Optimizing Title Tags: Best Practices for Digital Publishers

Have you ever wondered where the clickable text that appears on Google’s search results pages comes from? The headlines for search listings—the first thing most people see when running an online search—are automatically generated based on a webpage’s title tags. That’s just one of the reasons why optimizing title tags is so important for digital publishers.

Title tags are an HTML element that marks the title of a particular webpage. You can find a page’s title tag within thesection of the HTML markup. Title tags offer search engines, like Google, context into the content that’s on a particular webpage. They are an important factor in helping search engines figure out what a page is all about. As Google’s bots crawl each page on a website, they’re taking notes of the meta title tags and they’re using the keywords from each tag to understand the content on that page and how that content might be relevant to various online searches.

If Google’s bots determine that a title tag is missing information, the algorithm is set up to occasionally rewrite tags or amend title tags to more accurately answer common search queries. Relying on Google to amend your title tags is a dangerous game, though, and not one that most of today’s digital publishers are willing to play.

Rather than waiting for an algorithm to decide what the title tag on a particular page should be, top publishers take it upon themselves to handle optimizing title tags based on the latest SEO best practices.

Note: Some people also refer to title tags as meta titles or meta title tags. For the purposes of this article, we are going to consider these all to be the same thing.

Why Do Title Tags Matter?

Having optimized title tags is one of the most important on-page SEO strategies for digital publishers. The title tag is displayed as part of the search snippet on Google search results pages, so it needs to be both accurate and concise.

Because they appear as the page title list in Google search results, title tags are important for both SEO and marketing purposes. These tags are often the first thing a user will see from your site, so choosing the right keywords for your tags is important.

Where Do Title Tags Appear?

Title tags appear in places outside of search results. They also appear in a user’s web browser tag, as well as on social media platforms when people share a link to a webpage. Browsers and social media sites, like Facebook, will pull the title tag to give users a clearer idea of what a particular page is about.

Best Practices for Optimizing Title Tags

The best title tags offer brief and accurate descriptions of what’s on a specific webpage. Although Google has not officially recommended an optimal length for title tags, we know that most desktop and mobile browsers can only display 50 to 60 characters. This means it’s advantageous for digital publishers to keep their title tags under 60 characters, to ensure titles display correctly on search engine results pages.

Another consideration is the number of keywords to use in a tag. Keyword stuffing is frowned upon, and it won’t help your page rank any higher in search. Avoid listing keywords or phrases just to game the search results. This can turn off users, and it can cause your search ranking to plummet.

Instead, keep your titles natural and put the most important keywords up front. Keywords closer to the front of a title tag could have a larger impact on search rankings, although this is still a debated topic within the SEO community.

Every page on your website should have a unique title. Having default titles, like Home or New Page, can hurt your search ranking. The same is true for duplicate titles. Having multiple pages with the same title tags may result in a reduced click-through rate.

How to Change Title Tags

Writing good title tags is a low effort, high yield task. Most content management systems, including WordPress, allow users to edit title tags directly within the code or through a title tag field in the page’s metadata settings. Sometimes this is called the SEO Title Source, but the exact terminology will depend on which CMS you use.

If you’re overhauling your website, consider bringing in outside help or using a code-based template to create data-driven titles for each page. Coming up with unique title tags isn’t usually a challenge for digital publishers, but it becomes more of a hassle when publishers have extensive archives or thousands of pages on a directory or an e-commerce site to deal with. In these cases, it makes sense to use a template that will generate title tags automatically, while also avoiding duplicate titles.

Key Takeaways

  • Title tags give search engines context into the content on a webpage.
  • Optimizing title tags will help your SEO.
  • Duplicate title tags may cause a page to drop in the search rankings.
  • The best tags offer short, accurate descriptions of a page’s content.
  • If a title tag is missing information, Google may rewrite the tag automatically.

To learn about all aspects of SEO for digital publishers, reach out to the digital publishing specialists at Web Publisher PRO.

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