The HTML title refers to the official title of the page. In the page’s coding this is reflected with the <title> tag, and it is required in all HTML documents. The <title> tag shows in the browser toolbar, acts as the page title if someone bookmarks the page, and displays as the title in search engines. Altering your HTML Title Tag for search is an on-page SEO technique that has very strong effects on your search rankings.
Web page titles are often compared to titles of books. If an author wrote 10 books all with the exact same title, people would assume they are the same book. Publishers would likely be upset that the author kept trying to publish the same book. Conversely, if an author wrote 10 books and they were just labeled “Book 1”, “Book 2”, etc., no one would know what the books were about, and likely wouldn’t be interested in them. Publishers will know that your books cover different things, but don’t know what specifically or who to market the books to. As an author, you’d want to come up with relevant titles that describe what you wrote in the book. As a publisher, you’d want titles that tell them what the book is about so they know who might want the book.
How do HTML Titles Affect SEO?
In the situation described above, the publisher is the search engine. While website crawlers will obviously find some keywords in the text itself, an effective title will tell the search engines what the main topic of the page is. Having your focus keyword(s) in the title is a huge step towards ranking for that word, especially if the title accurately describes the text of the page. Title tags have the most power of any tag in terms of establishing relevance to a keyword. This is one of the best ways to directly associate your page with a keyword, along with including keywords in the URL. Search engines believe the title tag is the best indicator of what a page is about because you can only have one. Unlike header tags and keywords, one singular title tag is used for each page.
Beyond using the title to describe the main purpose of a page, having an optimized HTML title also has other benefits. Since the title appears in search engines, having your site stand out from the rest will increase click through rate. The amount of times your site is chosen in a search likely helps your ranking, so standing out from the rest is a must.
HTML Titles will also generally appear as the <H1> heading on your page. Header tags create a structure that helps user experience by allowing them to better understand the flow of your page. These tags also help bots understand what the overarching theme of a page is. In this respect, an optimized HTML Title Tag will help your SEO rankings in three different ways.
Best Practices for Writing HTML Titles
Follow these tips to create a title that will help your search rankings:
1. Only Have One Title Tag
Make sure that you only have one <title> tag in the code, and have it placed in the <head> section. The title will likely be echoed in H1 form in the body which is great, but ensure the official <title> is in the head. This will maximize the value of the HTML title. Using more than one will simply overwrite the previous tag, and won’t have any positive effects. If anything, the excess coding might hurt page speed and lower your ranking.
Most people won’t have to worry about having multiple HTML titles, but it is possible that some poorly made themes could have this issue. Check your theme if you aren’t sure by viewing your page source and search for <title>.
2. Include a Keyword Near the Front of the Title
The first keyword phrase is found to be the most important, followed by the second, and so on. Ensure your focus keyword(s) are as close to the beginning of your title as possible. Obviously, make sure the title makes sense. Don’t sacrifice proper syntax to put your keyword at the front of the title. This will make it less likely that people will click on your page when it’s viewed in search. Placing keywords at the front of your HTML Title may take some practice, but it will greatly improve your standing in search engines.
3. Site Branding at the End if at all
As previously mentioned, search engines view the first word in a title as being the most important. Your home page will likely be the landing page for most branded search traffic, so your business name shouldn’t be high priority. If your title is long and difficult to shorten, your site name can easily be removed without harming you. Still, consistency is nice to see. The gold standard that is used for site branding on a page’s title follows this basic formula: *Article Title* + *Separator* + *Branding*. See an example below using the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.
This formula is clear and concise, allowing search engines and actual people see what a page is about and where a page is from. The title is a little short, allowing for a few more words if necessary. Notice how the most important topic of the article (HTML Title Tags) comes right at the beginning of the title, and the site branding is not emphasized.
4. Don’t Exceed 65 characters
Keep your titles short and sweet. Descending value for each word means that longer titles will have nearly no value towards the end, so there is little point to having a long title. More importantly, search engines will only show a certain amount of characters. The exact amount varies by search engine, device, and screen resolution. There are some exceptions to this, and it will change with redesigns. Make sure that your entire title will appear in the search engine, as this will help get more clicks.
5. Don’t Have Duplicate Titles
Any website audit will give an immediate red flag to pages with duplicate titles. If two pages have the exact same name, at least one of them will be greatly devalued by search engines. If every page on your site is unique, it shouldn’t be an issue to have a unique title for each page. Varying your titles will expand your list of ranking keywords, and help your pages not have to compete with one another for the same keywords. TIt will also ensure that search engines don’t flag your site for duplicate content and spam, which could hurt the SEO rankings of your entire site.
6. Appear relevant and appeal to your audience
Put yourself in the shoes of someone browsing the internet, and ensure your title seems interesting enough to click on. For example: If you’re optimizing a blog post for the keyword “best gifts for mom,” add in indicators that your page is a complete list. People who search for gifts often go to several pages in order to get a complete list, so showing that your site has everything they need will certainly help them choose your website. The more your site is chosen over similarly ranked pages, the more the search engine will think your page is high quality. You can do this by adding in words such as “complete list” or “ultimate”. Another way to appeal to your audience is by showing your page is up to date. No one wants an article from 2013 with outdated information, so adding in the year will make your page stand out.
Think carefully about what people are searching to find your page, then create an HTML title that is unique and appeals to your audience. This is done mainly for the people, not the crawl bots, but increased traffic to your website will eventually help your rankings as well.
Using HTML Titles for SEO
An effective HTML title tag is incredibly important for your ranking in search. Having a page title that is concise, appealing, and contain a focus keyword helps the search engines know exactly what your page is about, and directly ties your page to that keyword in search. Because title tags appear in multiple locations they impact search by affecting on how many people click on your website, and by determining which part of a page is tagged with the <H1> header. These 6 best practices for writing HTML Titles should help your pages rank better in search and see a greater click through rate.
While having an effective HTML Title is an incredibly important SEO success factor, it is far from the only thing affecting your ranking in search. Find out what else you should do to get your site on the first page of search engines. For further help optimizing your site, request a competitive analysis to see how you stack up to your competition and how you can be the best in market.