Title Tags: One of the top 3 on-page SEO items that can catapult your search engine rankings for the keywords you want.
When used correctly a well-optimized page title tag can be the difference between 1st-page rankings with high click-throughs and 2nd-page rankings with no traffic – like an SEO ghost town.
What Is A Title Tag?
The title tag (aka, “page title”, “seo title”, “meta title” “seo meta title”, etc.) is an HTML element that lets search engines know what a webpage is about.
Your page title is normally displayed on SERPs in the big blue font. This is what our homepage looks like:
You can also see it at the top of web browsers.
You can also see the page title on web browser bookmarks and social media shares.
This is how our homepage title tags look like in HTML:
What Is The Difference Between Title Tag And H1 Tag?
It’s a common misconception that the title tag and the H1 tag are the same thing.
This is not true—they are two different HTML tags.
The title tag is what is shown on the SERP. It is more important for SEO purposes.
The H1 tag is the heading on the actual webpage.
It’s easy to confuse these as the same thing because by default WordPress uses the Page Title as the H1 on blog posts in almost every theme.
You can view the title tag and H1 tag of any webpage easily—here’s how.
Right-click “View page source” on the webpage.
The page HTML will come up.
Ctrl + F “Title” for the title tag.
Ctrl + F “<h1” for the H1 tag.
Why Are Title Tags Important For SEO?
Title tags are important for 2 basic reasons.
- Keyword placement
- Organic click-through rate
Firstly, the title tag is one of the most crucial places to put a keyword.
Second, a great page title can entice readers to click-through—it is often the first thing people see on SERPs. Organic click-through rate is a user experience signal, and also a search engine ranking factor.
Google tracks user experience signals—such as organic click-through rate—boosting content that performs well.
Therefore, organic click-through-rate affects SEO.
- One Primary Keyword + Variations
- Front-load Your Keyword
- Shorter Title Length
- Use Numbers (Odd Not Even)
- Add Title Modifiers / Superlatives
- Write For Search Intent (Not Search Queries)
One Primary Keyword + Variations
The title tag is one of the most important places to feature a keyword. Google will definitely be looking for one there—they even recommend it.
Putting a keyword in your title tags = better results.
Independent research from Brian Dean supports this.
Keyword in page title = higher SERP ranking.
That said, avoid stuffing too many keywords in there—one primary is enough. Google has been very clear regarding this.
However, our own independent research has shown that adding keyword variations can help.
Often you will find that webpages don’t just rank for a primary keyword, but several variations.
This is what Ahrefs discovered. Top pages on SERPs rank high for 1000+ different keyword variations.
Look to include 1-2 keyword variations in your page titles for maximum SEO benefit.
Takeaway: One primary keyword + variations.
Front-load Your Keyword
Front-loading your keyword means to feature a keyword at the start, or towards the beginning in your title tags.
Why should we do this? Because it appears to improve SERP ranking.
Enter something in Google and notice that generally, the top results have that search term (keyword) listed earlier in the page titles.
Here is an example.
Google seems to put more emphasis on words featured earlier in page titles.
Takeaway: Place keyword at the beginning of title tag or close to it.
Shorter Title Length
When it comes to title tag length, shorter generally performs better. It’s easier for people to read and easier for Google to understand.
When you provide a superior user experience, and make it easier for Google to rank your content, you get better results.
Research from Matthew Barby supports this. Webpages with shorter page title length ranked higher on SERPs.
The better result are not just in the SERPs, either.
Research from HubSpot showed 11-14 character headlines get more social media shares.
If your page title is too long, the excess will be cut-off. It’ll look like this.
Notice the …
The cut-off point is around 60 characters according to Moz, but this varies depending on what device is being used.
Research of over 2600 viral headlines showed that after 62 characters, search engine cut-off the rest.
Ideally you’ll want to have a short as possible title length—given you say what you need to (keywords, modifiers/superlatives, etc..)
Takeaway: Keep title length short—under 60 characters.
Use Numbers (Odd Not Even)
Having numbers in your title tags can have profound user experience benefits.
It’s a psychological thing. The human brain finds numbers easy to understand—they are specific and measurable.
A study of headline preferences from Conductor confirms this. Take a look at this graph.
It’s no wonder so many headlines feature numbers. Buzzfeed popularized numbered headlines—dubbed “listicles.”
It’s also important to note, for some strange reason odd numbers perform better.
Hubspot’s study of 150,000 headlines showed a 20% higher click-through rate for odd numbered headlines.
Remember, Google use user experience signals to better rank content. A headline with an odd number is going to get more clicks—Google will see that and reward you.
Takeaway: Feature odd numbers in page title for click-through rate boost.
Add Title Modifiers / Superlatives
Title modifiers are basically phrases that are typically added on to search queries, such as the year, or “best.” This is typically done by search users because they want ultra-specific results.
Here are some examples on SERPs.
Here is a list of some title modifiers you can use.
So.. Why add title modifiers?
Because they are a great way to get some extra long-tail keyword traffic. It’s an absolutely fantastic strategy to combine with long-tail keyword variations in your page title.
Backlinko’s Brian Dean highly recommends the use of title modifiers.
It’s a simple trick to broaden your content to a much wider net of search queries.
Takeaway: Add title modifiers for long-tail keyword variation boost.
Write For Search Intent (Not Search Queries)
When creating your page title, it’s important that you write it for search intent, not search query.
Search intent is what someone is really looking for when they use Google.
This does not always exactly match what they enter into the search bar.
Search intent generally falls under one of these 3 categories.
- Informational – Information on something
- Commercial – Buying something
- Navigational – Directions to somewhere
There are definitely more categories, but it’s best to keep it simple here.
You need to ask yourself… “What is the purpose of my content? What am I offering to search users?
When you answer that, you’ll know what the put in your title tags.
If you’re doing things right your content, keywords and title tags should match your search intent.
Targeting search intent is important because people will click the SERP result that best matches what they’re looking for.
Google boosts content on SERPs that get more clicks. This is considered a user experience signal—observations that greatly influence SEO.
Search intent = Better user experience (click-through rate, bounce rate, dwell time, pogo-sticking, etc.)
Better user experience = Better SERP results.
Takeaway: Target search intent for user experience benefits.
Optimizing your page title is a simple and essential way to boost your SEO.
Utilize the best practice in this post and you should start ranking higher and getting more traffic.