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When shopping in a big city, have you ever noticed the amount of work store owners put into their window displays? Because of all the surrounding competition, not to mention the distractions of the city itself, business owners need a way to capture the short attention of potential customers walking by.
If the search engine results pages (SERPs) are a city, the title tag is a store window. It is the line of text that tells users what they will find if they click on your web page. Crafting an eye-catching title tag is a critical component of your SEO digital marketing strategy.
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What is a title tag in HTML?
A title tag is a snippet of HTML code that tells the browser your web page’s title. It shows up in your SERP listing, web browser tabs and bookmarks, and in social media posts of the page.
When crafting your title tag, you can make it the same as the page’s H1 header, but these two are not the same element. While title tags show up on SERPs and web browser components, H1 tags only show up on the web pages themselves.
Well-written title tags are an important part of any successful SEO strategy because they can increase overall web traffic through clicks.
Why title tags for SEO are important
Since Bing and Google’s number one goal is providing valuable content, it’s important to demonstrate that your content is high-quality and serves the user.
Writing title tags for SEO is an easy way to do this. These HTML elements are the first connection between your content and search engine users.
Having an enticing title tag that earns your site clicks can demonstrate that you have the information, products, services, etc. that users need.
Keywords in the title tag correlate with higher rankings
Incorporating keywords in your title tag is a simple way to improve your rankings. If you’ve done proper keyword research and followed other important on-page SEO techniques, the title can enhance the work you’ve done.
SEO research by Backlinko shows that there is a correlation between keyword usage in title tags and improved search rankings.
This same result shows up in Ahrefs title tag research as well:
Although the correlation is small, it does exist. And when it comes to something as simple as writing an effective title tag, there’s no reason to skip this SEO technique. Not only may you improve your rankings, but user experience as well, by better explaining the content on your web page.
Title tags improve click-through rate
Web pages gain a certain amount of traffic from users who find them in SERPs. And websites can track exactly how much traffic they receive. A metric called click-through rate (CTR) represents the percentage of users who saw a page in the results and clicked on it.
Industry leaders have found evidence that there is a correlation between higher rankings and a higher CTR. While no search engine has explicitly stated that CTR impacts rankings, it is clear that improving your CTR directly impacts your ability to convert users into customers.
This SEO metric is important because, in order to sell products/services, you need people to visit your website. And you can’t do that if people don’t click on your title tag in the search results.
A Backlinko CTR study looked at the impact that title tags can have. The research showed two important findings:
- Title tag length: Titles between 15 and 40 characters can have CTRs that are more than 8% higher than others with more or less characters.
- Title tag format: Using a question format can increase your CTR by more than 14%.
Effective listings with high CTRs have descriptive titles which persuade people to engage with the content further. They add value to results pages by demonstrating how they are both relevant and unique for the target keywords, and beneficial to the searcher as well.
If you can find a way to write compelling title tags, you may see an increase in your overall site traffic. And this may lead to increased sales, brand recognition, and more.
Title tags tell crawlers and searchers what your page is about
During the crawling and indexing process, search engines use your meta tags to further understand your content. An SEO title tag needs to accurately describe the content topic for both users and crawlers.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to use keywords in the tag itself. This lessens the work that search engines will do to try and interpret the information on your web page. With a title tag, you’re essentially telling the search engine: “Here’s what my content is about it – belongs on the SERPs for this topic.”
How to write a title tag that boosts your rankings
Given how important they are to a website’s overall performance, all marketers should be able to write a great title tag.
Follow these guidelines while choosing the tag for your page’s content, and you can see the effect that this small but important meta tag can have on your brand.
In the 2010s, the use of clickbait titles for everything from blog posts to YouTube videos surged. The practice became widely adopted across all types of media, but users quickly started to resent the misleading nature of these titles.
There is evidence to suggest that users consider content’s source to determine their opinion of it. This means that if your brand name is not well-known or established in your industry, clickbait may have a negative effect on how people value your content.
As the text that users click on to go to your website, writing a clear title tag is crucial. Since you only have a fraction of a moment to capture users’ attention, you don’t have the luxury of being overly witty in your title.
The text should state the overall theme of your content, showing users what they can expect when they click on it. Just as you take care to write clear, user-friendly URLs, you should do the same with titles.
Consider search intent
Every piece of content that you create should be trying to solve the search query’s problem. In other words, if someone Googles “how to tie a tie,” the content should address the issue of learning to put on a tie.
This is called satisfying user intent, and it’s one of the cornerstones of SEO content creation. When writing the title tag and content itself, you’ll want to consider the four types of search intent:
- Navigational: The user wants a specific business or resource (EX. “Disney World”)
- Informational: The user wants to learn about a topic (EX. “when did Disney World first open?)
- Transactional: The user wants to buy a product or service (EX. “buy Disney World tickets online”)
- Commercial: The user wants to do research on a future purchase (EX. “best time of year to buy Disney World tickets”)
Understanding consumer motives is essential for effective content marketing. If you don’t know why someone might need your content, you won’t be able to satisfy their needs. This will make it difficult to rank, drive traffic, and generate sales.
