The title tag which is actually an HTML element so it’s real name is “Title Element” not “Title Tag” is found within the HEAD of web pages and is very important, probably the most important part of a web sites on page SEO (especially for placement in Google) and should ideally be SEO optimized for a small number of keywords or key phrases (preferably just the one main keyword phrase for that page).
This SEO tutorial article is a general SEO title tag optimization article, if you are a WordPress user also see WordPress SEO Title Tag Optimization.
HTML Title Tag
Let’s quickly deal with what a title tags HTML looks like etc… so we can get on with the search engine optimization information.
Would normally show a screenshot for this site, but I use a WordPress caching plugin that minifies HTML (removes all the carriage returns and tabs for SEO reasons) and when viewing source of a minified HTML page it’s hard to read. So using a new site of mine Books to Read which I’ve not got around to installing a caching plugin yet.
When viewing a web page in a browser like FireFox or Google Chrome you can see the pages title tag in the tab part of the browser window, if it’s a long title tag it’s truncated, hoverover the browser tab and you’ll see the entire title tag as you can see in the screenshot below.
In the browsers FireFox or Google Chrome “Right Click” anywhere on the page (avoid images, videos, links… so right click on text) and select “View Page Source”.
This will show the web page you just clicked on HTML source (the HTML code that creates the site). The screenshot below shows the head section of the Books to Read home page (June 2014) with the title tag code highlighted in blue.
I use the free Content Management System (CMS) WordPress on most of my sites and all this sort of code is built into WordPress and WordPress themes, but if you planned to create a web page from scratch the minimum HTML code for a web page would look something like this:
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" “http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd"> <html> <head> <title>Title Tag Here</title> <meta name="description" content="Create the perfect meta tags for high search engine placement."> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1″> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.css" media="all"> </head> <body> Content code here </body> </html>
Even the above is more than is needed, below is a bare minimum web page with a title tag:
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" “http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd"> <html> <head> <title>Title Tag Here</title> </head> <body> Content code here </body> </html>
The title tag HTML is:
<title>Title Tag Here</title>
If your websites web pages lack this code, something is wrong: ideally every web page will have unique title tags, go view source of a few pages on the Books site or this site and note they all have unique title tags. Very important SEO wise to aim for unique title tags, Google uses them as primary source for determining what a web page is about.
Right, let’s get back to the SEO…
Title Tag SEO
The exact number of keywords, keyword density** and keyword proximity used for a title tag is dependent on a number of SEO factors including the difficulty of the keyword phrases (are they competitive and hard to rank for), the PageRank (PR) of the page, if you have control over the backlinks and anchor text to that page (so you can change the anchor text of the links) and the age of the sites backlinks (older backlinks means it’s easier for a site to rank well).
** There is no SEO evidence adding a keyword two or more times to a title tag will increase the title tag SEO benefit for that keyword. For this reason it is advisable to only add a keyword once unless it makes sense from a user or keyword proximity perspective: for example for keyword proximity reasons a title like “SEO Tutorial – SEO Title Optimization” could be better than “SEO Tutorial – Title Optimization” IF your main SERP is “SEO Title Optimization”, but you also want your potential search engine visitors when viewing a Google SERP to know the page is an SEO Tutorial.
As a general rule of thumb when it comes to the title tags less is better than more as it concentrates the SEO benefit of the title over less keywords.
That being said it’s 2014 and Google has been around a long time (it’s indexed billions of web pages) and for some competitive SERPS you do not stand a chance of ever ranking even in the top 20 let alone the top 5 where the money is. It’s highly unlikely this site (relatively new site as I write this in June 2014) will rank high in Google for the one word keyword SERP: SEO.
Since it’s unlikely this site can rank for SEO, would be a waste of SEO resources (link benefit etc…) to target a webpage at the SEO SERP: be realistic with your SEO goals.
Example – This web page WordPress Title Tag SEO 2014 is optimized primarily for the phrase WordPress Title Tag SEO and a few related SEO terms including Title Tag SEO, WordPress SEO Title and various phrases including the relevant keywords.
I could have stuffed the TITLE element with all of these keyword phrases i.e. –
<TITLE>WordPress SEO Tutorial - WordPress Title Tag SEO 2014</TITLE>
Or even a list of phrases like this as the title tag-
<TITLE>WordPress SEO Tutorial - WordPress Title Tag SEO, Title Tag SEO, WordPress SEO Title</TITLE>
Instead I Optimized the Title as-
<TITLE>WordPress Title Tag SEO 2014</TITLE>
I decided to use this title element because this concentrates SEO benefit from the title tag to the main phrase “WordPress Title Tag SEO” and adds 2014 for visitors: 2014 is part of relevant SERPs and hoping potential visitors will see the 2014 as an indication the page is up to date: in 2015 I’ll update the page and change the title to 2015. Since Search Engines like Google rate the contents of the title tag as important you ideally want THE most important phrase for that page on its own or with information for potential search engine visitors.
