Page titles are often given short shrift when writing website pages and blog posts, but taking a little time to get these short titles just right can have a big impact on a page's success. In a recent survey by Databox, SEO experts named page titles a more important ranking factor than the content of the page itself.
A good SEO title needs to be optimized for users as well as for Google. Whether it's through a search engine or social media, your page titles are what people see first – so you need to make the right impression.
What are page titles?
The first thing to know is that page titles and headlines are different.
- Page titles (also called meta titles or title tags) appear in search results, social media posts and browser tabs when the page is opened, but they don't appear as content on the page itself.
- Headlines (H1 headings in HTML) are the main title on the page itself.
These two types of titles may use the same or similar wording, but they're usually a little different, as they serve different functions.
- H1 headings are written for users who are already on your website.
- Page titles need to tell search engines and users what a page is about and entice people to click.
Why are SEO titles important?
If you don't enter a page title properly in your content management system (CMS), Google will normally use the existing headline of the page in search results. This could still drive traffic to your site, but it won't be as successful as an SEO optimized page title.
For example, if you're an optician writing a service page for laser eye treatment, the H1 heading users select from your website menu may be:
A good SEO page title that gives more information to Google and users would be:
- Laser Eye Surgery [Location] | LASIK - [Your Practice Name]
Keep reading to find out why and how to optimize titles for every page on your website.
How to write SEO title tags
Page titles can be entered manually in the header of the page using HTML, but your CMS should have a separate field for titles that's easy to find.
We've broken down the 7 steps you should follow to write good SEO page titles that convert.
1. Titles should be unique and relevant
Duplicate content harms on-page SEO. Make sure every page on your site has a unique title to differentiate it. This should also give search engines and users an accurate idea of what the page is about.
Also try to avoid duplicating titles used on other websites. While this isn't always possible, one easy way to set your pages apart is to include your brand name in the titles (more on this later).
2. Use 65 characters or less
One of the most common mistakes of page titles is making them too long. This often happens when no separate title is assigned and Google uses the page header, which isn't optimized for search results.
Search engines and social platforms only display a certain number of characters for page titles before cutting them off. This cut-off point varies, as some characters take up more space than others, but a good rule of thumb is to aim for less than 65 characters.
Sticking to this length means users should see your title exactly as you type it. Complete titles also make you look more professional.
3. Start with your target keywords
When every word counts, you need to make sure you're including the most important keywords you want the page to rank for, without stuffing repetitive or similar terms that could see your site punished.
Eye tracking research has shown that people tend to scan the first words of titles, especially on mobile, so this is where you should put the keywords you want them to see. Doing this also means there's less chance of a vital word being cut off if you go over the recommended length.
4. Make it persuasive
Writing page titles is a careful balancing act between writing for search engine algorithms and for humans.
When you're writing a short title that begins with keywords, you also need to make sure it flows well and entices the reader to click with persuasive language – adding words such as 'cheap,' 'best,' 'easy,' 'latest,' '2020' or other relevant terms.
Often, this is as simple as rearranging a phrase so the keywords are loaded at the front. You can see this in the title of this blog post – rather than 'How to Write a Good Page Title for SEO in 2020,' we rearranged it to 'SEO Titles 2020: How to Write a Good Page Title.' Breaking the title up makes it less of a mouthful and it's easier to get the gist of the page at first glance.
5. Use title case
Writing your titles in title case – capitalizing words correctly – can increase click-through rates (CTR). That's because capitalized titles are more eye-catching and seem more authoritative.
This depends on your industry and brand personality though, as some brands can benefit from the friendlier approach of sentence case – only capitalizing the first word and proper names.
Writing in title case doesn't mean capitalizing every single word, as some words (such as 'the,' 'and' and 'or') shouldn't be capitalized unless they come at the start of a sentence. You can check your titles before publishing using tools such as TitleCase.com.
6. Include your brand name at the end
With space at a premium, the last thing you want is more words eating up the character count. But adding your business name to the end of page titles (if it fits) gives users a good indication of what your site is about.
It can also build familiarity, and it's an easy way to set your titles apart from those of similar pages from competitors.
Separate your brand name from the page topic using connectors such as a hyphen ('-') or bar ('|'). Put it at the end in case the title is snipped by Google, so you won't lose the more important keywords.
7. Include your location
Finally, if you're targeting customers in your local area, make sure you mention your location in page titles. This should be combined with keywords – e.g. Laser Eye Surgery Sydney CBD – to give a boost to your local SEO.
For more tips about optimizing your pages for search engines and users, read our 10 ways to greatly improve your website performance.
For more general marketing tips, follow the Limecube blog.