That’s So Meta: How To Write SEO-Friendly Title Tags
The title tag is the most important on-page element of SEO. It’s what Google uses to understand what is on each page of your website so it can send relevant searchers there. As a result, you should probably be clear on how to write one. Let me break it down for you:
1. It should be descriptive, like a newspaper title – NOT a list of keywords
GOOD: Oopsie & Daisy, PC | Personal Injury Lawyer in New York, NY
BAD: Oopsie & Daisy, PC | Personal Injury Lawyer, Accident Attorney, Product Liability Lawyer, NYC lawyer
2. But of course it should contain keywords
The point of title tags is to include keywords so that Google knows what types of search queries to present your web page for. So if you are a local IT consultant, for example, and you want to attract new clients, we can agree it would be a good idea to write a post about how to solve common computer issues. But if you entitle one of those posts “The Easiest Solutions To Common Problems” you are essentially wasting your time. That title, which your CMS will likely use as your title tag, gives your article the opportunity to show up for keywords like “solutions to problems” and “easiest solutions.”
Not exactly a great way to attract your audience. If, on the other hand, you created a more specific title like “Where is the Start Menu on Windows 8?” you’d be setting your page up to attract searches for exactly the problem you describe in the title. That’s the way to winnow down searches to only the most relevant kind. Keywords in a title are crucial.
3. It should be no longer than 80 characters, including spaces (err on the side of fewer characters)
Yes, I know Google only shows 66 characters in the titles of its search listings before the elipsis (…) starts, but it still counts the characters that appear afterwards, up to 80.
And don’t let the fact that you CAN use 80 characters cause you to routinely do so, because if you’re stuffing in every last character, Google could Penguin-ize you. They look at the way your title tag “feels” and if it comes across as a real, human-friendly title, even if it’s fairly long, it’s fine. But if it’s all SEO-ey and 80 characters long, you’re looking for trouble.
GOOD: Bouncy Balls | Super Bouncy Balls Available To Buy in Bulk in Las Vegas, NV
BAD: Bouncy Balls | Super Bouncy Balls | Buy Bulk Bouncy Balls | Wholesale Bouncy Balls | Las Vegas, NV
4. Word order in a title tag matters a little bit, but not that much
Putting the most important keywords at the beginning of the title tag is not strictly necessary; but I probably wouldn’t put them last either. As with much of SEO in 2017, Google is able to see shades of gray. So place your most important words somewhere natural in the title.
Let’s say you sell jewelry and your money keyword is “Diamond Engagement Rings” but you also specialize in diamond pendants and necklaces. Here’s how I might write up the home page title tag:
Sparkly & Co | The Home of Diamond Engagement Rings, Pendants, and Necklaces
That feels natural. You would NOT write it like this:
Diamond Engagement Rings | Diamond Pendants & Necklaces | Sparkly & Co
Again, there’s something unnatural feeling about that last one, even though it’s unlikely Google would penalize your site for it. So I say, steer clear.
5. Repeating words is not necessary
Here’s where some balance is required. As mentioned above, you want your title tag to be human-friendly, but you also want to get some good keywords in there. Sometimes it can be tempting to repeat keywords in a title tag, namely when your main keywords share some words in common. For example, if you sell apples and your main keywords are “golden delicious apples” “macintosh apples” and “gala apples” it might be tempting to create a title tag with “apples” in it thrice. But it would be a better use of that title tag real estate to do it this way:
Fresh Apples – Golden Delicious, Macintosh & Gala
That being said, if you have to repeat words to make the title tag make sense, do it. It is better to waste some characters than to stuff your title tag with keywords
Writing title tags reminds me of those vocabulary exercises we all had to do in grade school, where you have to fit the words from your vocab list into a sentence. As a content marketer, it’s your job to get keywords into that tag in a natural way. If you can do that effectively, you will see relevant traffic pouring in over time.
Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership.