A title tag is effectively a very concise description of a document. Think of it as the header or (dare we say it….title) of the document – it is a crucial part to any web page and has long been considered a critical factor for SEO. So how is it used and how do you implement it?
What are <title> tags used for?
Whilst there are multiple considerations and uses for a title tag, in the end it acts as the main header/description of a web pages’ contents. However, it is important to take note of where they are used:
- Browser tabs – if you have a web page open (or a document) in a browser, the title tag will display on the browser tabs or with browsers such as safari may show on above the tabs as a central heading for the browser.
- Search Engine Results Pages – the title tag formulates the main clickable link that a search engine displays to its users. However, Google will display title tags differently to how it is written in the code for a number of reasons:
- It is not an accurate description of the content that Google ‘sees’ on the page
- On homepages especially, it the title tag does not include the brand name Google often places the brand name first, with a colon leading on to what you will have entered as your title tag. This often leads to truncation as you run out of characters. For example, if we had “Digital Marketing Agency | Graphic Designers” as our homepage title tag, Google would likely display it on the SERP as “Yellowball: Digital Marketing Agency | Gra..”
- Dependant on the search term used by the searcher, Google may change the title tag on the SERP.
- Due to the fact that they act as descriptions of a web pages’ content they are used by the search engines as a factor in determining what search terms the page should rank for.
- Social networks and other websites that display links with images will often use the title tag of the page as the anchor text for the link.
- Email providers such as Microsoft Office 365 will automatically produce a preview of a link in the email which will include the title tag of the linked page.
Note: when Google show multiple site links in their results, the inner pages will not have their title tag displayed as the link. Fear not though, if the page itself were to rank it would likely show the title tag as it is entered in the.
The ‘title tag’, which it has come to be known, is actually an element. It is also part of the meta data for a web page. According to W3C school the <title> element is a necessary part for a document to validate as html. Elements, tags, all very confusing so for simplicity’s sake we will stick with title tag.
Your title tag should be contained within the <head> of a web page and is contained within <title>insert title tag here<title>. Many CMS’ will have their own section for title tags or plug ins will allow individual title tags to be created. For example, on WordPress, Yoast SEO autofills the title tag but there is a section on each page to create a unique one. We suggest that you look to create unique title tags for every page on the site (where possible).
What are the SEO considerations for title tags?
Target Search Terms
Title tags are great opportunities to add keywords to a page but remember that they have to be a an accurate description of the page otherwise it just counts as spam. Generally speaking the first words to appear in a title tag have more influence on what that page will rank for so do your keyword research and identify which search term is most valuable (and relevant) to that page. Your keyword research should give you a clear indication of which keywords to include in a page’s title tag.
Enticing for users on SERP’s
Whilst it is crucial to make sure that your title tags contain keywords, because they are the main link in SERPs it is also critical to make them attractive and enticing for users. They will form the first impression for new searchers and as a result act as a selling point for your website. A few tips are:
Use pipes | to separate sections/keywords of the title tag instead of commas, dashes, full stops or any other punctuation. This is our opinion but one shared by a lot of the SEO industry. It makes the title tag appear more structured and easier to read each section therefore allowing the user to understand what they will find on the page much quicker.
Address the user directly with a question, although bear in mind that this will take up valuable real estate.
How long should my title tag be?
Title tag length is crucial not just for SEO but also for user experience because the areas in which they are displayed usually have limited space.
Browser tabs only show a small snippet of a title tag, unless you hover over the tab with your cursor in which case the entire title tag should display. Safari will show a larger amount at the top of the browser although for the majority of users on Mozilla, Internet explorer and the new form of IE the title tag will usually be cut off in the browser tab.
Title tags displaying as the anchor text of links on social networks will differ in lengths across each social platform and as a result it is very hard to give a direct answer as to how long it should be for social. Though a general rule would be to stick to a handful of words.
The main concern in regards to title tag length is how they will display on Google’s results pages. For years the accepted rule was that the majority of title tags under 70 characters would not be cut off with a …. , but this has changed. On 10th March 2014 Google changed how results were displayed, increasing the font size slightly and subsequently reducing the amount of space on the SERP for the title tag. In fact this is not based on characters but instead on pixel width (512 pixels). This roughly equates to 55 characters depending on which characters are used, punctuation and capitals. So as a general rule, try to keep your title tags under 55 characters to ensure that they display on Google’s results pages.
It is generally accepted that due to the fact that Google cuts off title tags after 512 pixels that any keywords contained past that point will not be taken into account for SEO, so don’t keyword stuff. Having a title tag with 100 keywords in it will not make a difference, especially if they are all relatively similar. Latent Semantic Analysis and Google’s Knowledge Graph mean that you don’t have to place every variation of a keyword into the title tag.
Do not use the same keyword in title tags across multiple pages. These are descriptions of the page and therefore it will act as duplicate content. Your brand name is fine, but for example we only have ‘digital marketing agency’ on our homepage title tag and no where else on the site to avoid duplicate content.