Some tend to think that because title tags are short they’re quite straightforward to create and there’s little chance you can mess this up.
They’d be wrong about that.
The truth is, if you don’t put much thought into your SEO title tag, people will scroll past your content thus missing your chance for them to consume your content and convert them to whatever goals you have for it.
In this post, we’ll cover an easy-to-follow 4-step process of creating a perfect title tag that communicates your content’s value to potential visitors. But before that, let’s first define what an SEO title tag is, why it’s essential, and 9 best practices to keep in mind.
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to click-worthy title tags that reflect the value of your content. So let’s get right to it!
An SEO title tag is an HTML element that tells search engines and potential visitors what the page is about and what they can expect from it. It’s the clickable title in blue text (violet when already clicked on) that’s usually the biggest piece of text sandwiched between the page’s URL and meta description when seen on the SERP.
In its raw form, the SEO title tag above looks like this:
<title>Quick Ways to Improve Your SEO - Rank Tracker</title>
It’s also known as:
- Title tag
- Page title
- HTML title
Other than on the SERP, you’ll also find an SEO title tag on social media posts about your content and your browser tabs.
Are SEO title tags the same as H1 tags?
Copy-wise, most content creators name their title tags similar to the H1 tags for consistency and clarity. Normally, a website visitor would click on a SERP title expecting the same title to appear on the page. However, HTML-wise, they’re different. Here’s what an H1 tag would look like in raw form:
<h1>Quick Ways to Improve Your SEO</h1>
More often than not, you wouldn't see the content’s brand for the H1. Without looking at the HTML code, how do you differentiate an SEO title tag from an H1? The SEO title tag, again, is the title displayed on the SERP. On the other hand, the H1 (aka Article Title) is the title you’ll see on the actual page.
Now that we got that all cleared up, let’s talk a little bit about why it’s essential to make perfect SEO title tags.
We know you have a good idea about why title tags are important, but to nail the point further on why you craft your title tags well, here are 3 worthy reasons to consider.
When users make a query on search engines, your SEO title tag is typically the most visible group of text they’ll see on the results page. If it reflects the information on the page it’s linked to, you’ll give a good impression by delivering what was expected from the title tag.
Additionally, when the title tag shows value, triggers emotion, and arouses interest, people will want to click on it and consume the page’s content.
Search engines like Google look at your title tag more than other words on the page to understand what your content is about. It does this so that it can deliver query results relevant to the searcher’s intent. The more relevant the title tag is, the better chances for it to rank high on the result page.
When it ranks high enough to be part of the first page results and among the first 3 listed, Backlinko reports that you’ll be getting 75.1% of all the clicks. Overall though, a perfectly written SEO title tag, As Ahrefs’ report shows, results in a 37% spike in organic traffic.
With these reports in mind, you can safely conclude that title tags are one of the major cornerstones of SEO. While meta descriptions are also provided in the search results and that they better explain what the page is about, people trying to look for split-second answers to queries rely on title tags to find them.
People tend to trust well-known brands. If the brand name prominently appears within the title tag, searchers will be more inclined to click on the result resulting in more traffic to your page.
But higher rankings and more clicks are only possible if you have a good approach to SEO title tag creation, so before we dive into the 4 steps in creating them, let’s consider some best practices to keep in mind.
When creating a title tag remember that there's a recurring or common term searchers use when making a query about a certain topic. An easy way to determine this is to go through Google search results using a rough term about the topic you have in mind.
Take this Aloa’s content on software outsourcing to adjacent countries. By searching on Google, you’ll find out that the main target keyword for this topic is “nearshore software development” hence the term is used in the title tag.
But here’s a thing to keep in mind: you shouldn’t overuse the main keyword in your content, otherwise search engines will think you are stuffing keywords and waste your effort in creating the perfect title tag.
Front-loading means that you put the main search term or main keyword at the beginning of the title tag. Here are 3 good reasons to do that:
- It grabs immediate attention: English readers read from left to right, so when you front-load your main keyword, searchers will immediately see what the content is about, making them confident it’s relevant to what they’re searching for.
- It might be a ranking factor: Some time ago, SEO specialists speculated that placing the main keywords at the start of the title tag helps with rankings. Even if it’s not true today, it won’t do any harm and the chances of it being a factor is still possible.
- It will generate keyword-rich links: Getting links of your content from other websites having your target keyword as the anchor text gets you more chances to rank high and get more organic traffic. Think of this keyword “melatonin side effects”, people are more likely to use this as the anchor text when it’s the first words they’ll see on the title.
Truncation happens when the title tag you make is more than 600-pixels so search engines like Google cut it short and replace it with 3 dots like Impossible’s title tag for the homepage:
Checking for pixel width can be a bit tricky. An easier way to ensure your title tag doesn’t get truncated is to limit the characters to around 50-60. This is not a hard and fast rule because some characters take more real estate width than others, just a rule of thumb you can keep in mind.
Creating the title tag in all caps is a poor etiquette that should strongly be avoided. It attracts attention but for the wrong reasons. They look odd and seem like they aren’t written for humans.
