The title of your pages and blog posts is of the most influential factors in how well it will rank – but how close do you pay attention to writing them?
Having a well written title is essential for SEO because it is the first thing that comes up in the search results for a user. An eye-catching title determines whether a user clicks on your post or not. In one of our most recent posts, we discussed why meta descriptions are necessary for SEO and how a meta description can make your website stand out from others on Google. Like meta descriptions, a good title can go a long way for your website.
In this article, we will look at another aspect of the Search Engine Results Page: the title. We’ll break down why a title is important, and show you how to write effective titles that boost your SEO.
What is the page title?
Ok I know the answer seems pretty obvious, but let’s unpack this one a bit.
The page title is a the title you give your page, and it gets set in a very important place inside the HTML structure of your page (technical speak for the code that makes up your page): the title tag.
Pretty much every website platform allows you to set a title for each page or blog post, which automatically populates the title tag for that page. You may not give it much thought however it’s critical that you do because the title of your page does so much more than remind you of what you’re writing.
That page title gets set in a title tag on your page once it’s published. In the page HTML the title tag looks a bit like this:
<title>My awesome blog post</title>
But in a blog post, it’d get automatically set as the blog title like this:
And Google pays very close attention to it. The title of your page ends up being what is displayed in search engine results (commonly called SERPs, check out our post on SERPs for more info) and can be the difference maker in your page being clicked on or ignored.
How important is a title for SEO?
Title tags are extremely important to SEO for two reasons.
For one, they help search engines to understand the content of your webpage. Google is on a mission to understand and rank content across the web, and an effective title goes a long way towards their algorithm understanding your content. A title is also one of the most influential factors in whether your pages actually get clicked. A boring or generic title will make people yawn as they pass over your content, and a click-baity one will make you look like spam.
A well-written title though will make Google happy and engage people and draw them to your website – it’s a win-win!
Where does the title appear?
In addition to the top of a blog post you can also find these title tags in three specific locations: (1) SERPs, (2) web browsers, and (3) social networks.
1) The page title appears in search engine results (SERPS)
When people go to Google to ask a question, your title is the very first thing they’ll see (once they get to your spot in the rankings). Your title tag is the headline displayed on all search engine results pages. Along with meta descriptions, your selected title tag is the first thing users will view of your site. This is why it is important to choose your title wisely!
2) The title appears in web browsers
Title tags are also displayed at the top of the web browser tab and act as a place holder. If a user has multiple tabs open, it will be easy to detect which tab is your site because of your title tag. So, make sure that your title is easily recognizable – make it easy for your user!
3) The title is what appears when content is shared to social media
Another way that title tags can be used is through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. External sites like these will use your title tag as a way to determine what to share of your page. This is why keywords are essential in building a good title.
How do I write a good title for SEO?
Because title tags have such a high impact on SEO, it is crucial that you have a well-written title. So how do you create an effective title that attracts users?
Here are a few steps that should help.
1) Keep your title short and sweet
In general, it is good to cap your title at a maximum of 60-65 characters. It is best to keep the length of your title under this number because if your title becomes too long, search engines may cut the rest off by adding an ellipses (“…”), which could potentially omit key words from the user.
In addition to limiting character use, try to avoid using all caps in your title. This could make it harder for people to read and could also limit your character space.
2) Don’t re-use titles
Unique titles are not a suggestion, they’re a necessity.
Using duplicate titles confuses Google, and visitors if they’re browsing your site and see both pages side by side, or search results. Unique titles drive higher clickthrough rates and help build SEO.
3) Make your title irresistible
Good titles don’t just tell Google what your content is about, the entice the reader to learn more. When scanning titles in a never-ending series of search engine results it’s the titles that are interesting, inviting, and trustworthy that will stand out.
You want to create titles that will attract customers, so it is important to know your audience and who you should be targeting. Title tags are important for SEO, but your main goal is to create click throughs from people who find the content on your website to be valuable.
One insightful way of understanding what your customers find helpful is to analyze which blog posts or pages on your website attract the most visitors. If one blog post performs better than another, one way of conducting internal market research is to look at the titles of these blog posts. If one title is vague or general while the other is specific and to the point, it may be a clue informing your future actions.
Finally, put yourself in the mind of the customer. If you were visiting your own website for the first time, would your titles entice you to click on it to find more? We click through websites that seem appealing and relevant to our search queries and your customers will be doing the same thing.
Should I use a keyword in the title?
Back in the old days of SEO it used to be that plugging the keyword into the title and 10+ times in the post for good measure was good enough.
Google is smarter, so they look beyond the basics. That does not mean that including a keyword in your title is a waste of time, its still worth continuing, just for slightly different reasons. Nielsen Norman Group conducted an experiment about how people read titles in search engines and the results are good news for effective-title writers, but bad news for those who don’t.
According to the study people read on average the first 11 characters of a title then make the unconscious decision as to whether they should read more. Titles that are front-loaded with a focus keyword are therefore more descriptive and will perform better than page titles that are muddled or confusing.
Take the title of this post for example: ‘Title tags: How to write effective SEO titles that boost your rank’
The first 11 characters are: ‘Title tags:’ – you get the idea, right?
11 characters isn’t a hard rule to follow, in general the keyword should be in the first half of the title. Don’t force the keyword into the title either, let it fit naturally otherwise the title will seem awkward and put visitors off.