SEO For Page Titles

steve@seomark.co.uk or Contact Form or LinkedIn
A webpage’s title, also known as a title tag or title element, is written in the coding of the page, usually near the top, like this – <title>The Title of the Page is Written Here</title>. The page title isn’t displayed to visitors on the page itself, but it can be seen in two important places – the search result pages (as the blue clickable link above the description and url) and on social websites (when someone shares, Likes, +1s, etc. the page). That the page title is displayed in the search results and on most social websites is very important from an SEO perspective.

For the search results, a better than average click-through rate (CTR) will likely lead to higher rankings, as if searchers are clicking on your site more than the ones above it, then it’s a strong signal that your site deserves to be ranked higher than those sites. On social websites, a good CTR equals more page views, and more page views will normally, if the content is good, equate to more social shares and backlinks, which are two factors that search engines factor into their ranking algorithms.

CTR isn’t the most important reason to optimise page titles though. The most important reason is that search engines use the title of a page as a primary factor when assessing what keywords to rank that page for and in what position to rank it in. Most SEO consultants would agree that when it comes to the scale of importance in optimising a website for search engines, proper SEO for page titles only comes behind having good content on your site and having people link to your site.

The perfect page title should appeal to both  humans and search engines and should find the balance between being compelling and being factual. It should be concise, descriptive, include keywords, attract attention and entice people to click on it. It should also be unique – to both other titles on your site and the titles that your competitors are using – and give your business’s website an opportunity to rank for multiple keywords. So, how exactly can you achieve this and optimise your page titles for search engines?

Keywords

Whilst it’s actually not 100% essential that you include the primary keyword that you want to rank a page for in that page’s title, if you leave it out then it makes ranking well for that keyword much more difficult. Without the keyword in the title, to rank for that keyword you’ll need other people to link to the page using that exact keyword. They may well do that, but it’s out of your control and so it isn’t a good position to be in.

Also, search engines ‘bold’ the words in their listings that exactly match the search query being made. If none of the words in your page title are in bold then your title will be less visible than the titles above and below it and so your CTR will drop. Whilst there’s benefits to having the keyword in the title, there’s no benefit to repeating it. You should actually avoid doing this unless it happens in the course of writing a title naturally.

If the keyword being targeted consists of more than one word, there’s s a benefit to having those words in the right order, but it’s not essential for good rankings. There’s also a benefit to having them closer to the start of the title than the end. If they’re nearer the start then it indicates to search engines that they’re more important, and it may also increase CTR, as searchers often skim read the start of titles in the results but won’t necessarily read each title in full.

Length

You should keep the length of your page titles within 55 characters, as anything more than that may not be displayed in the search results. Anything more than that, especially if it’s beyond 70 characters will be replaced in the search results with …, which looks unprofessional and may reduce your CTR. Another reason to keep your titles short is that the more words in general there are in the title the more diluted the keywords become.

Effectively, each word beyond the primary keyword is lessening the importance of that keyword. However, you shouldn’t miss out words like a, an, to, the, etc., to save on characters. Whilst you can fit more keywords in that way, the title would read badly and CTR would be negatively affected. You need to write page titles with both search engines and humans in mind, and people expect to see those words in titles.

Descriptive

Don’t let other SEO considerations distract you from making a page title descriptive of the content on the page, as, above all else, that’s what web users will expect it to be. If people click on a title and are shown a page of content that doesn’t match what they were expecting to see then they’ll instantly click the back button, which is bad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they’ll have a poor opinion of your site and will be less likely to click on links to it again. Secondly, it will decrease the average viewing time for the page, and increase its bounce rate, which are two factors incorporated into ranking algorithms.

Branding

If you have space available in a page title, then it’s worthwhile including your business’s name it in too. Searchers normally skim read all of the results even if they only click on a couple of them, and so it’s a good opportunity to put your name in front of their eyes and build brand awareness. You want to convey a positive impression and to give a consistent message. For example, if your business sells fun products/services, then make your page titles fun, whereas if your business sells serious products/services, then make your page titles serious.

Presentation

You can’t control the font your page title is written in, the colour of it or which words get bolded, but you can control which letters get capitalised and what type of word dividers are used. It’s common to use capital letters for the first letter of every word – except a, an, to, the, etc. – and to use a hyphen (-) to indicate the end of a phrase. However, it’s more than acceptable to capitalise a, an, to, the, etc., and to use pipes (|) if you prefer. What’s most important is that you remain consistent in the presentation of your titles across all pages. Pick a style and use it throughout your whole site.

Good Examples

Primary Keyword | Brand Name

Brand Name – Primary Keyword

Brand Name – Primary Keyword & Secondary Keyword

Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

Primary Keyword in a Sentence | Brand Name

Brand Name – Primary And Secondary Keyword In A Sentence

Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword

Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword in a Sentence

Bad Examples

Home

http://www.domain-name.co.uk

Brand Name

Primary Keyword Secondary Keyword

Brand name – primary Keyword AND Secondary keyword

Primary Keyword + Secondary Keyword + Tertiary Keyword

A very long sentence that only has the Primary Keyword near the end

#*> Primary Keyword!!! <*#

Further Reading

2-Minute SEO Guide

Homepage Optimisation

Using Keywords On Your Website

Does Web Hosting Affect SEO?

How Small Businesses Can Beat Big Ones In Google

steve@seomark.co.uk or Contact Form or LinkedIn