Do the Page Title Element Matter.?
The page title tag (or HTML Title Element) is arguably the most important on-page ranking factor (with regards to web page optimisation). Keywords in page titles can undeniably HELP your pages rank higher in Google results pages (SERPs). The page title is also often used by Google as the title of a search snippet link in search engine results pages.
A perfect title tag in Google is dependant on a number of factors and I will lay down a couple below but I have since expanded page title advice on another page (link below);
- A page title that is highly relevant to the page it refers to will maximise its usability, search engine ranking performance and click through satisfaction rate. It will probably be displayed in a web browser’s window title bar, and in clickable search snippet links used by Google, Bing & other search engines. The title element is the “crown” of a web page with important keyword phrase featuring, AT LEAST, ONCE within it.
- Most modern search engines have traditionally placed a lot of importance in the words contained within this HTML element. A good page title is made up of valuable keyword phrases with clear user intent.
- The last time I looked Google displayed as many characters as it can fit into “a block element that’s 512px wide and doesn’t exceed 1 line of text”. So – THERE BECAME NO AMOUNT OF CHARACTERS any optimiser could lay down as exact best practice to GUARANTEE a title will display, in full in Google, at least, as the search snippet title. Ultimately – only the characters and words you use will determine if your entire page title will be seen in a Google search snippet. Recently Google displayed 70 characters in a title – but that changed in 2011/2012.
- If you want to ENSURE your FULL title tag shows in the desktop UK version of Google SERPs, stick to a shorter title of about 55 characters but that does not mean your title tag MUST end at 55 characters and remember your mobile visitors see a longer title (in the UK, in March 2015 at least). I have seen ‘up-to’ 69 characters (back in 2012) – but as I said – what you see displayed in SERPs depends on the characters you use. In 2016 – I just expect what Google displays to change – so I don’t obsess about what Google is doing in terms of display.
- Google is all about ‘user experience’ and ‘visitor satisfaction’ in 2016 so it’s worth remembering that usability studies have shown that a good page title length is about seven or eight words long and fewer than 64 total characters. Longer titles are less scan able in bookmark lists, and might not display correctly in many browsers (and of course probably will be truncated in SERPs).
- Google will INDEX perhaps 1000s of characters in a title… but I don’t think no one knows exactly how many characters or words Google will count AS a TITLE when determining relevance for ranking purposes. It is a very hard thing to try to isolate accurately with all the testing and obfuscation Google uses to hide its ‘secret sauce‘. I have had ranking success with longer titles – much longer titles. Google certainly reads ALL the words in your page title (unless you are spamming it silly, of course).
- You can probably include up to 12 words that will be counted as part of a page title, and consider using your important keywords in the first eight words. The rest of your page title will be counted as normal text on the page.
- NOTE, in 2016, the HTML title element you choose for your page, may not be what Google chooses to include in your SERP snippet. The search snippet title and description are very much QUERY dependant these days. Google often chooses what it thinks is the most relevant title for your search snippet, and it can use information from your page, or in links to that page, to create a very different SERP snippet title.
- When optimising a title, you are looking to rank for as many terms as possible, without keyword stuffing your title. Often, the best bet is to optimise for a particular phrase (or phrases) – and take a more long-tail approach. Note that too many page titles and not enough actual page text per page could lead to Google Panda or other ‘user experience’ performance issues. A highly relevant unique page title is no longer enough to float a page with thin content. Google cares WAY too much about the page text content these days to let a good title hold up a thin page on most sites.
- Some page titles do better with a call to action – a call to action which reflects exactly a searcher’s intent (e.g. to learn something, or buy something, or hire something. Remember this is your hook in search engines if Google chooses to use your page title in its search snippet, and there are a lot of competing pages out there in 2016.
- The perfect title tag on a page is unique to other pages on the site. In light of Google Panda, an algorithm that looks for a ‘quality’ in sites, you REALLY need to make your page titles UNIQUE, and minimise any duplication, especially on larger sites.
- I like to make sure my keywords feature as early as possible in a title tag but the important thing is to have important keywords and key phrases in your page title tag SOMEWHERE.
- For me, when improved search engine visibility is more important than branding, the company name goes at the end of the tag, and I use a variety of dividers to separate as no one way performs best. If you have a recognisable brand – then there is an argument for putting this at the front of titles – although Google often will change your title dynamically – sometimes putting your brand at the front of your snippet link title itself.
- Note that Google is pretty good these days at removing any special characters you have in your page title – and I would be wary of trying to make your title or Meta Description STAND OUT using special characters. That is not what Google wants, evidently, and they do give you a further chance to make your search snippet stand out with RICH SNIPPETS and SCHEMA mark-up.
- I like to think I write titles for search engines AND humans.
- Know that Google tweaks everything regularly – why not what the perfect title keys off? So MIX it up…
- Don’t obsess. Natural is probably better, and will only get better as engines evolve. I optimise for key-phrases, rather than just keywords.
- I prefer mixed case page titles as I find them more scan able than titles with ALL CAPS or all lowercase.
- Generally speaking, the more domain trust/authority your SITE has in Google, the easier it is for a new page to rank for something. So bear that in mind. There is only so much you can do with your page titles – your websites rankings in Google are a LOT more to do with OFFSITE factors than ONSITE ones – negative and positive.
- Click through rate is something that is likely measured by Google when ranking pages (Bing say they use it too, and they now power Yahoo), so it is worth considering whether you are best optimising your page titles for click-through rate or optimising for more search engine rankings.
- I would imagine keyword stuffing your page titles could be one area Google look at (although I see little evidence of it).
- Remember….think ‘keyword phrase‘ rather than ‘keyword‘, ‘keyword‘,’keyword‘… think Long Tail.
- Google will select the best title it wants for your search snippet – and it will take that information from multiple sources, NOT just your page title element. A small title is often appended with more information about the domain. Sometimes, if Google is confident in the BRAND name, it will replace it with that (often adding it to the beginning of your title with a colon, or sometimes appending the end of your snippet title with the actual domain address the page belongs to).
A Note About Title Tags;
When you write a page title, you have a chance right at the beginning of the page to tell Google (and other search engines) if this is a spam site or a quality site – such as – have you repeated the keyword four times or only once? I think title tags, like everything else, should probably be as simple as possible, with the keyword once and perhaps a related term if possible.
Always aim to keep your HTML page title elements simple and as unique as possible.
You should certainly be cleaning up the way you write your titles all the time if necessary.