What is a <title> tag?

The <title> tag of a web page appears at the top of the code between the <title> and the </title> tag.  I always write it as “<title> tag” because content management systems differ in how and what they refer to as the page title.

Where do <title> tags appear?

Title tags affect SEO

The <title> tag’s purpose is to describe the page at a very high level.  It is displayed to a human in a multiple places:

  • In either your page tab (IE8 and Chrome), or in the top center of you browser (Apple Products)
  • The underlined portion of a search result
  • The default title when you bookmark a URL in your browser.

<Title> tag analogy?

Think of the <title> tag as the title of a non-fiction book; it’s pretty much right to the point without a lot of fluff.  Your “Macro Economics” text book in college was about one specific topic, where as “Catcher in the Rye” could be interpreted to be about many aspects of the story.

Three best practices when writing <Title> tags:

  • Shorter is better:  Keep the <Title> tag to less than 55 characters.  Longer than this, the searcher won’t visually be able to see the terms in the title tag, and click through rate will be less.  Also, there is correlating data which shows pages that rank better in results, generally have shorter <title> tags.
  • Lead with the keyword: Using the keyword phrase that you want the page to rank well for in the beginning of the <title> tag confirms for a search engine what the page is about.  Many sites lead with their brand name, which might be a good strategy for an early start up.  However, after the brand name has developed equity, it’s better to include the brand name later in the <title> tag, and try to rank for the term.  You’ll generally always rank well for your brand name, after it’s been established.
  • Be Unique: Imagine a book store where ever book on the shelf looked differently, but had the exact same title. You’d be confused, frustrated, and then leave without considering a purchase.  Google feels the same way, so use unique <title> tags on each page of the website, so it is communicated that each page has a specific purpose and unique content.

Title tags have some of the greatest affect on natural rankings, and are generally very easy to update.  Like all other on-page SEO elements, the <title> tag should be aligned to the goals of the page, and use the same small set of keywords.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the power of a <title> tag!


Post filed under SEO.