A page title is the title tag that tells a search engine like Google what the title of your web page is.
However, a “title tag” is distinct from the “H1” of a page. Your web page can have an H1 that’s different from the title tag, though they’re often the same by default unless changed in the HTML header of the page.
For example, an article title is your H1. If you had a creative idea for an article title, but wanted Google to index a title tag that’s more likely to get clicked, you could edit the title tag to be different from the H1.
When you type in a query on Google, title tags are the titles you see on the search engine results page (SERP).
So, why do you have to keep SEO in mind when you’re writing a page title?
The main reason is because your page title (and other meta tags) signal to the search engine what your page is about. Your page title helps search engine’s determine if your web page satisfies search intent and answers a user’s question.
Now, you might be wondering, “How can I get started?” Below, let’s review the best practices to keep in mind when writing SEO page titles.
Every page on your site should have a specific purpose. Think about the page in front of you, and try to describe it.
If you’re using “and” to combine multiple thoughts on this page, it’s time to make some new pages.
When writing the titles for each of these pages, keep the specifics of the page in mind. If this is a page just about “toasters”, the title should include your keywords centered around “toasters”, and not a more generic keyword phrase like “kitchen appliances.”
Just like every page title should be specific to each page, you should also make sure that each page title is unique across your entire site.
This helps prevent traffic cannibalization, which is when two pages from the same domain are ranking for the same keyword, and therefore stealing traffic from each other. With unique page titles, you’re less likely to create pages that Google believes are serving the same keywords.
If you’re following the first rule and making sure that every page is laser-focused on a single topic, it should be extremely easy to also make sure that each page title is unique.
When you’re looking at a search engine results page, there’s only three things that appear for a visitor – the page title, the page description (bonus points if you’ve got a unique and targeted meta description), and your page’s URL.
Try and treat your page titles like the titles for your blog posts, and make them compelling.
In the example below, HubSpot used a unique and compelling title to tell user’s that the CRM software is free and compatible with small and enterprise businesses.
Your page titles shouldn’t include multiple variations of similar keyword phrases.
A great example of a bad page title is “Toaster, toaster oven, kitchen toaster, college toaster, 8 slice toaster, bagel toaster | Chris’ Toaster Emporium”.
Titles like this promote worst practices and often lead to having the same page titles used across most (if not all) of the pages in your site.
Plus, it doesn’t help user’s understand what’s on the page.
Google will cut your title off around 70 characters, and you’ll be left with a set of ellipses at the end of the title – and everything you’ve written above the 70 character limit is essentially negated.
In the example below, the blog post title was too long and the user is left unsure of what’s on the page.
In most cases, your website will already rank high for your company name.
Leverage the fact that search engines allocate more weight to the words that appear at the beginning of a page title, and form your titles using your keyword phrases first, and then your company name.
Keep in mind that CMS’s will sometimes add your company name in the front by default. As a content creator, you’ll need to remove them from the HTML header field if you don’t want it to show up on Google.
While you don’t want to stuff your page titles with keywords, it’s still a good idea to include your primary keyword.
If you can, putting it near the front can help search engine’s and user’s determine what your page is about quickly.
If you can’t include your primary keyword, you should try to include some type of variation of your keyword that satisfies search intent.
At the end of the day, your content should be written for the reader, not for the search engine. User experience is far more important than a search engine.
While writing titles can be hard, it doesn’t have to be. Keep these best practices in mind when you’re crafting your next page title.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 7, 2020 2:30:00 PM, updated May 07 2020