Page titles are by far the most common element of SEO that business owners get wrong. They are also one of the easiest elements to fix and even the slightest improvement can have a significant impact on your rankings and traffic.
The title is located in the ‘Head’ (<head>) section of the HTML of the page between the <title> and </title> tags. It can’t be seen on the actual web page in the browser but is visible in the top of the browser window and is used as the blue link in search results in most cases. The blue link in search results is limited to 70 characters and each page’s title should be kept to this limit as well.
Here are some tips from Google’s webmaster guidelines on writing page titles:
- Page titles should be descriptive and concise
- Avoid keyword stuffing
- Avoid repeated or boilerplate titles
The optimum page title will:
- Maximise Click Through Rates (CTRs) from search engines, social sites and anywhere else the page title and link appear
- Maximise usability by accurately describing the page’s contents
- Maximise the page’s relevancy to the search terms (aka queries or keywords) that will drive the most traffic from search engines and produce the most conversions
- Be quick and easy to write, especially if you have many pages to optimise
In most cases its impossible or very difficult to craft a page title that ticks all of the boxes so we have to focus on those areas that will produce the best results.
Maximising Click Through Rates (CTRs)
Page titles are used for the blue links in search results and are often extracted and displayed when someone shares the page on social media such as facebook. Therefore, if we can write a title that sounds interesting or entertaining we can encourage people to visit the page more than they would for a more mundane title.
This is difficult to do while still giving an accurate description of the article’s content and including the appropriate keywords. My best advice would be to try different ideas then get feedback and monitor results to improve over time. You can also look at other content that performs well in social media and see how those titles are structured. For instance, top 10 lists and infographics have performed well in the past so you might include the information in the title. One advanced technique that you could test is to publish you page with a witty and interesting title to maximise social sharing then, after most of the sharing has already happened, change the title to something more keyword rich to benefit from the search engine traffic as well.
Carefully crafting each title is not efficient if you have hundreds or thousands of pages to optimise. If you have a large site, such as an e-commerce site, then you might used a more structured approach for product page titles and save this approach for blog posts and other content that is specifically written to attract social shares.
Writing your titles with usability in mind will keep your pages’ bounce rates to a minimum and keep your users happy but it often leaves some value on the table in terms of share-ability and keyword relevancy. It can result in more efficient title writing by tying the title to something else on the page such as the page heading or product name meaning you don’t actually have to write a title. In most cases, the extra value gained from increasing keyword relevancy and share-ability is worth the slight loss in usability but you should always keep it in mind.
Maximising Keyword Relevancy
As search engines are such a dominant traffic source, this is often the primary role of a page’s title. There’s a few things we know about keywords relevancy in titles that must be considered:
- The more words you add to the title the more search queries (aka keywords or search terms) the title will be relevant for but the relevancy for each individual search query decreases
- Keywords closer to the beginning of the title are deemed more relevant than those further from the beginning
- If the titles of two or more of your pages are very similar, they are effectively competing against each other and search engines may not know which one to return in the search results
How many words should you include in the title?
There are probably hundreds of keywords relevant to the page’s content, each with different amounts of traffic, competition and conversion potential and they can’t all fit in the 70 characters allowed in the title. Therefore, as part of your keyword research, you need to determine which keywords would be best to target on the page. If the keyword/s you select are highly competitive then you might have to keep the number of words in the title to a minimum to increase the relevancy of the title for that keyword. Alternatively, if you want to optimise your title for many different keywords – more of a long tail strategy – then you might like to maximise the number of keywords in the title.
You can also improve space efficiency by looking for keywords (keyphrases) that have common words in them. For example, a page about ‘website optimisation, page optimisation and search engine optimisation’ could use the title ‘website, page & search engine optimisation’ to avoid repeating the word ‘optimisation’ and maximise the available space.
Local SEO Titles
When seeking location specific products and services people often use a suburb, city, state or even country name in their search query. If you’re targeting a local market you can include the location in your page titles to increase for relevancy for that location and catch some of that search engine traffic.
Website/ Business Name
Many content management systems default to a title with the website name first, followed by the page heading or nothing. In almost all cases this is a bad idea. Unless you share your website name with another company, you should easy rank for search queries containing your website/business name without including it in your titles. This is especially true if your website/business name appears in your domain name. If you’re able to rank for these keywords anyway then its a much better idea to use this valuable title space for other keywords you’d like to receive traffic from.
Speed & Efficiency to Write
You can’t hope to efficiently write page titles for websites that have hundreds or thousands of pages such as e-commerce sites. One way around this, which is commonly used, is to use a standard structure that ties the page title to some other page element such as the heading or product name. For a more detailed title you can use a structure such as:
‘<product name> – <product category>’ or
‘<product name> – <product brand> – <product category>’
You need to be careful when using these standard structures that you do not end up with many titles the are largely similar, something that Google warns against in their webmaster guidelines on page titles.
For information to optimise the rest of the page, check out our article; on-page optimisation.
Need Help Crafting Quality Page Titles for Your Site?
Page Title Optimisation is included in the Website Optimisation portion of our SEO Process.