If you’re somewhat familiar with SEO, you’ve probably heard of title tags. Understanding these is critical for your SEO strategy. What are title tags and how can you best optimize them? Discover why SEO title tags are important and learn some best practices!
Title Tags: What Are They?
A title tag is an HTML element that expresses the title of a web page. It can be read by people looking for something on the Internet, as well as by robots. In an HTML code, the <title> tag can be found in the <head>. The title appears in:
- the browser tab
- the browser bookmark
- search engine results
- social media post previews.
Title tags are important for many reasons. First, they help search engines understand what your page is about and get an overview of its content. This helps them identify the most appropriate pages for different search queries. Second, they also help users. They give a brief preview of your page’s content and help them decide whether your page is relevant to them. Remember that you don’t want just anyone to click on your page. If someone is misled by your page title and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, they will most likely leave. This will increase your site’s bounce rate, which will negatively affect your SEO. Providing accurate and precise information is key, and a good title is part of that.
SEO Title Tags and Google
We’ve now established that SEO title tags are important in your SEO strategy. However, if you’re already using them, you may have realized that sometimes, your title tag is different from the one that appears on the search result. That happens especially with Google. Let’s look at an example. One of the articles on our blog is entitled “Get the Most out of Your Translation Agency”. If you look at our code, you can see that we used the meta title “Things to keep in mind when hiring a translation agency”. However, Google changed the title in the SERP:
Whereas Ecosia applied our meta title:
So what does that mean? Google makes title changes if it thinks that your title tag is not relevant enough to the target audience. This has been the case for a long time. However, since last summer that process has evolved. Google has made some major updates, and one of them directly affects SEO title tags.
Google may generate a new title to add useful information (such as a brand name) if the algorithm finds your title tag unhelpful or illegible.
Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, explains:
“We will never quit rewriting titles. We’ve seen so many sites whose titles really suck. A lot of sites have no title; a lot of sites have a title saying “Top Page”. In fact, Google almost always rewrites titles. We couldn’t provide useful results to our users if we quit rewriting titles. Experiments showed us users preferred written titles. So, we’ll continue to write titles.”
Is It Still Worth Optimizing Your Title Tags?
If Google is going to change the title anyway, is it still necessary to add and optimize meta title tags? According to Google’s webmaster guidelines, optimizing <title> elements is important as they need to be “descriptive, specific, and accurate”. Also, even if Google rewrites the title tag, it doesn’t get rid of the title tag information. It is still extremely useful information that allows search engines to understand what your page is about.
What’s more, not every search engine rewrites title tags, as you can see in our example above. While the SEO title tag is not a deciding factor for your ranking, optimizing your title is still best practice.
SEO Title Tags: Best Practices
In its guidelines, Google advises writing a high-quality title text on your page. Here are a few best practices for writing good SEO title tags.
Write Unique Content
To stand out and provide valuable information, every page on your website has to use a different meta title. This will make it easier for users and search engine bots to differentiate your pages and understand their content.
Pay Attention to the Length
An SEO title that is too long may be truncated at the end, so you might risk losing some important information. There are actually no character limits to your title tag, but best practice determines a 60-character limit, including spaces. Strictly speaking, the limit is actually 600px as some characters take up more space than others. 60 characters is generally a safe average, but you can also use some SEO preview tools to help you.
Include a Relevant Keyword and Description
Title tags are important to search engines, so your keyword should appear at the beginning of your title. However, you also need to avoid keyword stuffing, which may lead to Google rewriting your title. Your keyword also needs to be relevant and match your content. Your description needs to be informative and concise as you have a limited amount of characters.
A good SEO title tag is one element among many. Factors like content, quality, headlines, keywords, responsiveness and user experience are all essential for a good SEO strategy. Optimizing your SEO performance takes into account a lot of factors and the meta title is just one piece in the puzzle.
To learn more about SEO and get started, check out some of our other articles on this subject!