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The title tag is an HTML title element critical to both SEO and user experience that is used to briefly and accurately describes the topic and theme of an online document.
The title tag is displayed in two key places:
- Internet Browser – Title Tags display in the top bar of internet browsers.
- Search Result Pages – Search engines display title tags in their results along with another less important on-page factor, the meta description tag.
Importance for SEO:
Historically, the title tag has consistently been one of the single most important on-page SEO factors. Before search engine algorithms increased their complexity, the title tag was an easy way to try and determine the topic and relevancy of a page. As search engines evolved, their algorithms started to include additional factors such as link data, social media interaction and traffic/performance metrics. The title tag, however, still holds great value for on-page search engine optimization.
According to SEOmoz’s annual Search Ranking Factors survey of 37 influential thought leaders in the SEO industry, 35 of the 37 participants said that keyword usage in the title tag was the most important place to use keywords to achieve high rankings.
Creating Optimized Title Tags
Title tags are one of the best return on investment SEO techniques because they are a low effort and high return task. Most blogging platforms like WordPress and Drupal either provide built in solutions or downloadable add-ons to provide access to create and edit title tags.
- Be Accurate – Try not to wonder off topic with your title tags as they are used as a relevancy factor to describe a page in search engine algorithms. Stray too far off the path and you may look like you’re spamming, keyword stuffing or other manipulative techniques.
- Don’t Target Too Many Terms on One Page – A good rule of thumb is to try not to target more than a couple keywords per page. If you could create a standalone article on the topic, it should be its own page. This method allows search engines to more easily determine the topic and relevancy of your page.
- Optimize Your Length for Results Pages – Search engines standardize their results pages by limiting the amount of characters they show per element of a listing. Title tags are allowed a maximum of 70 characters is the maximum amount of characters before they display an ellipsis – “…” to signify that a title tag has been cut off. Your title tag may not make sense to a user if it gets cut off before the point is made, so be sure to check title tag length. Additionally, don’t go overboard with keywords and use common sense to know what looks too long.
- Keyword Placement and Order Matters – According to SEOmoz’s survey, the earlier the keyword is used in the placement of the title tag, the more helpful it is for ranking factors. Additionally, because it is near the beginning and likely not cut off at the 70 character limit, the more likely a user will see it and click on your search result listing.
- Try to Be Enticing – Your title tag is a searcher’s first impression with your page and sometimes brand. Leverage the title tag to not only optimize for SEO but also for user experience. Studies have shown that the message you convey in your title tag can get your more traffic than the search result listing ranked above you. Think of the following example – which one would you click on?:
Option A: Digital Cameras – Company Name
Option B: Buy Digital Cameras and Accessories – Limited 20% off – Company Name
Search Engine Result Pages
One last thing to note is that any keywords in title tags, meta descriptions and display URLs that match the performed search query will be bolded on the search results page. With searchers using title tags to determine which listing they click on, an optimized and enticing title tag can increase click-through rates and greater brand awareness.