What Is a Title Tag? (Plus How to Write Title Tags for SEO)

Tianna is a Content Writer for WebFX’s Marketing Team who has written for 20+ industries. She enjoys cracking open a book and the Tennessee mountains. Follow her on Twitter for a healthy dose of puns: @haasitive.

With search engine optimization (SEO), small details on your site pages can have a large impact on your rankings. Title tags, for example, may seem insignificant, but they pack a bigger punch than you’d think.

Just like the title of a book catches your attention, a page’s meta title tag is the first step that invites people to click on your page in search engine results pages (SERPs).

So, what is a title tag? The short answer is that it’s an HTML tag that identifies the title of a web page. There’s a lot more to title tags, though, so keep reading to find out more about them and why they matter for your SEO strategy.

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Bonus Reading: How to Write a Tantalizing Title Tag

What is a title tag?

A title tag is an HTML indicator — written <title> under the <head> section — that labels your page for both real people and search engines. In SERPs, titles appear as the blue text that people click to navigate to your page. They also appear at the tops of browser tabs.

What is the role of a title tag?

Your title tag, or meta title tag, serves as a headline to summarize your page’s content. If your title is eye-catching and informative, it stands out from similar titles across the SERP.

 

In this example, “25 Backyard Decorating Ideas – Good Housekeeping” is the title, and it helps you know what to expect once you click the result.

What is a title tag used for after searchers leave the SERPS? Because title tags appear at the top of browser tabs, they continue to show what your page is about throughout a user’s session.

 

Whether they have multiple tabs up or they’re rummaging through their search history, it’s handy to see the titles so they can find their way back to your site.

How long should title tags be?

Title tags tend to span no more than 60 characters, although it depends on the search engine and the width of the letter combinations. If a title exceeds the display length, the search engine cuts it off, and users can’t see the whole title.

Why are title tags important to SEO?

For on-page SEO, title tags are a considerable factor. So, what is a title tag used for in SEO?

Google’s algorithm recognizes the title as a major sign of the page’s purpose and relevance. In the structure of the page, the title is the highest level of the hierarchy, meaning it carries more weight for communicating the main idea of your content than subheadings.

Primarily, the title carries the desired keywords for rankings, and if the <title> tag isn’t tailored for queries, it’s a lost opportunity to reel in traffic and drive conversions. To climb higher in search results, your HTML title tag has to remain clear for search engine algorithms and enhance the user experience.

With the level of optimization for the title, the click-through rate (CTR) differs. Since you’re trying to attract real people to your page, you want to represent your page well and set it up as a useful resource.

The correlation between a good SEO title tag and the CTR comes down to producing a line of text that shows your brand’s distinct benefits in an inviting way. Dressing up your title tag with catchy phrases or effective call-to-actions (CTAs) can amplify your CTR and offer a surge of qualified traffic.

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Title tag vs. H1 tag

Because headers are also significant to on-page SEO, title tags can get lumped together with them, and many think they’re the same element in HTML. So, what’s the difference between HTML title tags and H1?

H1 tags are the first headings you see on a well-structured page, and they help prepare users for what they’re going to read or watch. H1s don’t show up on the SERP, and users only see them once they’ve navigated to your page.

 

For example, the above screenshot shows the title tag (the page’s name in the browser tab) as “Recipes for Homemade Kitten Formula • Kitten Rescue,” while the H1 is “Recipes for Homemade Kitten Formula.”

As you can see, the title tag and H1 can include many of the same words, but they appear in separate spaces and contribute differently to SEO rankings.

4 steps to creating an SEO-friendly title tag

Google and other search engines look for several factors to get a sense of a page’s quality and topic, and you can get closer to the number one search result spot with an optimized title tag.

Since meta title tags have such a prominent role in SEO, it’s useful to know how to capitalize on them for higher rankings. Check out these four steps to start creating effective, SEO-friendly title tags.

1. Create an original title

Search engines look for unique, detailed title tags for each page on your site. The danger that some run into is using duplicate titles for similar pages, and this can hurt your rankings.

For instance, if you title multiple pages on your site with the tag “Most Affordable Goods – Buy Now,” potential customers and search engines can have difficulty understanding which page they were just on and where they want to go. Search engines also won’t differentiate between them and will have trouble choosing one to rank.

