Optimize the title tag for SEO

If you’re quite new to the whole SEO-thing, and you’re doing some research, you’ve probably stumbled upon the same terms over and over again: titles, meta descriptions, keywords, URLs, H1, on-page, off-page and many others. Well, there’s a magical triangle, as we like to call it, that falls under on-page optimization: URL, title and H1.

They make up for 50% of all your SEO :) and today we’re going to explain how to optimize your title tags.
Home SEOHow to optimizeTitle tag
What is the title tag?
The title tag (sometimes wrongfully referred to as the “meta title”), is an HTML element which indicates the title of a webpage. You can see it displayed on each tab in your browser.
This is how a title tag looks in your browser

It’s important for SEO because Google and other search engines perceive it as a very short summary of the page, thus being able to associate a page with various relevant search terms. Often – they use it as the headline for the search result snippet in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP).
This is how a title is used in SERPs, part of the search result snippet

In the HTML source code, the title tag looks like:
<head>
<title>This is the title of the page</title>
</head>
Most people use a CMS (WordPress, Magento, Drupal, etc.) and you’re probably using one too, so there’s a big chance you’re never going to need HTML at all – you can optimize the titles from your admin panel.
What makes a good title tag?
When optimizing title tags for SEO one should always keep two things in mind. First – you have to make sure your title is going to end up in SERPs. And second – once there – it has to be sexy enough for users to click it, instead of other search results. It means that you have to satisfy both algorithms and humans, SEO’s biggest challenge.

For bots, crawlers, spiders, algorithms and the such – make sure your titles follow these technical criteria:
  • Certain length: between 50-60 characters (including spaces)
  • Include the most important keyword/search phrase (preferably at the beginning)
  • End the title with a separator and your brand name (for exemple: |SEOlium)
  • Make it unique to your website (preferably to the whole Internet)
  • Avoid stuffing keywords or using words without any search potential

Humans, however, are a bit pickier. You don’t want to drive them away with an overoptimized title, but there are also a few “emotional” things to keep in mind:
  • Write a catchy title – usually, titles that bring intrigue, or don’t tell you everything, make you click on them
  • Include CTAs (calls-to-action) – verbs that express actions like “read”, “find out”, “discover”, or “learn more” are great ways to attract clicks
  • Make it useful – articles that make it obvious they offer a solution to a certain problem will get lots of clicks as well

You should try to find the perfect balance between excellent SEO and excellent user-friendliness.
Examples of good titles
Example 1: 10 Time Management Apps Each Procrastinator Should Use
Why is it good:
  • It has a nice length
  • Targets a specific audience from the beginning: procrastinators
  • Tells the reader what they’ll get: a list of time management apps
  • It’s specific: gives a list of 10 apps
  • The focus keyword is at the beginning: time management apps

Example 2: Errors You’re Doing While Driving That You’re Not Aware Of
Why is it good:
  • Good length
  • Addresses the reader directly: “you”
  • The specific audience is mentioned and targeted: people who drive
  • It creates intrigue: makes you wonder what you’ve done wrong and maybe how bad it is
  • Offers a solution: tells you about errors you might not know about and how to fix them

Example 3: Polka Dot Manicure
Why is it not good:
  • It’s too short
  • Being too short it’s not specific enough
How can it be improved:
  • Add more words that will make it more specific and attractive
  • Add location in case you have a local business – Polka Dot Manicure in New York City
  • Offer a solution to a problem – How to Make a Polka Dot Manicure at Home, Where to Get the Best Polka Dot Manicure in NYC
  • Make it more useful – Polka Dot Manicures Inspiration with Pictures, How to Make Polka Dot Manicure Step-by-Step
  • Make it catchy – Polka Dot Manicure You’ll Want to Try Right Now
  • Add CTAs – Learn How to Make Polka Dot Manicure at Home
Common questions about the title tag

Can a title be too short?

The short :) answer is that you’d better stick to the 50-60 characters rule. The longer answer: there’s no “official” minimum length requirement, you may even use one word, but as with all things in SEO – there are pros and cons. A page may rank higher for exact phrases, but at the same time a short title can be seen as too vague and will not necessarily help you rank for long-tail keywords. In most cases, it’s better to use a longer title that captures more keywords in a single shot.

What if my title is too long and I don’t want to edit it?

If a title is too long, Google will simply cut it and will introduce some “…” at the end. As long as the cut part does not include your focus keyword, it’s not that bad. But that is why we recommend to include the most important keywords at the beginning. If your keywords do get cut off, it’s better to rephrase the title. Remember that you also need to think of CTR!

I think I’ve got a better idea for a title, should I change it?

If you noticed other articles with certain CTAs perform better, or anything else, of course you can edit the title. Just make sure to follow all the above guidelines. Also, to trigger a recrawl – you may use Google Search Console to submit the page. Be aware that changing your title this could bring more traffic but could also bring a decrease. Always be testing!

Why is Google not using my title tag?

Google simply thinks their title is better. Let’s take a look at a few potential reasons:
  • The title is too short
  • The title is too long
  • The title is not an accurate summary of the page
  • The title doesn’t include the brand name
  • There is no title tag :)
  • You have more title tags on the same page. Google may pick one or may rewrite the title altogether.
  • It does not match the search query. In this case, Google rewrites the title to make it more appealing to the user.
  • The page is not crawlable. In some cases robots.txt block search engines from crawling the page, but they could still show it in results and use a title generated from other signals such as links.
Key takeaways
  • Respect the viewable character limit
  • Always include the focus keyword and try including it at the beginning of the title
  • The title should reflect the actual content of the page – don’t try to trick the user
  • Include verbs that call to action (read, learn, discover, etc.)
  • Make it catchy and useful
  • Don’t stuff the title with too many keywords
  • Use unique titles for each page