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Most people who have studied SEO know that content quality is crucial, and having lots of places to get seen and methods of promotion is equally important. However, there is another massively influential factor in SEO: the basic presentation and marketing of content, including the perfect title for a webpage to get the most visitors possible. After all, what could be more influential on peoples’ first impressions of your website and business?

You could have amazing text content and visuals, good formatting, and even a helpful meta, but with an ineffective title or a tag that doesn’t make full use of the title, very few people are likely to give your search result a chance when it shows up. Over time, this will hurt its chance of showing up at all.

Title tags are one of the most crucial elements of website search promotion, but they’re also one of the most abstract, making it difficult to offer reliable advice regarding their use. It often comes down to hiring trusted industry experts or experimenting on your own. Whichever route you choose, get ready to learn everything you’ll need to know about title tags, plus tips on how to make great webpage titles.

What Is a Title Tag?

“Title tag” is the term used for the title that appears on search engine results pages and other online indexes. In essence, the title tag is what a page is called by the rest of the internet.

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Here we see CopyPress’s main site at the top of a Google search for that exact name. The clickable “CopyPress” part is the title tag. When you set a title tag, you’re deciding what that main clickable part says. Since this is just a general homepage, the title tag is set to “CopyPress,” plain and simple.

 

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If all else fails, just remember: when someone finds your site in search engines like Google, the part they click to visit the page is the title tag. You can change it to whatever you want, which gives savvy optimizers some extra ways to get more traffic and higher rankings on relevant pages.

Why Title Tags Are Important

Some marketers wonder why they aren’t getting traffic but then, upon closer inspection, find out their landing pages are listed in Google as something no one would ever search, such as the raw URL address. That would be like if readers were browsing a library and your single book, on one of the shelves, had nothing but its serial number on the cover. Without a good title, it’s unlikely anyone will pick up your book — or, in this case, click on your site.

Who Are Title Tags Really For?

A good title tag is designed to spark the interest of potential visitors and drive them to visit your site. A great title tag caters to the most fitting visitor for the content, trying to attract them in particular. You’ll have to identify that optimal customer, consider your experience with past customers, and try to learn more about what they want or need.

If you remember the old search engine Ask Jeeves (still around now as just Ask), that image of a butler answering your questions is the perfect way to understand search optimization. Search users come with a question or need. They are impatient for answers, but they’re also picky and expect a bit of class. Even if a title seems to be appropriate for your ideal customer’s most relevant needs, make sure you don’t scare them off with a title that makes you seem less trustworthy, too surface-level, or lacking in SEO potential.

Title Tags Thought Experiment

Imagine there is a lawn mowing service company somewhere in New York City, and they launch their own website. This site’s main page might have a title at the top that says “We Mow Grass Like Nobody Else!” By default, that is also the title tag. Whenever their main page shows up in Google or other places, that will be the clickable title.

However, the title tag doesn’t have to be “We Mow Grass Like Nobody Else!” It could be something else. In fact, the majority of their competition is likely using separately defined title tags that are much more powerful from an SEO standpoint. Those competing sites are likely to rank higher because they have done more work to ensure they stand out in a good way to search engines and users.

In the case of our lawn mowing company, their customers may love the webpage and the title. If you asked them about it, they would probably tell you that it’s all terrific. Unfortunately, positive customer feedback doesn’t always correlate with good SEO practices. Any site can benefit from an optimized, tested title tag.

If it isn’t replaced, “We Mow Grass Like Nobody Else!” will inevitably be beaten out by websites that fulfill certain SEO standards, such as:

  • Mentioning the location (Grass Mowing in NYC).
  • Differentiating their service (Pesticide-Free Lawn Care | NYC).
  • Inspiring curiosity or offering information (How Much Should Grass Mowing in NYC Cost?).
  • Branding with the business’s name (Grass Mowing in NYC – Ronald’s Royal Lawn Care).
  • Being more specific about benefits (Eco-Friendly Grass Mowing in NYC).

Often, the weaknesses in a title can be discovered through common-sense questions. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer or, better yet, ask real customers. For instance, with the title “We Mow Lawns Like Nobody Else!” it’s great that “we” are so good at lawn mowing, but customers won’t know who “we” are. The title leaves out basic information like what the company’s name is and where they are located.