Google also steers clear of “boilerplate” titles, which reuse elements and only slightly shift a word from one page to the next.

Consider the keywords you’re targeting and what makes your business unique, and let those characteristics lead the way in your SEO title tag.

Construct a creative but straightforward title that reflects your services and products. Even with a daunting collection of pages to name, you can utilize title tag templates to produce SEO-appropriate titles.

2. Insert the central keywords

It’s crucial to place your foundational keywords into your SEO title tag because recognizable terms in the title can attract more visitors and appeal to search engine’s standards.

If possible, start your title tag off with your central keywords to give them a valuable position. As people quickly judge which page to click on in the SERP, an early keyword reference can draw them toward your site.

Also, long-tail keywords in your title tag can pinpoint a specific group of interested customers, so check for related keywords that extend to three or more keywords. Adapt long-tail keywords for your title tag for a more robust approach to SEO optimization.

Unsightly keyword stuffing is never the answer, so avoid titles that trail on with keyword variations that won’t increase user satisfaction — “Scarves for Sale, Buy Scarves, Buy a Scarf Today.”

3. Add a hook

For a title tag that sufficiently reels people in, you need a captivating message or eye-catching features. Even this concise line should address customer pain points, and title tags can instill a hook in a variety of ways.

Emotion is an essential hook to target users, and you can input it through the right descriptive words. Rather than listing a blog as “Yard Maintenance Tips,” you can spruce it up with powerful terms and title it “Incredible Yard Maintenance Tips for a Gorgeous Lawn.” While retaining your core keywords, you can help your title resonate with people.

Another strategy is to use numbers in the title tag, which lets users know they can easily move through a list. Manageable lists are a crowd favorite, and a numbered roundup or guide can entice plenty of traffic.

 

In the same way that quantitative descriptions grab people’s attention, adding the year also indicates timely information. Tacking “2019” onto your title is perfect for industries that constantly change and rely on trends, but they tend to perform well due to their fresh data.

There are several ways you can create intrigue for your page via the title tag. First, explore your target audience’s needs and desires to raise your CTR and develop revenue.

4. Appropriately promote your brand

The title tag is an excellent place to reinforce your brand and spread awareness. However, be cautious where, when, and how much you refer to your brand.

A homepage or “about us” page are both ideal places to strongly promote your brand name, but you can also finish off other pages with a brief mention of your business. For instance, in the following example, Crate and Barrel added their name at the end of the title tag.

 

If your business’ name is well-respected and recognizable, it’s reasonable to emphasize it in your titles, because it organically gains interest and trust from users. Balance your brand name usage in title tags for optimal SEO.

Speaking of homepages, if you’re interested in homepage SEO, WebFX has you covered.

Why is Google rewriting my title?

Sometimes, Google rewrites the title tag of a page and displays their own title on the SERP. Google does this when it believes it can create a title that’s better or more relevant than the existing one.

Google may rewrite your title if it believes:

  • It doesn’t accurately describe your page’s content
  • It isn’t unique
  • It’s stuffed with keywords to the point of being unhelpful to users
  • It doesn’t match the search query

There’s no foolproof method to preventing Google from rewriting your title tags, but if you follow the tips in this post, it probably won’t happen.

It’s worth mentioning that a rewritten title isn’t always a bad thing. If your page is ranking for multiple terms, for example, Google might use either your original title or a rewritten one, depending on the search query, to match user intent as accurately as possible.

If Google is consistently rewriting your titles, though, look at why and try using the tips in this post to improve your title tags.

Optimize your title tags and SEO with WebFX

Optimizing your title tags is a positive step in creating an SEO-friendly page that ranks at the top of search results. The brief explanation about your page can grab users’ attention and generate exposure for your products, resources, and services.

When you optimize your site, services from a leading SEO agency are indispensable.

WebFX is a top SEO company with 20+ years of experience designing and implementing successful SEO strategies. From keyword research to content creation, we formulate an effective campaign to bring in revenue and qualified traffic.

Our team of 150+ brings expertise to your campaign, and we’ll create a customized strategy for your unique business and needs. Contact us online or call us at 888-601-5359 today to speak to an expert.