Are Title Tags Still Important for SEO in 2018?

TL;DR – Weighing up the value of different aspects of SEO is an ongoing conversation. We all want to know how effective areas of optimisation can be, and with many articles floating around online often contradicting one another it can be challenging to comprehend.

However, one area of SEO that is rarely debated is the optimisation and importance of metadata – your website’s way of conversing with search engines. Title tags in particular are still very much seen as one of the most important aspects of SEO when it comes to keyword targeting. Whilst the weight and relevancy of your content will work to build your page’s ranking, having keyword targeted title tags will help push you to that top spot. Their power should not to be underestimated:

Title tags are a major factor in helping search engines understand what your page is about.

Moz.com

(Hear that? Major.)

Do you really know what title tags do?

Title tags are elements required in HTML and XHTML documents as <title>. They give information about the HTML document and are only visible in web browser tabs, search engine results and social media networks. Their main purpose is to provide information to search engines, giving them an idea of what a website page is about. However, title tags are also often the first part a user sees of a website in search results; therefore you need to make a good first impression if you want them to click through.

What is the difference between a title tag and a meta tag?

There is often some confusion surrounding the difference between ‘title tags’ and ‘meta titles’. Title tags:  <title></title> are the required element in mark up and are what Google takes into consideration, while meta titles: <meta name=”title”> simply define the meta content, nothing else. Today, Google rarely considers this tag and many CMSs combine the two as one and the same. In essence, you should only put your time and effort into your <title> tags.

Here is an example of a title tag in html form and in search engine results:

HTML:

<title> SEO Agency in Hampshire Est. 1999 | MRS Digital </title>

Search Engines:

SEO Agency in Hampshire Est. 1999 | MRS Digital

Writing Good Title Tags for SEO

Relevancy is key when creating the perfect title tag. It should include information that a target user is searching for. This relevancy not only helps the search engine decide where to place your website, but also helps a user decide if the page they are about to click on is relevant and matches their intent.

Title Tag Structure

How long should they be?

Believe it or not title tags are not restricted by characters; they are limited by pixel length. Therefore it’s good practice to always check it fits before you publish you content. A good SERP snippet optimisation tool can be found on seomofo.com. To estimate however, a safe character limit is around 56 characters. Try and keep it as succinct and user-friendly as possible.

What should I include?

Trying to keep your title tag unique but optimised at the same time can seem like a trying task. At a simple level, your primary keywords should be featured at the start of your title tag, as Moz found that keywords closer to the start have a higher impact on search rankings. Following this, secondary keywords and finally your brand name should also be included.

However, if you have a brand name that’s well recognised, this might want to be more of a feature in your title tags for pages such as the home page.

What separators should I use?

Separating keywords and brand names in your title tags are done most commonly with commas, pipes and dashes, but which is best? Matt Cutts explains below:

Overall however, pipes are often favoured the most as they are clear separators that take up minimal pixel width.

What should I avoid?

Try and avoid using words such as ‘Home’ or ‘Product Page’ that quite literally describe the pages on your website – to Google this is not something it wants to see. For users, this is equally not what they are after; consider how this describes absolutely nothing to them. It’s no surprise then that title tags including these sorts of phrases have lower click through rates.

Having no, too much or random capitalisation of words can also put users off clicking on a website as it’s peculiar nature can appear spammy and untrustworthy. As can overly long title tags that are cut off, appearing neglected and untidy. Title tags that are overly long are often found to be overstuffing keywords, another big no-no. An example of this would be:

SEO Services, SEO Agency, Cheap SEO, SEO Company, SE…

Not only does this look unprofessional and unappealing for a user, this is also very unnecessary as Google comprehends semantic variations. You shouldn’t have to list every keyword you would like to rank for. Also, avoiding keyword cannibalisation by sticking to one or two subject matters per page means you’re not targeting too much on one area of a website.

Also, it should be a given that each of your title tags should be unique; avoid duplicating them across your site. If you have an ecommerce site with vast numbers of products, you should be able to use data driven titles that will pull data automatically, such as product name and product category, into a title tag through most content management systems.

What if Google doesn’t agree with my Title Tags?

Sometimes, you may find Google re-writes title tags. This is most likely because the above practices have not been followed. However this isn’t an excuse to be lazy – Google’s versions won’t necessarily be well written or targeted. Something worth remembering.

Still Confused?

If you’re still baffled by meta-data, or any areas of SEO for that matter, we can help take the weight off your shoulders. Tell us more about your project and we’ll see how we can help get you the results you’ve always wanted.

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