Do you have a gorgeous website filled with solid, professional content, but can’t work out why the bloke down the road with one page of pre-school scribble turns up higher in search results than you? Does your website appear well in search results, but you can’t work out why your phone isn’t ringing?
Relax! Your business doesn’t have virtual body odour, and Google is not hanging around the local McDonalds whispering behind their hands with their cool friends about your business. You just may not have the right title tags for your site. On a massive plus, this is the fastest and easiest thing to fix on your website if you know how. Sometimes micro-words in marketing are just as important as brilliant web content!
A lesson from the local bookstore
Before we go all geeky with the terminology (I promise the geekiness will be painless), let’s divert for a moment to your local bookshop. One of life’s deepest pleasures for someone who loves to read is browsing for a new book. You enter the bookstore brimming with books that are nestled tightly together on the shelves – coyly only displaying their spines. You run your gaze lovingly across the titles, until your eye is captured by a particular title.
You reach out and slide the book from the shelf, glancing at the images on the front cover to see if they pique your interest, making you to want to know more. You turn the book in your hands and read through the short description on the back – trying to sense from these few words if this book holds the answer to what you are looking for.
If the book piqued your interest, you glance through the contents and then start to read the first chapter – to get a feel for the writer and their story. That is when you decide whether to buy the book, or return it to the shelf and keep looking. Book titles are the same as website title tags. Back cover blurbs are the same as the website page description.
There! Told you it would be painless.
Where Do Your Titles Show Up?
The titles you give your website pages turn up in three main places.
The tab at the very top of a page when you are looking at your website, shows the title of your page. Sometimes you need to hover over it with your mouse to see the full title.
This is the easiest way to see what your page titles are on your site. Are they words such as “Home” or “Contact Us” or something more useful? (Because no one ever in the history of the entire universe will go to Google, type in the word “Home” and expect to find your website just from that one word.)
2) Search Engine Results
The main way your clients see your page titles are when they appear in search engine results.
3) Other websites (e.g. Facebook)
If you or your clients share content from your website to other pages such as social media, that site will pull your page title information over into the post.
How Important Are Title Tags for SEO in 2016?
In the early days of SEO (search engine optimisation), the titles of each of your pages were one of the most important ways that Google worked out what your page was about, and where to return your page in search engine results.
This led to early websites having nothing but strings of keywords as their title (e.g. Brisbane Copywriter | Copywriter Brisbane | Copywriting etc. etc.)
As algorithms have become more sophisticated, the rules of what is OK and not OK have changed. Stuffing your title with keywords is way out. If we put it in geographic terms, it is outback Australia a few day’s drive from the nearest petrol station level of outness.
However, title tags are still a highly important ranking signal and are the most important on-page SEO factor according to many experts.
If you have great titles combined with great content – Bingo! You are on a winner and will be placed higher on the virtual winner’s podium.
If you have great tags but poor content, or bad tags and good content, you may get a participation award, and we all know how fantastic that feels don’t we!
In other words, one of the most important SEO tasks for any website (assuming you have great content and a fantastic modern site that is faster than a Labrador when dinner is called), is to get your title tags sorted across your site.
Title tags are still an important ranking signal and are the most important on-page SEO factorClick To Tweet
Read more about whether or not tags are critical to Google: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-title-tag-critical-21499.html
Want even more great information about optimising title tags? Check out this blog post by Hobo.
Why Title Tags Are Important to Making the Phone Ring
Your page title is the big blue bit at the top of your listing in search results. If your title is boring or doesn’t look like it will answer the question the potential customer is seeking answers for, they will not click on it and will keep looking.
Which of these will people click?
Business Cards or 250 Premium Business Cards $10 or Business Cards Today – 2 Hour Turnaround
What people click on depends on what they are looking for. If price is important to you, you will click the second one. If you have just run out of business cards and you need new cards ASAP, then you will click on the last one.
The page titles you use, need to reflect the needs of your clients. Choose the right tags, and your phone rings. Choose boring ones, and you are left admiring the leftover cheese sandwiches at the work party.
How Are Title Tags Created?
If your website runs on WordPress, most page titles are created by mistake or inattention: The web designer creates a new page for your website, and the headline becomes your page title by default.
This can result in title tags that go on and on (… and on), or one word tags that look great in your menu but are incredibly unenlightening (e.g. About Us).