Think about the kind of titles that show up when you search for something. Certain ones stand out to you more easily. You click on them because they seem to have exactly the information you need. That is the concept and purpose behind titles and, consequently, title tags.

Title Tags and Web Design

If you know a little about HTML, programming, or web design, you might have heard “title tag” used in a context that sounded different from what we’ve covered so far. To clarify, in web design and programming, wrapping a piece of text in a tag can do all kinds of things, such as designating where a paragraph starts and ends so that text can be cleanly separated or determining the formatting of text.

Languages like HTML have tags for titles, such as “Title of the page.” That is all title tags really are. It’s just that despite their simplicity, there’s a lot of room to get them right or wrong. After all, a clickable title is the face of your webpage for the vast majority of organic visitors.

How Long Should a Title Tag Be?

On average, title tags tend to span no more than 60 characters. If they are any longer than that, it’s possible for parts to get cut off, which no online marketer should allow.

Most tags you’ll see in Google tend to be between 45 to 60 characters, but don’t force it. Keep in mind, that average takes into account all webpages, from blog articles to e-commerce stores and unimportant pages that are only one or two words long. If you’re serious about SEO, 55 to 60 is probably an optimal goal for word economy,

What Improved Title Tags Can Do for Your Site

Imagine if instead of search engines like Google existing, the internet was like one enormous phonebook. It would have just as much information available, but it would also be completely impractical and unusable. Fortunately, nobody has to hunt for websites by manually going through an index. Search engines both index and deliver results based on whatever the user asks for. Their algorithms can instantly scoop up only relevant sites and organize the results by quality.

A webpage’s title tag is like a movie theater poster; it should encourage people learn and see more, to stop scrolling and settle on your page. The old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is more about lamenting how people behave rather than stating a fact. People tend to judge things, especially new things, by their covers, titles, or other immediate impressions.

Any improvements you can make to your site’s first impression should not be neglected. If you have been building your marketing presence online for a while, consider how many webpages you have that you’d like to see more traffic to — pages that might stand to gain from improvements to their title tags. For a campaign that has been consistently putting out pages over a period of several months or more, the effect of improving such a significant SEO factor on all that content can lead to staggering increases in traffic and growth.

What Is the Difference Between Title Tags and H1s?

It can be difficult for many new website owners to distinguish between H1s and title tags, and they often get lumped together. To quickly explain: H1 tags, or H1s, are simply one of several classes of heading tags in HTML, specifically the largest size: Heading 1. Heading 2 is smaller, followed by Heading 3, and so on.

Generally, H1 tags are placed on a webpage once, at the top of the content, around the first heading you see (on a well-structured page, at least). They could be used in other places on a page, too, but it generally isn’t beneficial or logical to do so. Basically, H1s are on-page titles.

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The above image shows a situation where a title tag is an exact match with the page’s actual H1 title. It’s been said that this could be helpful for SEO, though that assertion has been the subject of some debate. This strategy mostly applies when a title can be one clean, newspaper-like line that is short enough to be an optimal title tag. However, that situation is uncommon, and online marketers in different businesses and brands will often have different types of landing pages. In other words, while it is likely true that exact matching works, you shouldn’t go out of your way to do it.

Since there’s no fear of getting cut off, main H1 titles are usually longer than their title tags. They have free reign to be longer than 60 characters, so they can take a chance to breathe out a longer coherent thought. An H1 title could even be a question or statement building off what the title tag said, which is another advantage that is lost if the two are exactly the same.

In a search engine’s eyes, these two elements being very similar is probably a bonus. It’s unclear, though, how much better “identical” is than “similar.” This is one of the key reasons SEO discussions might involve comparing title tags and H1s. In the end, any discussion of H1 titles is just one idea of many to improve your traffic numbers. The title tag gets seen first, so a strong title tag should always be your top priority.

