a lot of SEO best practices, but there is no cookie cutter approach that works best with all sites. Audiences and websites can vary greatly, and your audience should be taken into account when optimizing.
Jill Whalen has an excellent post discussing the title tag over on her site, High Rankings
Great tips on how to edit title tags by Problogger
Andy Beal has a great two part series on optimizing title tags over at Search Engine Guide
Know of other great resources I left out? Let me know in the comments below!
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