5 Tips for Optimizing Title Tags

Title Tags SEOIf there was a badge for the Most Important Factor in search engine optimization I would award it to the Title Tag. Even though good title tags alone won’t ensure high Google rankings, they can take your site a long way on their own. And without good title tags, all your other SEO work will come to very little.

Another reason they get my vote as the Most Important Factor is that they are relatively quick and easy to optimize. If you know your targeted keyword phrases and can edit your title tags (most content management systems will let you), then it just takes a few minutes to edit them. Once Google has spidered your site and picked up the change, you can check your rankings and/or your Landing Page report in Google Analytics to see what effect the change has had. Tweak, and tweak again, is what I say.

But first things first:

What is a Title Tag?

A title tag is a piece of code that displays a title for your page at the top of the browser window.

Title Tag Browser

The text of the title tag is also used in the search results pages for search engines and when someone bookmarks your page on their computer.

You can view the tag itself in the source code of any web page; it starts with <title> and ends with </title>.

Title Tag Code

Why are Title Tags So Important?

Title Tag Search ResultsTitle tags are weighted heavily in Google’s ranking algorithm, so It’s important that they include your targeted keyword phrases. You should also remember that since the title tag is used for Google’s search results pages, you will get more clicks through to your site if the title is clear and relevant to the search.

WordPress, and most other blogging software, uses the post title as the title tag by default. That’s why so many bloggers spend a lot of time crafting good post headlines. If the titles use targeted keyword phrases and are written well, they will generate more traffic and more clickthroughs from the search results pages.

How to Optimize Your Title Tags

Google advises that each page have a unique title. This makes sense since each of your pages has unique content, right? Google will even alert you if you have duplicate title tags. Look under Optimization > HTML Improvements in Google Webmaster Tools.

1. Use your targeted keyword phrases, preferably at the beginning of the title

“Blue Widgets to Die For”

is better than

“When You Only Want the Very Best Blue Widgets”

2. Try to use the exact keyword phrase

If you are trying to rank for “blue widgets” using that exact phrase will produce better results:

“Best Blue Widgets”

is better than

“Bluest of Widgets”


“When You Want Your Widgets Blue”

3. Try to optimize each page for a specific keyword phrase.

You might be able to optimize for two keyword phrases on one page, but more than that is tough. Don’t repeat your phrase over and over; it looks ridiculous to the visitor/searcher and it may make the Google gods angry.

4. Try to keep the length of your title tag below 70 characters. 

If your title is longer than 70 characters, Google will cut it off and display an ellipsis. This may not be a tragedy, but it is worth writing your titles to be visible and read. An exceedingly long title will not help you, and may hurt you.

5. Try to make it legible and “clickable.”

A human will read your title and either click through to your site or not. A clear, meaningful, concise title will get more clicks that one that sounds like it was written by a machine programmed by Martians. Also, the title tag is often shared in social media and it’s the catchy headline that gets the click.

You’ll notice that “try to” appears frequently in the advice above. That’s because perfection is as hard to achieve in title tags as it is in most things. So tweak, and tweak again. That’s what I say.