Title tags pack a lot of power in 50-60 characters—they not only give users an immediately glimpse into what the page or piece of content is about, but they also help the search engines decide (amongst several other considerations) how and where to show indexed content in search results.
To get the most comprehensive view of title tags and get the most out of them, try these different approaches, which consist of two parts. Use tools and a set process to analyze title tags and ensure you aren’t missing out on better title tags that you more attention and visibility.
Technical Title Tag Analysis
Often, the basics get overlooked in title tags and other SEO best practices. This includes:
Length of the tag
This analysis includes checking the pixel and character length to determine if they are too short or too long (it’s okay to go long on as Google can read them).
Missing title tags
Not having the code on a page, or missing text completely is often an issue that the website managers overlook. This can be daunting to
There are a few ways to look at duplicate title tags:
- Are the pages properly tagged with canonical tags? Having the same title tags on two pages doesn’t matter if there is a canonical tag.
- Are the pages paginated? I see this a lot on larger sites. It’s not ideal to have the same tags on each page in a line, but I don’t think it’s going to hurt the overall objective. But these should have some uniqueness to the page.
- Is there a page with a “/” or without? These pages should actually be 301 redirected and are duplicate content. Be warry, this is a default setting in WordPress.
SEO tools like Screaming Frog, Google Search Console, & Deep Crawl are all great tools to analyze title tags in bulk.
Dynamically Generated Tags
One way to ensure that there aren’t things like missing title tags is to dynamically generate them. Some title tags do just fine when they are automated, like blog or news posts. As long as it doesn’t go beyond the 50-60 character limit, then most post tags are fine as title tags, as long as the default title is accurately describing the content. Some people use CMS settings or SEO plugins (such as Yoast on WordPress) to automatically add the company name at the end of every title as well. This can be helpful for branded searches. As long as there is space, it should work out.
If default titles regularly go beyond 50-60 characters, or they don’t accurately describe the content, then they probably need to be manually revised.
One by One or All at Once
Another strategy to consider is how you’ll be editing your title tags. Some websites that already have a lot of content do batch editing, which is exporting title tags using a tool like Screaming Frog into an excel spreadsheet. Once they are exported with their character count, it’s possible to edit them all in the spreadsheet and then manually update them once they are finished.
As you create content, it’s likely easiest to edit and improve title tags as you go along, so you don’t create a large backlog of title tags that needs to be fixed all at once. Once a piece of content is done being created, build in title tag checking as part of your ongoing process before publishing.
When possible, add applicable keywords into your title tags that are helpful to users (first and foremost) and the search engine crawlers. Don’t use keywords that aren’t actually found in the corresponding content, or don’t make sense in regards to the content as a whole. For instance, it would make sense to include the word “bakery” on a bakery website, even though the page the title tag is on is about custom sugar cookies.
But conversely, having the word bakery in the title tag on a page about your available books for sale (even though your bookstore sells baked goods) may not make sense unless “Bakery” is in your business name. Essentially, don’t try to stuff all your nouns or services into the title tag when that applicable page is only focusing on one specific thing.
If your page mentions a lot of keywords you’d ideally want to rank for, don’t try to include all of them in your title tag (or even your meta descriptions). Instead, choose the best keyword for that specific page. However, your main focus should be on creating a title tag that is the most useful to the user. Point being, don’t try to put in a “best keyword” if it doesn’t make sense. Just write the best possible title that describes the content of the page or post. In the case of “About” pages or pages that list multiple topics or services, it may make sense to list some of your services, but try to be concise and not overly descriptive.
In addition, as you’re analyzing your title tags (whether one at a time or in a batch approach), be sure to look for any missing keywords that should be in the title tag that aren’t there. This could be the main topic of the page or a better descriptor that may more closely match what the user is looking for. For instance, if your page is about a specific brand of windows, but most people don’t search by brand name, it would make sense to revise your title tag from something like, “Acme Windows in Las Vegas, NV | Window Company Inc.” to “Fast, Reliable Home Window Replacement: Acme Windows, Las Vegas”
In this example, adding “Home Window Replacement” as well as the adjectives “fast” and “reliable” are more in line with what users may be searching for. The window brand name is still included because it’s a page specifically about that brand in particular. This is especially important if you have other brand pages that fall under the same topic, e.g. a different page for every brand of windows you carry. In most cases, you’d also have a generic window replacement page that would list all the brands, and that is where you wouldn’t necessarily need to include all the brands you carry in the title tag.
Phrase versus Exact versus Other
Sometimes a great title tag is a reworking of a sentence that is on its page. Other times, it works better when there’s a header or the page title that works perfectly for the page’s title tag. No matter where you pull your title tag from, just make sure it correlates closely with what the content on the page actually says. Doing otherwise may lead to a high bounce rate, poor indexing, and a very low conversion rate.
