HTML Title tag and SEO Guide

HTML Title Tag and SEO Resource Guide and Checklist

The HTML title tag is a HTML element that defines the title of a web page. HTML document titles are used in a number of ways, including by the search engines such as Google.

Title tags are significant for SEO because:

  1. They are used as a ranking signal by search engines 
  2. They appear in the search engine result pages as the clickable headline of a search listing (commonly called snippets). 

Title tags are different than, and should not be confused with the H1 tag which also sometimes is referred to as the title of a page.

Unlike a H1 tag, you won’t find the title tag appearing anywhere on the web page. Like HTML meta tags, the title tag is part of a collection of tags that convey information about the page rather than containing the text that is visible is on the web page. 

Also Known As

  • Page titles
  • SEO titles

HTML Code Example

The title tag is required for a HTML document. A HTML document is a file containing HyperText Markup Language that is rendered by your web browser. 

The title should be placed in the HEAD section of the HTML along with the meta tags. 

<title>HTML Title Tags and SEO Resource Guide</title>

Where HTML title tags are used

In addition to appearing in the search results, you can find the title tag in these other places:

  • The title tag is shown in the browser title bar and tab. 
  • Title tags are also used by default for browser bookmarks. 
  • Title tags are often used by social media posts, especially if social media specific tags, such as Open Graphs tags are not present. 

Why Title tags are important for SEO

The title tag along with the meta description tags are often (but not always) used by Google and the other search engines to create snippets, the name for the search engine listings you see when you search.  

As the Title tag forms the “headline” of the snippet, they are key to attracting a searcher’s attention and clicks. Think of them as a welcome mat for your web page.

Title tags are also a ranking factor, so for both reasons it pays to get them right.  

In fact title tags are the single most impactful HTML element for SEO. Optimizing your title tags for your pages so that they contain keywords as well as copy and messaging that creates curiosity and clickthrough is a high value activity that you can do to enhance your site’s SEO performance.  

Best Practices for SEO

Not only are title tags a ranking factor but they are important for getting the click.

Accordingly, writing title tags is both an art and a science. There is a tradeoff between making the tag keyword rich and writing a compelling headline that invites clickthrough.

If possible, keywords should be included in the title tag, since the search engines place more weight on the beginning of the tag.

Picking the exact keyword is less important than it used to be. Google will rank pages that are using synonyms,

Title tags should be unique across your site, especially for the first part of the tag. Any brand or sitename should be added to the back of the tag.

Google will only show up to 55 – 60 characters of your title tag. The exact number of characters will vary due to the character space requirements (“W” takes up more room than “i”). Additionally Google periodically updates the search user interface which can change the number of characters that are shown. It is also true that mobile devices will see a different number of characters than desktop.

WordPress

Like many CMS (content management systems), by default WordPress will set the title tag to the title you gave your post or page. To customize your title tag you can use a SEO plugin which will add an additional panel to the editor where you can configure HTML elements important for SEO, including the title tag. 

Popular SEO plugins include: Yoast SEO, All in One, and RankMath. 

Common Problems

Missing Title tags

Each page should have a unique title tag.

Multiple Title tags

There should only be one title tag per HTML document. If you have multiple title tags then it can be unpredictable which one the search engines which use as well as which one will show in the browser tab.

Duplicate title tags

Occurrences of duplicate title tags (more than one web page on a website has the same title) are not ideal for SEO. Each web page should target a different keyword. 

Duplicate title tags can be caused by pagination (when you need to click on subsequent pages to view the full eCommerce category or to read the entire article). In this case, you can differentiate the title tags by adding “page 2”, “page 3” etc. at the back of the tag

Another cause of duplicate title tags is when you have multiple URLs that lead to the same page, such as a product page that can be found in multiple categories. This can be addressed with a canonical tag.

I have a more in-depth answer to removing duplicate titles on Quora.

No Keywords in Title Tags

Best practice is to have at least one keyword in your title tag.

Too Short Titles

Short title tags can be a missed opportunity to add more text as well as keywords to your title tag. If the title tag already has a keyword, make it more enticing by adding “action” words (such as “shop” or “learn”) as well as adjectives.

Long Title Tags

In most cases, title tags that are too long (more than 65 characters) are a minor problem. Although Google reads the full tag, be aware that important information could be cut off in the SERPs.

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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