In your preliminary research, you should investigate what types of content are already ranking for your target keywords. Regarding the title tag, you’ll want to look for some primary indicators:
- Tone: Informative, funny, mysterious, personal, academic, etc.
- Style: Use of numbers, brackets, data, words-only, etc.
- Format: Blog post, video, product page, etc.
- Angle: listicle, comprehensive guide, tip sheet, etc.
Knowing the type of content Google wants to display for your search terms will make it easier to create a title tag that competes with the current listings.
Convey a USP
Google SERPs are getting more competitive. In fact, the algorithm now cuts off the initial results pages, and users have to tell the search engine to show them all the available content:
This means that first impressions are more important than ever. Each brand has to have a defined unique selling proposition (USP) which is the factor that sets them apart from competitors. A USP can be anything, including:
- Industry-leading research/insights
- Altruistic mission
- Proprietary materials or product components
- World-class customer service
- Advanced product technology or design
- Unique or comprehensive service offering
- Exclusive customer experience
Identifying your brand’s USP can take some time. Once you have it, however, you should use it throughout all of your marketing components–including in the title tag for your SERP listings.
You can see this in the results. Take a look at these three results for “can’t find keys:”
The USP for each of these resources stand out as the following:
- Resource 1 will help you find your keys efficiently which saves you time.
- Resource 2 will help you find your keys methodically.
- Resource 3 will help you find your keys now and prevent you from losing them in the future.
For every web page you create, you should consider how your content helps the user in a way that differs from other resources.
A good title tag will always answer the user’s question “what’s in it for me?” When you highlight your USP and describe your content well, you not only answer the question but you show how you stand apart from others.
One of the most powerful emotions you can appeal to is curiosity. While users have different motives for a given search query, they all have a desire to learn more.
This is a technique that helped Buzzfeed become the massive, sought-after hub for everything from informative articles to personality quizzes.
Content creators on the platform, especially those who create quizzes, use curiosity to lure readers into a piece of content that they probably weren’t even looking for in the first place:
Quizzes like these are extremely popular even despite being for entertainment purposes only. These unique titles are specific and play to the individual’s need to learn more about him/herself.
Another good example of this is the phrase “here’s what happened.” It’s commonly used by YouTubers and blog content writers to stir up curiosity. Here’s an example:
Just like movie watchers, readers want to find out what happened. They want to see a resolution of the subject which the title tag presents to them. Use this same tactic to invoke curiosity in Google search results and stand apart from the competition.
Use power words
Grab the user’s attention by avoiding boring verbs and adjectives. Instead, use power words to convey the strongest emotions possible and win new page visitors.
These terms are designed to appeal to deeper emotions like anger, desire, safety, and greed. When drafting your title tag, consult a power word compilation to swap out any terms that don’t raise the intensity of the emotion you’re targeting.
Consider including numbers
The rise of the “listicle,” or list article, in the 2010s shouldn’t come as a surprise. Human beings have always tried to quantify and organize the world using numbers.
Numbers create a somewhat calming effect in the mind. They let the reader know exactly how much information they can expect, as well as the format that you will use to present it.
This is why you should consider including numbers in your title. In SERPs, using numbers works extremely well for product pages and buying guides.
They also work for informational content. Check out the search results for “why to bike instead of drive:”
All of the top posts use the numbers in their title tags. This format gives readers a chance to decide how beneficial your listing is in comparison to other pieces of content (8 reasons vs 15 reasons). Plus, the numerical organization will act as a cue to let the reader know your content will be easy to read, saving them time.
Abide by the character limit
Although you can write a long-winded title, the search engine only has so much space to display it. If your title tag is longer than 50-60 characters it will be truncated.
For the two examples above, the content creators probably would have been fine eliminating the text that came after the special characters:
- “10 Minimalism Tips to Kickstart Your Decluttering”
- “6 Powerful But Unexpected Minimalist Lifestyle Tips”
They convey the topic of the content, use the keyword “minimalism tips,” and use numbers.
Google’s display capabilities change from device to device. The bigger the screen, the more space to show a title. To account for this variation, make sure your titles are less than 600 pixels in size.
Use your primary keyword in the beginning of the title tag
Adding focus keywords to the beginning of your title tag can have both technical and psychological impacts which benefit your site.
From a technical standpoint, using keywords early in the title helps generate more relevant backlinks for increased SEO performance. This is because when you use important keywords in your title, people pick up on this primary topic and use it as anchor text when they link to your content.
Consider the top results for “apple pie:”
This keyword has more than 4 billion search results. It’s competitive. However, the top three listings use the keyword straight away. Front-loading keywords in the title works especially well for short keywords. This is because long-tail keywords may require more rearranging and need to be pushed towards the end of the title tag.
Make sure that you only target one keyword per title. Attempting to target more than one search term can result in poorly-crafted titles which do not rank for either.
Don’t keyword stuff
Each web page that you optimize should have one focus keyword in its HTML title. You want to avoid what’s called “keyword stuffing.” This is when you overload your content and metadata with keywords to try and manipulate the search engine’s attention towards your page.