Technical Tips for Effective Title Tags

Once you get the basics and know for a fact that your titles and tags are all at least present and not terrible, it’s time to go into greater detail on the hard part: competing against other website owners. Crafting the best possible title tags involves artistry, practical restraints, and some SEO tech wizardry. Start with these tips:

  • Don’t promise something you can’t deliver. Make sure that your title tag accurately describes the purpose and benefits of visiting your site and your content. More research goes into this step than you might expect. Ask real customers their feelings and try to eliminate any incorrect assumptions or unwanted associations based on what they tell you.
  • Target the most relevant, meaningful terms. Don’t try more than a few keywords per page, and don’t try to force a seemingly good keyword into your title if it doesn’t make sense. Just keeping in mind the words “relevant” and “meaningful” will go a long way in the development of competitive content.
  • Make it eye-catching. Title tags are your page’s first impression to any internet user. Make sure your title tags stand out in a way that attracts the user’s attention at first glance. Again, strive for relevant and meaningful first.
  • Alternate keyword placements. Yes, keyword placement and order do matter. Earlier keywords are considered more representative of what your site is about. If a good keyword is at the end of your title, try rewording so that it fits at the beginning.
  • Aim for keyword matching. Have you noticed that when you search something, any instances of text in the displayed snippets and descriptions that contain one or more of your keywords, especially long partial matches, are bolded? This can be used to your advantage, too. In fact, targeting rich snippets through keyword matching is one of the most valuable SEO techniques.

How to Rank #1 With the Right Title Tag

SEO has some interesting parallels with fitness in that you’re likely to get the best results through consistency and a targeted strategy. By following the guidelines below, you can be confident that your title tags are helping your already competitive, well-ranking site beat the last few competitors to the precious top spot.

1. Regular Keyword Research

There is no point in continuing an online marketing campaign without also continuing your keyword research. If your title tag is optimized with the right keywords, it can do wonders for your page’s search engine optimization, without you having to be as forceful or awkward.

Before you sit down to publish any new content, which often means coming up with new ideas (and often titles), make sure to do some deep keyword research to determine if another, similar idea might be even better in terms of optimization potential. Plenty of tools, like SEMrush, have everything you need for research and analytics.

2. Length and Word Economy Precision

Don’t forget, title tags above 60 characters might end up truncated. Sometimes it helps to try alternate versions of the same basic tag idea, just to get different characters that add up to a shorter horizontal length. Another tip is not to use capital letters in most cases, as they eat up more space.

Like anything in high-competition marketing, there’s a balance between following the trends that work and being different. For instance, if every competing tag for the keywords that matter to you uses all 60 or nearly 60 characters, you could go a little on the shorter end to stand out.

3. Consider Lending Some Space to Your Branding

The point of getting seen is people knowing about you. It’s not just about online visibility to strangers who happen to be good potential fans or customers; you should also be encouraging a movement, a vocal audience on social media or similar platforms.

There should be a number of people who regularly search your site or brand’s name every month, as you grow. They’re trying to discover you in a more direct way, which means you have the opportunity to try and lead them to pages designed specifically for them and their situation. This can also help businesses better monetize and build connections with returning visitors.

4. Use Intense Language

Action words like “get,” “learn,” “boost,” “grab,” “choose,” and “win” can help entice users to click on a webpage. As long as they’re fitting and do not come across as fake, intense language will help. Similarly, try to use active instead of passive voice and aim for the cleanest, most concise possible explanation of an idea.

It often helps to study your own browsing habits for a few minutes when you have some free time. Or you could look through your browser history. What kind of titles led you to click on them? Do you notice any similarities that explain why some titles appeal to you while others don’t?

5. Provide Value to Users

Search engines pride themselves on providing a satisfying, helpful service to users. They never want to send disappointing results to someone. To avoid this, they encourage website owners to maximize the qualities that are most likely to make their users happy.

Sometimes everything else might be right, and it seems like there’s nothing else to tweak for a higher ranking, but then you look at the search results page you’re struggling to get to the top of and realize one last detail you could tweak. You might discover a new potential angle, something the other title tags haven’t tried doing that would provide more value. That experiment can make the difference between spot three and spot one.

Businesses and other website owners seeking results have to make clever use of proper title tag practices. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea to learn, which is why it’s often a service handled by others, but the more you learn and try things out, the better your chances of success.

Once you understand the basics of SEO, it’s all about practical implementation. Fortunately, effective SEO optimizations may not involve as much helpless hustling as you feared. You may find that all of your competition seems to be clueless about any of the information above, giving you a massive advantage after only a brief but carefully planned period of effective web marketing. It all depends on your goals and your brand.

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