HTML <title> tags are essential for optimization. Search engines use them for indexing purposes. Your site can only be included on search engine results pages (SERPs) with appropriate tags. Title tags provide a description of web pages so that search engines know how to categorize them. A website with no tags or with improperly formatted ones cannot be found by users who do not already have the site URL address.
Title tags often determine how successful your site is overall. They should result in conversions for your site. This means that some search engine users will become your customers. A simplified version of the process goes something like this:
Step 1 – you write <title> tag to describe web page
Step 2 – search engine indexes your web page
Step 3 – web page is ranked
Step 4 – title tag becomes clickable description on SERP
Step 5 – user conducts search using your keywords
Step 6 – your title tag appears on SERP
Step 7 – user clicks on it
Step 8 – user is redirected to your site
Step 9 – user makes a purchase
Step 10 – you get a conversion
Of course, this happens for your entire site and it is definitely more complicated and technical than presented. But you get the gist of it – the title tag is essential for conversion rates that involve new customers. Even returning customers may have to search for you if they failed to bookmark your site.
Because these are written in HTML code, non-techie website owners are intimidated by anything remotely resembling programming. Their typical response is to just ignore it. This is a mistake. There is no need to avoid title tags. The following tips can help you understand how to properly craft successful tags for your web pages.
1. Keep it Short
It is a good idea to keep title tags under 65 characters so that search engines will display the entire content on SERPs. You can actually go longer than that, but anything beyond the 65 characters will not be visible to users on some search engine sites. For this reason, when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), brevity is best. This requires you to put some thought in to the best way to describe your web page. Tags should be a combination of information and marketing for search engine users to find you. For example, a user may be looking for “vintage furniture” or they may be more specific, seeking “affordable vintage furniture.” If your site is an encyclopedia of vintage furniture, go with the former. But if you sell the furniture, the later may be more advantageous when included in your title tag description.
2. Use Keywords
Plan to incorporate keywords in just about everything you do that is related to SEO including HTML title tags. Develop your keyword set for your website overall and each page. Consider long tail keywords when creating your list. These are phrases of up to five words or so. Include one or two keywords in the title tag for each page. Use no more than three keywords in a tag. Place your most important keyword first. Try not to use the same keywords for multiple pages. Search engines may decide this duplicate content violates their guidelines and not allow all of your pages to be indexed for SERPs. And this can significantly limit your online reach.
3. Include Business Name
For whatever reason, this continues to be a point of confusion for site owners. To include or not to include their web site or business name into the title tag – that is the question. But it shouldn’t be the primary question anymore – the question to be asked is where to place your site name in the tag. Well established businesses with high name or brand recognition can include their business name near the beginning of the title tag. If you are just getting started, it is probably best to place it at the end. This is never a stand along option – build your complete title tag around your business name, never use your business name by itself for the title tag.
4. Beware of Stop Words and Punctuation
These do not necessarily harm your SEO strategy in any way. However, stop words are basically fillers that the search engines do not pick up when indexing. Examples are “a”, “an”, “and”, as well as “the” to name a few. Multiple online sites keep a running tally of stop words by search engine. Too many stop words can interfere with SERPs or accidently cause search engines to label a page as spam. Punctuation, including hyphens, can be filtered by search engines as well. While stop words and punctuation may be used to improve the readability of the title, it might be better to find a different way to right the text that minimizes these as much as possible. You only have so much space to get your message across. Make each word count!
5. Match to Page Content
As previously mentioned, avoid duplicating title tags which can affect search engine indexing. This, in turn, impacts your site ranking. It is better that each title tag accurately reflect the content of each corresponding page. This really is just common sense if you want traffic to be driven to your various pages. Don’t mix and match keywords here. If your web page is about “kitchen chairs”, the title tag should not focus on the broader category of “kitchen dinette sets”. The more pages you have indexed with original title tags, the greater your potential pool of customers will be.
6. Write for Customers, Spiders, and Bots
Compelling text is a good rule of thumb when writing for the web. And title tags are just that – content incorporated into code. Begin by identifying your keywords, then write your site content, and finally create your title tags based on your page content and incorporating keywords. Following this process in order insures you are writing for both audiences. Search engines use programs called robots and “spiders” to catalogue websites and gather information for indexing. Words are not truly static in this respect. Spiders make a decision about the quality of the writing and basically assign the web pages credibility points. Title tags can be responsible for up to 80% of your rank.
7. Incorporate Call to Action
Include a brief description of what customers can expect by visiting the web page associated with your title tag. Your title tag should have a clear message for search engines and site visitors. It needs to be more than a static description of your site. Tag content needs to be engaging to attract potential customers. When users see your title tag on SERPs, they should have a clear sense of what they will get by clicking through to your site.
8. Research Competitors
It can be useful to see how your competitors use title tags. The idea here is not to duplicate but rather see what they are not doing and try to incorporate that into your own tags. Figure out how you can best get visitors to click on your site in SERPs. Your goal is to get the search engines to rank you higher for multiple keywords so it can take some time to complete this research. Many free tools are available online to help you analyze the keywords used by your competitors.
9. Follow Guidelines & Best Practices
Search engines have protocols for what is and is not appropriate content and coding techniques. This includes strict requirements and general recommendations. Learn these for each search engine you are interested in obtaining a high rank with so you can create the best title tags for your site. Since these can change from time to time, it is important to stay informed by perusing SEO forums and authority websites on a regular basis. SEO experts are constantly learning new approaches that maximize site rankings and drive traffic to sites. This can include new ways of using title tags. Staying abreast of this information is necessary if you want to stay ahead of competitors.
10. Proceed with Caution
If you are blessed with a high ranking at the moment, don’t risk a drop by changing your title tags. Since these are your initial introductions to search engines, it is not worth getting a lower ranking by messing with your current tags. In other words, don’t fix it if it isn’t broken! This guide is intended more for new site owners so that they can build a successful site from the ground up. Or if you have already built your website but it is not attracting sufficient traffic or your ranking is too low, then you can test different title tags to see which perform best.
If you want high search engine rankings, you simply cannot ignore title tags. Since the tags are connected to the links on SERPs that visitors click on, improving your tags can improve your click through rate (CTR). And this is where you can increase your overall conversion rate. The end goal of all SEO is conversions.