SEO // March 2, 2014The Golden Rule For Writing Title Tags That Improve Click-Through Rates
Posted by Fuze
Title tags are among the most powerful yet most overlooked factors affecting search engine optimization and user experience. Properly structured title tags create relevance between web pages and search intent, and are often your target customer’s first glimpse of what your business or brand has to offer.
There is one overarching rule that, if followed, will greatly improve the effectiveness of your title tags: Write for people, not for search engines. Pages that rank well but do not generate clicks have only won half of the battle.
We’ve put together the below cheat sheet for writing title tags that simultaneously adhere to SEO best practices and improve click-through rates.
Stay within 65-69 characters, otherwise Google will cut them short and users will not be able to read everything you’ve included. This makes for a sub-par user experience. Prior to 2011/2012, the limit was 70 characters; however studies have shown that this number has been reduced and is influenced by the types of characters you use.
Google will read a title tag that exceeds the character limit; however, there are few valid excuses for intentionally pushing the boundaries. The goal should be targeting concise phrases and not broad groups of keywords (more on this later).
Place the most important and relevant keywords at the beginning of your title tags, without stuffing or repeating them unnecessarily. A user should be able to scan your tags and immediately decipher what you are offering. Since Google also reads from left to right, and places primary emphasis on words at the beginning, this practice will appease bots and humans alike.
Men’s Dress Shoes, Boat Shoes, Loafers | Acme Clothing Store
Since you have only 65 characters at your disposal, do not waste precious real estate by being overly wordy or using unnecessary or irrelevant words. A good rule to follow is by asking yourself how each word in a title tag relates to the specific product or service being offer on the associated page.
In the below examples, “we sell” and “welcome to our online store” are in no way relevant to a user’s search intent and are thus a wasted opportunity to capture their interest. Also, you aren’t trying to rank for “we sell” or “welcome”, so cut to the chase and begin tags with your most relevant keywords.
(wrong) We sell men’s shirts and men’s shoes | Acme Clothing Store
(wrong) Welcome to our online store | Acme Clothing Store
(right) Men’s Shirts, Shoes | Acme Clothing Store
There has been much debate over how to separate keywords or phrases within a title tag. Options include the word “and”, the ampersand, the hyphen, the comma and the vertical pipe. Google’s Matt Cutts once recommended the hyphen, but it seems the comma is a more popular choice.
Since separators have no SEO value (Google ignores them), it’s best to think of them as a way to make it easy for users to scan and make decisions.
Men’s dress shoes, loafers, boat shoes | Acme Clothing Store
Men’s Dress Shoes | Men’s Loafers | Men’s Boat Shoes | Acme Clothing Store
The first option in the above example is more efficient, concise and scannable.
Note: as of 2014 Google has sometimes been rewriting title tags and forcing colons as separators. It is not uncommon for Google to run tests and it is currently not known whether or not this will become a recommended best practice.
It’s always recommended to include your company or brand name in your title tags. Search results are often the first chance you have at grabbing the attention of consumers, so it’s important to let them know who you are.
Once you have established a following from a loyal audience, they will be inclined to click on search results that have your brand name attached. Make it easy for those looking for you to find your content, and watch your traffic soar.
Note: is has become quite common for Google to rewrite page titles and display brand names at the beginning. For example: ‘Brand Name: Keyword 1 & Keyword 2’. Some speculate this happens more often for newer websites and reverts to the way it’s actually written once the site has established more domain history and authority.
SEO is all about creating strong relevance between search queries and pages on a website. This is most effectively accomplished by breaking your website up into landing pages dedicated to specific topics.
Let’s say your website is about cupcakes and you have a landing page with content about vanilla, chocolate and red velvet cupcakes. Attempting to rank this page for all three types will be extremely challenging. However, creating an individual landing page for each cupcake type allows you to deliver content and page titles specific to each. This is the kind of relevance search engines and users love.