The Google search for the entire title “WordPress Title Tag SEO 2014” lists the page as number 2 in Google, also have a couple of other pages listed (so ranked 2, 3 and 4 in Google). As you can see from the screenshot below the Google search shows the pages title tag plus my name: even though my name isn’t in the title tag, Google has associated my site to my name David Law (from all the comment backlinks that use my name).
I think having the 2014 on an SEO tutorial SERP could increase the click through rate, people think SEO moves on quite quickly (read about the Google Hummingbird algo), by adding the current year it suggests it’s up to date information.
Title Tag Length
There are exceptions to the loose rule of only use the main keyword phrase, if you have a very small web site and lots of keyword phrases you wish to target, you have little choice, but to double or even triple up your titles keywords. Small sites are much harder to gain search engine traffic for.
Also if you have high PR pages (i.e. PR6) and are having no problems keeping the main phrase for those pages, you could experiment by adding further highly relevant search phrases to the title tag: it’s a risk, but you can always change it back. Take care not to over do it, what you do today may not show full effect for weeks or months. For example if you added an extra phrase and 2 weeks later your main SERPs had not dropped, so you add another phrase, you might not see the negative effects of the first change for over a month. You may find months after the first change loosing the pages main previously stable SERP!
When making changes to a successful page err on the side of caution, SEO is a very long term process and requires a lot of patience. If you are taking a risk (like adding more phrases to a title element) give the page at least 2 months and preferably 3 before deciding if it was successful or not. If a recent change results in a major drop in SERPs seriously consider reverting to the original page, but be aware what you see today might be the result of what you did months ago or could be a coincidence, the search engine may have changed it’s algorithm (check the forums for reports of big changes) or some links to your site have been removed or changed.
Google used to show a set number of characters and this resulted in the SEO myth there was a maximum title tag length: the SEO belief Google only counted the part of the title shown for a Google search (not true). As I mentioned above you should aim to keep the title tag as short as possible, long enough to cover the search phrase target, long enough to cover potential visitor needs (you want them to click your link from a Google SERP).
In 2014 Google doesn’t show a set number of characters, Google shows a set number of pixels. Others have tested the title tag length and found it can range from 70 odd characters to over 100 that fit within the pixel limit (some letters are wider than others). It is generally important that what a users sees for a SERP is enticing them to click your link, so always keep in mind with a longer title something near the end might be truncated and look awful, same for keyword lists.
Since there’s no set length use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets to test your title tags length, what they might look like in Google.
Use the URL check for pages already online and the HTML version to see what a title might look like.
Don’t know if this URL http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets?q=uploaded:8004fb48e6e65fcab3fbdac94e037e5b will work a few days from now, I’ve pasted the following into the HTML form:
<title>Test Your Title Tag Length Here, Is It Too Long or Just Right? Maybe a Few More Words is Too Much :-)</title>
You can use it to test the title tags length (change the title to what you wish to test) and make sure it looks good in a Google search page.
Using this as the title tag:
“WordPress SEO Tutorial – WordPress Title Tag SEO, Title Tag SEO, WordPress SEO Title”
which is from my earlier long title tag example of keyword stuffing, you can see it truncates at
“WordPress SEO Tutorial – WordPress Title Tag SEO, Title Tag SEO…”
Would you click that search result?
Title Tag Optimization
All because within a Google SERP a title tag is truncated when Google runs out of pixel space this does not mean Google ignores the words within an extremely long title tag. Google indexes the entire title tag, it will still index it all and count it towards SERPs, even if the title is 50 keywords long (been a while since I did this SEO test mind you).
This does not mean because Google will index and count long title tags you should create the perfect title and stuff what in effect will be hidden to Google search engine searches. Google will share the title tag benefit over the entire title tag, if you’ve added 50 words to a title, each word will gain 1/50th (2%) of the title tag SEO benefit.
If your main phrase for a page is 4 keywords long like “Best Title Tag Length” each of the four keywords will gain 25% of the total title SEO benefit. If the above is the start of a 50 keyword title “Best Title Tag Length… 46 more keywords” each of the important keywords gain only 2% of the title tag SEO benefit!
In conclusion what you put between the <title> and </title> element is very important so try to get it right.