Yoast WordPress SEO Title Tags article created March 2014: see more Yoast SEO Tutorials for Google SEO.
In this section of my Yoast SEO review/tutorial I’m looking at what the plugin outputs for the very important title element (what most SEO experts wrongly call title tags). I have two WordPress SEO tutorials (not about the Yoast plugin) at WordPress Site Title Tag SEO (this covers the home page title tag) and WordPress Title Tag SEO (WordPress title tag SEO generally) that should also be read (ideally before reading this Yoast specific SEO tutorial about titles).
Yoast WordPress SEO Title Tags
On my test site under WordPress “Settings” >> “General” I have the following two settings set to:
Site Title “Site Title WordPress SEO Plugin Review”
Tagline “Tagline Yoast WordPress SEO Tutorial”
Before activating Yoast SEO plugin this results in a title tag that looks like this for the home page when Twenty Fourteen is active.
<title>Site Title WordPress SEO Plugin Review | Tagline Yoast WordPress SEO Tutorial</title>
This is not best SEO practices 2014 (more like best SEO practices 2010 :-)), as you can read at Site Title Tag SEO unless your site requires branding the perfect title tag is generally just the Site Title. So for my example the home page title tag should be.
<title>Site Title WordPress SEO Plugin Review</title>
This is possible with the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin, but it’s NOT the default output and there’s no easy way to set the ideal SEO settings (no SEO advice about the pros and cons either). By default Yoast outputs the same as Twenty Fourteen, the reason for this is under the Yoast options page “SEO” >> “Titles & Metas” : under “Home” tab the default settings are.
%%sitename%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitedesc%%
What the default options output is
Site Title : Archive Page Number : A Separator : The Tagline
This is far from ideal, the best SEO output for the home page is:
Site Title : Archive Page Number
This would output the following title tag on the homepage for my test site:
<title>Site Title WordPress SEO Plugin Review</title>
Yoast WordPress SEO Tutorial Title Tags
Interestingly setting the above Home title tag isn’t discussed in the Yoast SEO tutorial, closest is section 1.2 Optimize your Titles for SEO.
This means the ideal title for that plugin page on WordPress.org would actually be “WordPress SEO by Yoast > WordPress Plugins > WordPress” instead of what it is now.
By luck (or maybe design: makes sense for Joost to name the plugin “WordPress SEO by Yoast” since plugin(s) is covered by the wordpress.org default title tag output, very clever) that title tag works quite well for that page, though WordPress is repeated three times which isn’t ideal.
Had the title been named “WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast” or “Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin” (these are perfect SEO’d titles for a WordPress post, one we might write on a blog) we’d then have title tags:
"WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast > WordPress Plugins > WordPress" or "Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin > WordPress Plugins > WordPress"
Now we have WordPress repeated three times and plugin(s) twice. This isn’t ideal, what if we have a WordPress site that covers multiple niches? It’s OK for wordpress.org since everything on the site is about WordPress, but my site title (on this site) is “Stallion Responsive Theme” and not everything I post is about the theme and I certainly don’t want the sites tagline (Best Post Panda SEO Theme, Responsive AdSense Ad Unit Code) used in any title tags home page or otherwise. The keyword Stallion won’t help this article generate SERPs about WordPress SEO Title Tags for example.
The best title tag (not taking branding into account which is important to WordPress) would be.
"WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast" or "Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin"
This fully targets all title tag benefit to the most important keywords for that page.
Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Title Tags
The SEO tutorial in section “1.2.1 Controlling titles with the WordPress SEO plugin” reiterates these settings for posts and categories etc…
Post Types: %%title%% * %%sitename%%
Categories, Tags and other taxonomies: %%term_title%% Archives %%page%% • %%sitename%%
Search pages: You searched for %%searchphrase%% • %%sitename%%
404 pages: Page not found – Error 404 • %%sitename%%
Author archives: %%name%% • %%cf_role%% at %%sitename%%
The above Yoast SEO title tag settings are OK for a BRANDED domain like wordpress.org or yoast.com (well known site in the WordPress/SEO community), but for your average WordPress user who isn’t a brand those waste title tag benefit. The best SEO settings for a site that branding is not important or secondary are.
Post Types: %%title%%
Categories, Tags and other taxonomies: %%term_title%%
Search pages: %%searchphrase%%
404 pages: Page not found – Error 404 • %%sitename%% (not that important, no SEO value)
Author archives: %%name%% • %%cf_role%% at %%sitename%% (generally not important unless you have a multiple author site)
Title Tags SEO 2014
I’m not sure why the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin and SEO tutorial are advising out of date SEO techniques, could understand four years ago when the plugin was first released, Google didn’t add the site name to the end of search results and most themes had the site title at the front of all titles, so if you thought having the name of the site was important I can see why this advice was given back then. In 2014 Google fills the additional title tag space with the site title (at the end which is ideal), so if a title tag is quite short Google shows the name of the site anyway.
The image below shows two Google searches combined, the top search result shows the home page of this site with it’s title the name of the site “Stallion Responsive Theme”. The bottom part of the image is from the Google search “WordPress SEO Tutorial”, it’s showing the category WordPress SEO Tutorial as the most important page from this site for that SERP.
If you go to the WordPress SEO Tutorial category you’ll find the title tag (view source) looks like this:
<title>WordPress SEO Tutorial</title>
Yet the Google search clearly shows the name of the site with format “WordPress SEO Tutorial – Stallion Responsive Theme”. That’s because Google fills in the remaining title tag characters with the name of the site, so you get branding whether you like it or not without the SEO cost of actually adding the site name to all title tags. Even for a site you want to brand there’s an SEO argument not to include the site name within the title tags sitewide.
Basically if a title tag is short enough to also fit the name of the site you’ll see the name of the site as well for Google searches.