Search engines like Google want to make sure the title and descriptions in search results are as relevant as possible to the pages they belong to. This not only ensures users know what they are clicking on, but it also can help websites get a higher click-through rate (when it’s a better representation of the page). Years ago websites started noticing that Google was using a different version of title and description tags than what was in the code of the page. While we don’t have complete control over how and when Google displays our pages in search results, they are much more likely, in many cases, to use a carefully crafted title tag over an automated one that is cut off. That’s why it’s important to check automated titles to make sure they fit within the character limit and is useful to the user.
Brand Name Inclusion
This was briefly touched on in the missing keyword section, but including brand names in title tags is a best practice in most cases, especially if the page only talks about that specific brand. The only exceptions would be either multiple-brand pages, or when your target audience will almost never search for brands and therefore only know the product by a generic industry term.
In those cases, include the brand name if there is room, but make the other term a priority. You can also A/B test title tags on some CMS platforms (like WordPress) with certain plugins, but many of these plugins rely on automated title tags that correspond with the H1 title, which is what is really being tested. RankScience reports that there can be a click-through rate increase through this type of third party A/B testing. If you’re not sure about brand name inclusion, try an A/B test and see what gets you the best CTR.
Keyword-Stuffed versus Sentence
Don’t rely on filling your title tag to the max with keywords as a way to get you better CTR and search engine result page (SERP) positioning. If your page is a list of products and services, then it makes sense to list a few keywords that describe them, but otherwise, it may be a better approach to use a sentence format. Website pages (like About Us and Services) may do better with applicable keywords in title tags, whereas blog posts need more of a sentence structure. For instance, on a blog post about hiking on a specific trail in Oregon, it wouldn’t make sense to have the title tag be “Hiking in Oregon reviews, Oregon trail maps | Portland Hiking Co.” when the post is about something more specific. “A Complete Guide to Hiking The Multnomah Falls Trail | Portland Hiking Co.” makes more sense because it directly describes what the post is about, likely leading to a higher CTR. Trying to be more ambiguous to fit in keywords when a page or post is about a specific topic doesn’t have much benefit.
Relevancy to The Content on Page
To test whether or not your title tag is relevant to your page content, show someone outside of the project your title tag and ask him or her what they think the page is about. If they are more or less accurate, then you know that your title tag is pretty relevant. However, if they seem confused, pause before answering, or don’t give a close answer, then it’s probably time to narrow down the title to speak better about the page content.
Over time from listening to feedback, you’ll have a better idea about what title tag format and keywords give the most insight into page content for the users. If the page content isn’t relevant, Google may choose to “create” its own tag from the page content, as mentioned previously, or simply choose not to index the content at all.
Titles are all about grabbing user attention. Websites only have fractions of a second to catch a user’s eye when their page is listed in search results. There are several different ways we can structure title tags (and corresponding H1 titles on the page) to instantly get users’ attention. A few suggestions from Moz include: adding dates when it’s a time relevant article (e.g. “The 5 Best 2017 Super Bowl Commercials”), numbers for a list format, questions, and keyword-inclusion when it fits long-tail queries.
For example, “Formal Black Mid-Length Women’s Coats | Acme Coat Company” is a more descriptive title for an e-commerce product category page than “Women’s Black Wool Coats | Acme Coat Company.” Think of what users would be looking for (or what would peak their interest if it’s a piece of content) and structure your title around what would make them click.
How Do Your Titles Compare to Top Ranking Sites?
While copying your competitors or industry leaders is never a good idea, it does make sense to do some competitor research. Look at what top ranking sites in your industry are using as title formats for a variety of search topics (an SEO tool can usually do this, and help you keep track of SERP position changes over time for specific results).
Think broadly what their methods may be—do they always include their company name at the end? Do they always use three adjectives for each product page? – and then develop a title tag convention that could similarly benefit your site. It doesn’t mean copying exactly what they are doing, but figuring out what is working for them can help you determine what could be working better for you.
Monitor For Breakage With Tools
Manual title tag writing or batch editing works great as a starting point, but it’s important to monitor title tag “health” on an ongoing basis. Use your SEO tool to check for “broken” title tags, which could have gone over the character limit or no longer apply to the pages they are on. Many times, CMS automated tags may break title tags if one parameter is changed that is set to be in all title tags, like the company name or location. Doing ongoing checks for title tag health every quarter for big sites or six months for small sites can ensure that you are getting the most visibility possible from your titles.
Using a mixture of manual writing and testing and automated tools to keep track of your title tags can help certify that your titles are the best “first impression” search engines and users will see for pages on your site. It’s worth the time to test and optimize titles, since they are still a major key to better SEO for your website. Use a mixture of these tactics to figure out what works best for your industry and website.