When it comes to SEO, you never stop learning. SEO changes constantly, and there are thousands of factors and sub-factors that influence the success of your SEO efforts. There’s always a new technique that everyone is trying out, and discussions about the future impact of any pending Google updates.
Given this reality, it’s easy to get the impression that SEO is in a constant state of flux; that what matters today will be irrelevant tomorrow. There’s some sense in this kind of thinking. After all, old-school SEO techniques such as inserting regions into keywords and keyword stuffing have fallen out of style. However, while SEO will always have some variance, there are some things that are eternal— and today, we’re going to focus on one specific, necessary content of your strategy: your title tags.
Superficially, it seems as if your title tags don’t have a huge amount to offer in terms of SEO. They’re small, unimportant aspects, surely? How could something that tends to run between 50 and 60 characters really be so important?
Well, it turns out, they are. Title tags aren’t the be-all and end-all of SEO, but they are a vital component that you have to be certain you’re getting right. So, let’s dive right on into the subject. By the time you’ve finished reading this piece, you’ll know how to create effortlessly brilliant title tags that can give your SEO efforts a major boost.
A quick overview of what title tags are
Before we proceed, let’s establish what a title tag actually is:
- A title tag — <title> — is placed within the <head> section of your website.
- It is primarily used to provide a short description, to both bots and humans, of what the page is about.
- For example, a potential title tag for this page would be: Why Is The Title Tag Valuable? — this explains what is on the page, and both humans and crawl bots would know what to expect.
- The title tag is not visible to users. It is only visible in search engine results or if the page is shared on social media.
Why is the title tag valuable?
The text within the title tag is, essentially, your introduction to every search engine bot. It is the first thing they will notice— and we all know how good first impressions have to be, don’t we?
- You can use keywords in your title tags to help increase your optimization right from the moment a page is “introduced” to a search engine.
- Title tags also help to improve the user experience.
Essentially, it’s possible to create a page without a title tag, but you’re making your life incredibly difficult if you do. For a well-rounded SEO strategy, a proper use of title tags is an absolute essential— they really are too important to overlook.
How to create SEO and audience-friendly title tags?
So, now you know the importance of title tags, we need to turn our attention to ensuring you can create them for yourself.
Firstly, let’s look at whether there’s a difference in title tag usage for SEO and for your users. Realistically, there isn’t. You should be aiming to craft a title tag that is succinct, instructive, and useful. If you do this well, then your tag will work for both users and search engine bots. So if you’re worried you can only satisfy one or the other with your title tags, don’t be; a good title tag will naturally encompass both.
Secondly, you’ll need to know how to create your title tag. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find the title tag in your SEO plugin. Yoast SEO, for example, just calls the relevant section the “SEO title”. If you’re not sure where to find the relevant section in your SEO plugin, then ask the plugin developers for further guidance; but in most cases, it should be relatively straightforward.
If you’re not using a plugin for your SEO, then your title tag is found in the <head> section of the page. If it isn’t there, then you can insert it yourself between the head tags, for example:
<title>This Is Where Your Title Would Be</title>
Now you know where your title needs to go, we can move onto the big question…
How to properly write a title tag?
In some ways, writing a title tag is entirely up to you— but if you’re looking to achieve the best possible results for both users for SEO purposes, there are a few golden rules to keep in mind:
- There are many different opinions on the preferred lengths of title tags, but anything between 50 and 70 characters should be sufficient.
- Keywords first. You should try to incorporate keywords for the page into the tag and, ideally, those keywords will be first.
- Use separators, such as vertical bars, when composing your title tag. Separators both enhance readability in general, and particularly if you are trying to rank for an awkward keyword. For example, “best toaster 20 or less” is never going to integrate particularly well into a sentence, but it looks great if divided with separators. For example: “Best Toaster 20 Or Less | Which One Should You Buy?”.
- Your title tag should be accurate. There’s no point using a title tag that isn’t going to actually describe what’s on the page; bots, and users, will soon notice the discrepancy. If you’re tempted to use a title tag saying “free money for everyone who clicks on this page!” in an effort to promote the rest of your content: don’t. Your title tag has to be an accurate summation of what’s on the page.
- Keep your words minimal, and especially limit connecting words. Stark statements work best for title tags.
- Include the name of your brand for easier identification and improve SEO.
- Don’t write duplicate title tags across your site.
The above list is a sound guide to writing good title tags that should improve your SEO performance, but there’s one area that needs further investigation— the final point. Duplicate title tags are the source of no small amount of confusion, so let’s dive deeper into this subject to see what the issue really entails.
What does Google consider a ‘duplicate title tag’?
It’s very easy for your site to develop a number of pages that are similar to one another, and especially if you don’t deliberately change the default title tag. Duplicate title tags are unpopular with Google, and could have a negative impact on your ability to generate sound returns from your SEO efforts.
However, this issue is the source of much confusion. How alike is too alike? What’s the difference between similar and duplication? Just how original do your title tags have to be from one another? Well, it’s actually quite tough to say. Google doesn’t really talk about the ins and outs of their algorithm, so most of this kind of knowledge comes from practice, experimentation, and general consensus.
For the most part, most SEO experts consider a duplicate title tag to only be an issue if it’s an exact word-for-word duplicate. So let’s use the example: “My Example Title Tag | What Do Title Tags Do?”.
- A duplicate of the above would be: “My Example Title Tag | What Do Title Tags Do?”
- An example of an acceptable title tag: “What Do Title Tags Do On A Page? | Title Tag Examples”.
Of the latter, the wording is similar, but it’s different enough— probably. There’s no way of knowing 100% with Google, but provided there is some difference, you should be able to avoid a demotion due to duplicate title tags. If the content was then very different, or optimised for different words, you shouldn’t have an issue.
However, there is another factor to consider here: why would you want to have two pages with very similar title tags, so close to one another you’re concerned they will be considered duplicates? Your title tag is a vital function of your page, so it makes far more sense to stop worrying about duplicates and ensure that every page has its own, unique title tag. If you’re creating identical content that requires similar title tags, this isn’t really a sound strategy that is going to deliver results. Ultimately, when it comes to SEO, being unique is perhaps the single most important attribute of your entire strategy.
Having read through the above, you should be all clued up on the world of title tags and have a better idea as to how to create them for your own site. Get them right, and you’ll soon see your SEO results improving dramatically.