What Are Title Tags and Do They Matter?
While often referred to as one, the title tag technically isn’t a meta tag, but it is an HTML tag that goes in the page’s
<head>. The only real difference between a title tag and a real meta tag is that title tags are required page elements according to the W3C. Meta tags are optional.
Title tags, as you could probably guess, define the title of the page. They are one of the most important on-page factors for SEO. Search engines rely heavily on title tags to interpret a page’s topic and determine what to expect from the page content.
Title tags are also used by browsers for tab and bookmark descriptions and by social media sites when you share a link. They are combined with meta descriptions by search engines to create the search snippet displayed in search results, and by social media platforms to display when sharing links.
How Do I Use Title Tags for SEO?
When used correctly, the title tag should look like this:
<title>This is the Page’s Title</title>
Pretty simple stuff. However, there are some guidelines you should follow to optimize your title tags for each page’s target keyword.
Keywords: Since it’s one of the most important SEO factors, it’s one of the most important places to use your target keywords. Search engines put more weight on words at the start of the title, so use keywords early. Best practice is to use one keyword per title, maybe two if they’re very closely related or one is your brand/company name. If you do use more than one keyword in a tag, the standard format is “main keyword - second keyword | third keyword”. When targeting keywords with local intent, it’s standard to use this format: “keyword | Company Name | Location”.
Length: The ideal length for page titles is between 50 and 60 characters (spaces included), with an absolute limit of 65 characters. Anything longer than that will get cut off in the results and will just display as an ellipsis (...). This technically isn’t a ranking signal but will make your search snippet (more on this in a minute) less attractive to users, which could result in a lower click-through rate (CTR). And that is a ranking signal.
Natural Language: You absolutely must use natural language when you write your title tags. Search engines have gotten really good at figuring out when you’re trying to trick or manipulate them into ranking higher. Using too many keywords, stuffing your titles full of keywords or repeating the same one over and over again in an attempt to rank higher will actually have the opposite effect. Take this title for example:
This page tried to stuff its title with several keywords to appear relevant to several different keywords related to buying watches. It ranks on the 21st page for “men’s luxury watches” on Google.
Unique: Since page titles are such strong hints to search engines regarding the page’s topic, every page needs to have its own title. Pages that have identical title tags are going to look like copies of each other, or at least similar enough to qualify as duplicate content.