If you check out first-page search results, there’s a one in a thousand chance you’ll find an all-caps title tag listed. Instead of an all-caps title tag, you can either capitalize the first letter of the first word (sentence case) or capitalize the first letter on most words (title case).
When searchers see your listing on the results page, the title tag will be their gauge if they should check out your content or not. Make it vague, and they’ll easily scroll past it.
However, even if it’s made to be descriptive enough unless you deliver the content they expect, they’ll bounce right off and click on another result.
Being descriptive also means being accurate with what you’re promising to searchers. This helps lower bounce rates and keep your ranking high, or going to that if it isn’t yet. Doing this results in giving your visitors a good experience that will make them visit back to check on other content.
You can use interrogative words like what, why, where, and how to help searchers get an idea of what the page will answer like what Close did with their predictive dialer blog.
Action words can also be helpful. Adding “learn” to the title tag will indicate that it’s an educational page or using the word “take” will show some kind of service that will be given on the page.
Trigger words or in other instances called power words are words that evoke emotion to the searcher. Some of these words are;
Here’s one example by Flexiple for their ReactJS developers:
By adding these kinds of words, you stir an emotion in the searcher moving him to want to click your page. But don’t just pick out any word randomly. To know what trigger word to use, you can ask yourself questions like:
- What unique features does my content have?
- What pain points do the searchers have for this query? How can my content solve it?
Ever heard of FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out? Yes, people don’t want to be kept in the dark. When they’re curious about something, they’ll do what they can to satiate that curiosity. According to Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers, a curiosity gap is “the space between what we know and want to know”.
This is a technique you’d mostly see on UpWorthy Or Buzzfeed content titles. Here’s one example we can look at from Twine’s bad data cost blog.
Adding the word “hidden” makes it seem like this content contains something not many know about and that you’ll be at an advantage if you check it out.
Here’s another from Apollo Technical using the word “surprising” to stimulate curiosity on HR statistics.
Make your title tag easier to read by breaking it up using brackets or parenthesis. Doing so improves click-through rate and as Sean Falconer of Proven.com shared, it lifts organic traffic by 128%.
Each page on your website is unique and so your title tags should be too. Customize each one to reflect the content. If two or more contents are sharing the same main keyword make sure the trigger word, number, interrogative, or any other supplementary word is different.
You’d want to make it unique to avoid traffic cannibalization. This happens when two pages from one domain are ranking for the same keyword and are thus stealing traffic from one another.
Now that we’ve covered the best practices, let’s consider the part that you came here for.
As mentioned in the first best practice, find the common search term people use and leverage it for your title tag.
However, in many cases, the main keyword tends to be difficult to rank for because many pages are already ranking for it. In cases like these, you have to narrow down your competition by making your target keyword more specific.
How do you do this? Check out step 2.
When the main keyword becomes too difficult to rank for, it’s best to target something else that’s closely related, but still has ample search volume. Usually, these keywords contain the main keyword plus one or two words more. These are what long-tail keywords are.
To find long-tail keywords, use RankTracker’s keyword finder tool. Just type in the main keyword then click on the search icon to generate long-tail keywords you can use. Use one from the list that has good search volume and medium keyword difficulty and use it on your title tag.
Now with a target keyword in mind, you can start drafting the title tag. It should be under 60 characters, descriptive, click-worthy, and readable.
Another important thing to keep in mind when drafting the title tag is to check the search intent or the purpose of why a user is making a query on a search engine and pattern your title tag to it. Search intent can be:
- Informational: used when looking for general information or an answer to a specific question.
- Navigational: used when looking for a specific page or site.
- Commercial: used when investigating services or specific brands.
- Transactional: used when intending to complete a purchase.
To know the search intent, type in the keyword in the search engine and see the results generated. For the keyword “search intent” you’ll see informational content or blogs.
You can also look at the results to get inspiration on how to structure your title tag. Just remember to make it a bit unique so Google won’t see it as a duplicate of another page.
How about title tags for product pages, category pages, and service pages? How do you structure those? Here are a few formula ideas and examples to consider.
Product Name | Brand (e.g., EOS M50 Mark | Canon)
Product Name | Category | Brand (e.g., EOS M50 Mark | Cameras | Canon)
CTA + Product Name | Brand (e.g., Buy EOS M50 Mark | Canon)
Category | Brand (e.g., Cameras | Sony)
CTA + Category | Brand (e.g., Buy Cameras | Sony)
Service - Brand (e.g., Digital Marketing - Woww)
A unique feature you can highlight in the title tag is the quality of your content. For this, you can add words like “Definitive Guide” for in-depth blogs, a number for list posts, or the current year to ensure it’s fresh content.
It can also be a benefit your readers will get from your content like “Actionable Steps” if you’re teaching or giving tips about something. But again, you also have to consider the search intent to know what unique feature to highlight.
Creating a perfect title tag will take practice. Google might even occasionally rewrite your title tags when they feel it doesn’t reflect a query perfectly. You have to continually test and improve by looking at the title tags of pages on the first page results.
In time, if you keep the best practices and the 4-step process outlined above, you’ll be able to create a perfect title tag that ranks on the first page and is something people enthusiastically click on.
Check our FREE Tool SERP Simulator that visualise how Title and Description will look like on Search Engine Result Page