More intentional creators may use a plugin such as Yoast SEO to create a title tag that is more meaningful in search engines, while still keeping the required on page headline or one-word menu item. (Of course you can just amend the description for the relevant menu item in the menu code and get the same result but we won’t go there right now).
Yoast SEO, in the toolkit section, has a brilliant timesaver feature if you discover you have a raft of unhelpful title tags and need to edit the lot. It brings up every title and description on your site and you can edit away to your heart’s content.
But Shouldn’t my Web Designer/ Web Content Writer Have Created the Right Title Tags?
Websites and online marketing is remarkably complex. Unless you are constantly reading and learning, it is easy to miss things. Even SEO companies miss this basic step at times.
We believe in getting the foundations right for all of our clients. Which is why all our web copywriting packages include Google friendly page titles and descriptions as standard – no guessing or having to go back and fix missing bits!
How to Write a Great Title Tag
There are a few rules when it comes to title tags for your website.
Rule 1: Each page must have a 100% unique title
No two pages on your website can have the same title tags.
Think about it in terms of books – if you have written two books with different content but both have the same title, do you think it may confuse readers? Google thinks so too, so quietly hides the confusing pages.
Rule 2: Your tags must be relevant to your content
The title tags need to reflect the content you have on your page. Don’t have a tag that says “electrical contractor” if the page is about painting. The more relevant and consistent your title tag is to the content of the page, the better your results.
Rule 3: Keywords get priority
Ideally put your most important keyword or key phrase at the beginning of your title tag, and not at the end.
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That said, with Google’s Semantic search, you don’t need an exact match on the keywords for the title tag to show in search results. What this means is that you may appear for related terms and not just the keywords you use.
Rule 4: Make it clickable
This rule can directly conflict with the previous rule. You want your title tags not only to show up in search engines, you want people to click on them when they see them. This means making your titles interesting and enticing to humans and not just Google.
Siege Media has put together a brilliant blog post on ways to increase the click throughs from your title tags.
They suggested that the most enticing title tags highlight one of 5 factors: Low price, freshness, volume, speed or brand.
- Use low price if you offer one of the lowest prices or rates on the market. (e.g. 250 Business cards for $10)
- Use freshness if you are talking about a topic that is current (e.g. Best business books of 2016)
- Use volume if you want to show the depth of your article/post (e.g. 50 ways to market your business for less than $50)
- Use speed if people need things done yesterday (e.g. 24/7 plumbing callouts)
- Use brand reference if you are selling a well- known brand (e.g. Apple iPhone 7 Cases). Of course, remember to comply with all trademark requirements.
Rule 5: Keep your title tag short but not too short
In the past, the rule was to keep your title tag between 55-60 characters. Anything beyond that number ends up in a lovely string of dots (…)
Google has been experimenting with showing up to 70 characters in title tags. This experimentation is a bit like the hokey pokey – it is in and it is out. It used to be 70 a few years ago, then was pruned and now it’s back again. All we can say is watch this space and adjust your tags as things change.
The other thing to remember is that Google measures the space in pixels not characters, so the number is not exact. This means if you use a divider between parts of your title tag – go for a pipe | and not ~ as it takes up less space.
Rule 6: Don’t YELL!
Finally, use a mix of upper and lower cases for readability, rather than all upper-case. All upper-case tags look like you are yelling at people, and are hard to read.
Should You Include Your Brand Name in Your Page Title?
If your business name or brand is well-known on the market, then by all means include your brand name in your page title tag.
In most cases for small business, the services you offer are more important than the name of your company. In that case either put it to the end of your title if you really have to include it somewhere, or leave it out altogether.
How to Optimise Title Tags for Local Search
Trades and service businesses often serve particular geographic areas. If you want better results in local search, then it may pay to include your location in your title tag.
If someone is looking for an electrician that is close to their home, they will type in “Electrician Brisbane North” rather than just the term “Electrician”.
Put the location at the end of your title tag as people tend to type in the service and then the location when they are looking for something.
Remember – Google Can and Does Override Your Title Tags
Google, in their wisdom, sometimes decides to pull your page title or description from your content. This means your lovely page title can turn into something obscure at Google’s whim.
There is apparently no rhyme or reason why Google goes for dynamic content, but if your title is relevant and not overstuffed with keywords, then this should be a sometimes thing rather than a regular occurrence.
Your page title tags matter – both to Google and to potential clients.
Keep them unique, relevant, consistent, clickable and to the point, and you will never be stuck wondering if you have bad digital BO ever again!