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Title tags are a relatively small side of content marketing and SEO, but they have an echoing effect on many parts of your website visibility. If you’re not clear on what title tags are or why they deserve more attention, take a look below. You’ll also see some of the recent changes that have made title tags important, as well as some guidelines for writing high-performing titles.
What Is a Title Tag?
Put simply, a title tag is an element of HTML coding that designates a piece of text as the “Title” of whatever page it’s on. Some familiarity with HTML might be helpful to picture how title tags work, but if you’ve ever changed a piece of text’s format to something like a heading or title, you’ve already seen what they essentially do.
As an exercise, Google any sort of general term, anything at all that interests you. You’ll probably notice that the first few results, meaning the sites that rank highest on Google, probably have some sort of clean title that makes sense and inspires you to click on that result. This is the work of a business or designer who understands the value of presenting a good page title in search engines. Both Google and passing traffic contribute to those sort of titles ranking better.
Where Do Title Tags Show Up?
The most common and obvious place a title tag appears in is search engine result pages, such as a Google search. They are the blue links you have to actually click to visit the site normally. Title tags also appear on the tabs of an internet browser, to remind people of what they’re looking at. You’ve likely seen them on social media, too, because any post with a link will draw the tag data and use that as a headline for the post’s content.
If you don’t have any sort of title tags for your webpage, you’ll just have a messy URL in these places, which will make your content appear less professional or appealing. In the same way, a fantastic title tag that helps rank a webpage is a must for any business attempting content marketing and SEO.
Title tags usually include important, attractive keywords to draw in relevant traffic, with the business or brand name at the end of the text. In a moment, we’ll discuss how to actually write the best title tag possible for your SEO-focused web pages, but for now, let’s discuss the big change to Google that has made page titles more important than ever.
Google’s Image Search Update
Image via Flickr by bionicteaching
Google has recently added title tags to their results in mobile image searches, making pictures that much more effective at drawing a reader’s attention and more malleable within the algorithms. For example, say a business selling high-quality writing pens has some nice images of their products within their website content. With title tags for these on pages that include keywords potential customers might use, people can find pictures of the business’s products.
These people, based on the keywords they chose, will be likely to do business with them, compared to people happening across the images through other factors, such as similarity to other images. Put more simply: the addition of title tags to Google image searches makes it easier to show images to people who would be the most interested in doing business with you. That said, the tags for each picture consist of the page title, so check to see the relevancy of your images with those pages. You may want to mix up your content strategy a little.
Considering the pen example once more, if a high-quality image of one pen is used on a page with the title “Why Your Desk Needs a Great Pen | GreatPensInk,” that text will not feel as appropriate or natural to an image searcher as something like “Excellent Pens for Entrepreneurs | GreatPensInk.” You may not have to completely change every title and the content within, however. Sometimes cleverly shifting images around to more appropriately titled pieces of website content will let you take advantage of this change.
How to Make a Great Title Tag
The actual HTML coding process of making a title tag is extremely simple and not relevant in today’s super-simplified web design world. Instead, when you think about making a title tag, what you should really be thinking is how to make a great title that can also be used as a powerful SEO beacon.
The ideal, though not mandatory, title tag format is as follows: first, you have the most important keyword that you want that page to rank for. Second, you add a dash or other separating character surrounded by a space on either side. Third, you add your second most important keyword. Then you add a straight vertical line character, or “|”, with a space on either side. Then you finish with your business or brand name. Type any topic you want into Google, and you’ll see results that follow this format — because it looks professional and pleases Google’s bots.
You could also try other formats, such as many smaller keywords separated by commas, or one especially long-tail keyword. The important thing is to have the vertical line and your brand name, for the sake of recognition by human eyes and Google’s algorithm. Whatever you choose, be flexible and experiment if you think of something better. Also, keep the tag at 60 characters or less, and the vast majority of un-zoomed screens and devices should be able to read the entire thing properly. You could go longer, but that may be less effective for mobile traffic and other small-screen users.
Title tags are a way to help your awesome content reach as many people as possible, creating more brand recognition, sharing, gratitude, and sales. For the sake of both regular result pages, image searches, social media campaigns, and overall user-friendliness, a good title is as important as the content it introduces. Spend time perfecting your titles, ideally coming up with great content titles before actually assigning work to your team. You will improve your visits, reduce bounce rates, and add up to more conversions.