This week we focus in on title tags for our 5 Quick Tips as we all can recognize that they are integral to not only your rankings but also your conversions. We will cover briefly a bit about title tags, their history, purpose and value and then jump to 5 Quick Tips that will have you improving your title tags in no time.
A Brief History of Title Tags
Let’s first cover briefly the history of title tags and how they have been used in SEO has changed over the years. Title tags used to be a place that keywords got stuffed in hopes of tricking Google into finding you to be a relevant result to a searchers query. The days of this tactic working are long over as we all know and I don’t think any of us really miss those days at all though there is humor to be found looking back what once worked and how far we’ve come. Increasingly over the years Google has been working on better and better matching results with user intent and that is clearly the future of search so it’s a safe idea to play toward. Google has over the years introduced changes to title tags and one can assume they are all geared toward the end goal of a better search experience for the user. One of the major changes that we have seen happen to title tags recently is the change to the width of the title container, previously this sat at 512 pixels and has now increased to 600 pixels. Additionally Google has switched to cutting titles off at whole words rather than simply at the maximum pixel width. We can question these changes but my guess is quite simply to allow for better title tags geared to user experience.
Purpose and Value of Title Tags
Which leads us to a quick overview of what the purpose and value of a title tag is in the first place. Title tags quite simply tell Google and users what your webpage is about. This is it’s core purpose and should not be overlooked, we will cover the basics of this below in Quick Tip #1. Title tags are also a conversion tool, a title tag is the first glimpse of your site that the user sees and it will invite them in or turn them away, we will cover more on this in Quick Tip #2. If you add these two simple purposes of title tags together you will find the inherent value. Show Google and users that you have the content that they are looking for and you are in a far better position to be chosen as a result.
5 Quick Tips
So let’s get to those 5 Quick Tips on getting your title tags in tip top shape.
#1 – Tell Google and Users What Your Page Is About
First and foremost your title tags purpose is to inform Google and users what your webpage is about. Be sure that your title tag is truly representative of your content. It’s easy to find keywords that you want to target and stretch the truth by including those in your title tags in hopes of tricking Google and users but it’s not worth it as those will result in a bounce and sending negative signals to Google. Now there has been a lot of debate as to how user behavior such as bounce rate affects your rankings. Google has flat out said that it does not affect your rankings however there are tests that have been done that contradict that statement. Ultimately, regardless of how conclusive these tests are and how much Google says user behavior doesn’t affect rankings we do know that Google has said that they want to match user intent. Given that, I think we can safely assume that having a title tag that results in users clicking, staying on site and completing actions rather than bouncing is a positive. Regardless of if you are looking at this tip as one to potentially appeal to Google or simply to appeal to the user it all comes down to the point that both will be far happier and you will reap the benefits of that if your title tags clearly depict the true content of the page.
#2 – Make Users Choose You
Title tags are a fantastic place to increase your click through rate. We have all had our attention grabbed by one title over another whether we notice it or not and the hope is that your title will be the one that stands out. As I will cover in the next tip, I highly recommend using a title preview tool to help you craft the perfect eye catching title. It is very important to see how your title will display to users to get a real feel for how it will work for you. If it is breaking off early, well that’s sort of a no-brainer. Your title should display well in the defined container size of 600 pixels and it should read well. Trying to get a story across in that small amount of space is not always easy but this is the place to do that! This is where you appeal to the user and let them know that you are what they are looking for.
#3 – Use A Preview Tool
A preview tool is your best friend when it comes to writing title tags. My go-to tool for a long time was the Moz Title Tag preview Tool however it has not been updated to reflect the new 600 pixel container. I asked Dr. Pete Meyers about when we can expect an updated version of the tool and his response was “Unfortunately, it turned out that the way we built the old tool wasn’t a great fit for the new method Google is using (especially breaking at whole words), so we’re brainstorming whether we should build a more robust, stand-alone tool, instead of trying to embed it in a blog post. Sorry, that sounds like an excuse, but one approach means a longer development cycle for us.” So what this tells me is two things: one that they will eventually provide a new updated preview tool and two that they are making sure it is done right. That said, that doesn’t help me out all that much in the present so I am currently using a similar tool put out by McCullough Web Services that does have the 600 pixel container. It isn’t perfect but it works and I recommend using it or a similar tool when writing your title tags to be sure that you are seeing what the user is seeing.
#4 – Test Your Titles
Testing your titles is a great way to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Much like one would play with titles in a paid search campaign, you can do this with your page titles as well. You may find it beneficial to take a peek at what your competition is doing and see how you can improve upon titles that you find in the results. Like most things in life, do be sure to give things time to settle in before making any big changes though. It will take time to gather data each time you make a change to a title tag and of course there will be other factors to consider when judging certain time periods to see whether you are seeing positives or negatives. You title tags will only be part of the consideration of your overall measurements but if you see your click through rate improving (coupled with no increase of bounce rate of course) with a title tag change and no other major factors are at play then it’s safe to assume that you are on to something.
#5 – Find And Fix your Problem Title Tags
There will always be problem to fix, it’s the way things go but thankfully there are a lot of great tools to help us out. My favorite tool to use for finding title tag problems such as missing title tags, title tags that are too short or too long, duplicate titles or just simply having a way to easily view them all in one neat and tidy list is Screaming Frog. This tool is free up to 500 URLs and paid beyond that but many individuals can easily fit within the free version to satisfy their needs. The real big perk to this tool from the perspective of title tags is the ability to quickly and easily define and access the specific title tag issue you would like to address.
So there you have it 5 Quick Tips on Title Tags. Remember above all else let your title tags be relevant to your content and view them as a user.