Title Tag Optimization – SEO 101

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What are title tags?

The title tag is one of the most basic and important elements of SEO. Even if you didn’t know what title tags were before you stumbled across this article, you are bound to have seen it on search engines and on the tabs of your browser.

When you type a keyword on Google or any other such search engine, the search returns results like the one shown in the image below. The text that you find in blue here are actually the title text of different webpages.

A picture highlighting the title tags in the search engine results page

They also appear on the tabs of browsers such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

A picture highlighting the title tags in a browser tab

In addition to this, the title tag is often fetched by social media sites such as Facebook while sharing content.

A picture showing how title tags appear when sharing on Facebook

In a nutshell, title tags help both search engines, websites and users understand what the webpage is about.

How do I define the title tag of a webpage?

If you’re designing the webpage using HTML, the title tag is one of the first things you’ll focus on. For example, the page from the last image will have the title tag as follows in the HTML code.

<title>Porsche 718 Boxster Models - Porsche USA</title>

However, if you’re using a CMS like WordPress, it’s much easier to get this done. All you need to do is type in the title in the box beneath the “Add New Page” section.

A screenshot of title tag in a WordPress page
Creating the title tag for a WordPress page

Why are title tags important?

From an SEO perspective, title tags play a major role in matching your webpages to keywords in searches and helping them rank. The title tag and the meta description are indexed by search engine crawlers and they are displayed on the SERP when a relevant search is made, as we saw in the first image.

Apart from this, they give the users a brief and clear idea of what the webpage will offer them. Going back to the example that we cited above, when a user sees ‘Porsche 718 Boxster Models – Porsche USA‘, the user immediately knows that it is a webpage containing variants of the car named 718 Boxster, like The New 718 Boxster and 718 Boxster S, different specs for that model of the car and so on.

How do you optimize your title tags?

#1 Character Count

If the title tag is too long, it gets cut off when being displayed on the search engine results. This is a common occurence, and one that should be avoided.

A picture where Google cuts off the title tag of a webpage and adds an ellipsis (...) to show that there's more text

The optimal length of the title tag is widely agreed upon as less than 50 characters. It is to note that there is no exact count for the number of letters one can use in title tags.

This is mainly due to two reasons:

  1. Different search engines have different limits for title tags. You can see that Yahoo, Google, and Baidu cut off the title tag for the same page at different character limits in the example below (blank space counts as one character too).
    Pictures showing different search engines trimming the title text at different characters
    Yahoo
    Pictures showing different search engines trimming the title text at different characters
    Baidu

    Pictures showing different search engines trimming the title text at different characters
    Google
  2. Title tags with a lot of “w” or “m” occupy much more size (in terms of pixels) than ones with a lot of “l” or “i” in them. For instance, a title tag that has “wmwmwm..” will get cut off sooner than one that has “lillillill..”, despite the latter having more characters in it.

#2 Title Tag Format

It is considered to be a good practice to make sure that the keywords that you’re trying to show up on search engines for (trying to “rank” for, in other words) appear within the first 20 characters of the title tag. This is said to drive people to recognize your webpage as more relevant to what they are searching for.

Common mistakes to avoid when optimizing your title tags

#1 Keyword Stuffing

Search engines, especially the bigger ones like Google, will penalize you if your title tags are over-optimized for keywords. Keeping it simple and straightforward helps when it comes to SEO.

#2 Special Characters

Search engines tend to ignore punctuations, symbols and other such special characters while indexing webpages. Avoiding the usage of these directly helps in the SEO of the webpage.

How does the optimal title tag look?

The anatomy of the optimal title text is as follows:

  1. Less than 60 characters in length
  2. Focus keyword (keyword that you’re trying to rank for) appears exactly once
  3. Separate phrases using hyphens (-) or pipe symbols (|)
  4. Add numbers and power keywords such as, “Best”, or “Unbelievable”.

Happy SEO-ing!

Read more about SEO and local SEO here:

30 Common Local SEO Problems & How to Fix Them

85 Marketing Maestros Share Their SEO Tips and Tools

A printable Local SEO Checklist for all your local SEO needs!

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