Title tags are widely regarded as the single most important element in on-page SEO. Page titles are where both search engines and human readers look first, and they play a big role in determining whether someone will actually visit your page.
To get the most from your title tags, you have to understand what they are and the different ways they are used.
What is a Title Tag?
Technically speaking, a title tag is a basic piece of HTML code. In the eyes of a web browser or search engine, the page title is whatever gets placed between the twin "<title>" and "</title>" indicators.To human readers, that page title is potentially displayed in four places:
- The heading of the browser window or tab. As people open more windows or tabs, the title tag is what differentiates between the open pages.
- Bookmarks. If someone bookmarks your page, the title tag is the default (though editable) name of the bookmark.
- Search engine results. The title tag is displayed as the link on search engine results pages, followed by a short snippet of text from the page.
- Social media shares. If someone posts a link to your page on Facebook or Google+, the title and snippet appear much as they do in search engine results.
From that list, you can see the main reason why title tags are so important: they are the entryway into your page. They are the front door or the curbside appeal. They have a big impact on whether or not someone actually visits your page when it appears in their search results or news feed.
How to Write Great Title Tags
So how do you improve upon this prime piece of online real estate? Below are some broad guidelines for writing great title tags.
- Don't make it too long. Note that we didn't say "keep it short"; there is a difference. A title tag is too long if the words do not all fit on the single line allowed by search engines. We used to recommend it be no more than Google's 70-character limit, but Google no longer sticks to that limit. It could be more or less characters, depending on how much space each character takes up. For example, a capital "W" is more than three times as wide as a lower-case "l."
- Use keywords at the beginning of the title. Keywords are important because that is what people are looking for; putting them at the beginning of the title is important because that is the first (and for skimmers, the only) place they look. Since Google places the searched-for terms in bold, this will help make your title tag stand out. Plus, a crowded collection of browser tabs will only display the first few words (or characters) of the title.
- Make it compelling. This is the most important factor and the most difficult to accomplish. "Compelling" basically means that the reader will want to click on it. That could mean clearly stating what the page is about, for people who are looking for that information. Or, it could mean piquing curiosity or being entertaining, which may particularly be helpful when it is shared on social media. The exact approach depends on your goal and your target audience, but the ideal title tags will be both clear and intriguing.
Optimizing your title tags can be a challenge, and it takes a lot more effort on a per-word basis than writing the webpage itself. But because of the title's importance, it is a task that is well-worth the time and energy you put in.
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