Google explicitly states that keyword stuffing will harm your rankings and provides examples of what not to do:
Use of keywords is a ranking factor, so don’t skip over it. But you also shouldn’t use them so much that they appear unnatural. As long as the keyword in your title matches the keyword in your content, you only need to use it once in the title and description in order to make your point.
Keep your titles as short as possible
Users skim each listing on the SERP very quickly, which is why you need to make the most of the space. To accommodate quick glances, keep your titles as short as possible.
According to research by SEO Matthew Barby, the average title length of top-ranking websites is 8 words. He even believes that shortening his page title caused it to move from the middle of the second SERP to the top of the first SERP.
Keep your meta titles short by:
- Putting keywords up front
- Using numbers instead of spelling them out
- Avoiding excessive adjective use
- Reducing use of prepositions (in, under, through, by, etc.)
The less you write, the faster users will be able to determine your content’s relevancy to their needs.
Don’t write the same title for two different pages
Duplicate title tags across web pages can damage your SEO performance by confusing search engines and users. As a rule, if you have two pieces of content that target the same keywords, make sure they:
- Have different titles and descriptions
- Include unique content (writing, photos, headings, etc.)
- Approach the topic from different angles
You also want to make sure that if optimizing your homepage, you remember to give it its own title. Sometimes CMS software will auto-generate titles for these or new pages, increasing your chance for accidentally duplicated tags.
Include a date to show recency
Search engines’ number one goal is to provide helpful content to users. For certain types of content this means providing updated content.
One way to demonstrate your content’s relevancy is to provide a date in the title. Here are two examples of how brands use dates in their titles:
This format is especially common for product guides or any page including “best” in the title. When the search engines crawl your page and see that the information is current, this boosts the page’s chances of ranking higher.
Preview your title tag in a tool like SERP simulator
Before you publish a newly-crafted title tag, you should preview it. There are many WordPress plugins for SEO that allow you to write title tags and see how they’ll look in the SERP.
Another option would be using a SERP simulator like:
With these tools, you simply enter the title tag and meta description tag into a text box and see a generated preview of how they look in the listings.
Title tag examples
Sometimes it helps to research search listings and find out what formats are working for other brands. Here are some excellent examples of formats, styles, and information you can consider incorporating in your own title tags.
Poway Music Lessons
This title for “how are guitars made?” works well because it specifically states that the content focuses on the materials used to make guitars. Plus, it manages to fit in the brand name of the website. This shows the user that the content is credible because it comes from a music business.
From this title, the user knows that the content: covers 10 destinations, the destinations are in the northern part of Michigan, and that they are for summer travels.
Someone searching for “how old is Rome” would come across this excellent title. It presents several types of resources to the searcher, letting them know they’ll find all they need here, including: maps, facts, and points of interest, and the Britannica brand adds to its authority.
This Savory Vegan
This article is the top-ranking post for “sesame ginger fried rice” and has more than 1800 shares on Pinterest. The title tells the user exactly what the recipe is and uses the description to go more in-depth for those who need it. It’s simple and direct, making it very effective.
Very Well Fit
This title tag works great because it gives credibility by saying that the information comes from a dietician. Because the marketer put the keywords “best vitamins for women” at the front of the title, they show up in the browser tab.
Groovy Guy Gifts
Not only does this title use numbers, a date, and the target keywords, it also includes a relative price point for the consumer. Adding the starting price point for this buying guide helps users decide if the products are in their price range.
With this title, Blender Bottle has argued that it is the best product available on the market. Plus, it ranks number one for the term “blender bottle,” an otherwise regular term for this type of drinkware that the brand was smart enough to copyright and monetize.
How to change your title tag
Sometimes you may need to change your title tag in order to improve its performance. Luckily, most content management systems (CMS) have either plugins or built-in tools that can help you do so. If not, you can change your HTML tag through the page’s source code.
How to change your title tag in WordPress
WordPress is the most widely-used CMS on the internet. If you use this platform, you’ll want to install the Yoast SEO plugin.
When you create a new post in WordPress, you will see a Yoast box below the content. In that box you can add a title tag by clicking on the “edit snippet” button:
Here are some of the other content management systems you can use to edit meta tags:
Many of the platforms on this list have visual editing software that allows you to add, preview, and edit title tags very quickly. If you use a CMS that does not support plugins or have a built-in editor, you can always add your title within the source code.
How to change your title tag in HTML
The title tag is located in the header section of your page and it looks like this:
<title>INSERT YOUR TITLE HERE</title>
You want to make sure that you’re in between the header tags. All you have to do is insert the text you want for the title and make sure to save the code before signing out. You should see it update immediately afterward.
Get a complimentary SEO audit
Search engine optimization relies on hundreds of small elements like the title tag to work effectively. While some components have a larger impact on a piece of content’s overall ranking, the title tag serves as the bridge between your website and potential customers.
Make your title tags clear, descriptive, and representative of your brand and content as a whole. This will improve your CTR and give you a chance to turn users into customers or followers.
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