Are Title Tags Still Important for SEO in 2021?

Estimated Reading Time: 25 minutes

Getting straight to the point, yes, they are. To this day, title tags remain to be an important SEO ranking factor in 2021. They are still key when it comes to helping Google understand what your page is about, and their importance shouldn’t be underestimated. 

Most people are aware of the importance of well-targeted on-page content and a website’s offsite authority with SEO, but many consider title tags and meta-descriptions as an afterthought – something to rush and put together last minute on upload. This shouldn’t be the case; they should be carefully targeted and well-thought out, utilising every bit of space available.  

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

– Moz

(Hear that? Major.)

What do title tags do?

The purpose of a title tag is two-fold, its first job is to help users understand the context of the page they are clicking on from the search results, and the second is to provide further contextual information to search engines. It helps to give them an idea of what a webpage is about. 

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. 

Title tags are also often the first part a user sees of a website in search results; so you need to make a good first impression if you want them to click through. In fact, using the right title tag can improve your CTR by anywhere from 20-100% (source). 

Our advice to webmasters has always been to write unique, descriptive page titles to describe to searchers what the page is about.

– Google

Does Google Use Title Tags?  

Yes, Google does use and display your title tags, however, Google may change it at will depending on a user’s search. If Google believes a title tag could be made more relevant to a user’s search query, it may shorten it or even completely replace it.  
 
Some common examples of why Google would do this include:  

– A company changed its name and someone searched for the old brand name. Google is likely to show the old brand name if it’s no longer present in the current title tag.  

– The brand name isn’t at the front of the title tag for brand searches that bring up the homepage. Google will likely shift the brand name to the front of the title tag.  

What’s the difference between title tags and meta titles?

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. See Google’s supported meta tags

Here’s an example of a title tag in HTML and how it appears in search engine results:

HTML:

html title tag example

Search Engines:

earch results (SERPS) title tag example

How to write good title tags for SEO in 2021

Relevancy is key when creating the perfect title tag. It should include information that a target user is searching for.

This relevancy helps a search engine decide where to place your website. It also helps a user decide if the page they are about to click on is relevant and matches their intent.

Title Tag Length 2021 

On average, Google tends to show the first 50 to 60 characters of a title tag..  However, title tags are not actually determined by character length, instead, Google displays up to a pixel width of 600px.  

Therefore, it’s good practice to always check your title tag fits before you publish your content, otherwise it could be cut off.  

Fortunately, we have an up- to- date SERP snippet optimisation tool for 2021 you can use. Try and keep it as succinct and user-friendly as possible! 

Title tag and meta description length checker

Include your primary keywords. But be unique

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.

Moz found that keywords closer to the start have a higher impact on search rankings. Next, add secondary keywords, then your brand name.

Title Tag Example of Keywords

The only exception to having your primary target keyword at the front is perhaps on your homepage, where you would likely want to feature your brand name at the front of your title tag.  

Use pipes to separate keywords

There are a variety of ways to separate keywords and brand names in your title tags. Most people use commas, pipes and dashes, but which is best? Matt Cutts explains below:

Pipes are often favoured the most as they are clear separators that take up minimal pixel width.

Add brackets 

Adding brackets, or parentheses, to your title tags, is proven to improve click-through rate (CTR) to your site. For instance, Sean Falconer from Proven.com added parentheses to one of their guides and saw a 128% uplift in organic traffic (source).  

Not only do brackets make your title tag stand out more against competitors in the SERPS, they also give you further opportunity to add additional semantics like dates (2021) and other supplementary content into your title.  

Add odd numbers 

We know how successful listicle content can be online when it comes to engaging users, and including numbers in your title tags is a fantastic way to catch users’ eyes in the SERPs (in numeral form). When there’s a number on display, users are more likely to click through to your content as they can see how much content they can expect to digest, e.g. ‘Top 11 Headphones On Sale in 2021’. 

It’s also thought that odd numbers are more effective in terms of attracting engagement. They are seen as more trustworthy because they insinuate that the content is created out of available information as opposed to being bulked up to make it balanced. 

Don’t be literal

Your title tag should describe what a page does, not what it is. Words like “Home” and “Product Page” tell you what a page is. This doesn’t help Google or your users.

Title tags including these sorts of phrases have a lower click-through rate.

Avoid looking like spam

It’s important that your title tags demonstrate trust because they’re the doorway for your users. They need to trust that your page looks legit.

Having no, too much or random capitalisation of words can make users question the legitimacy of your site and not click through.

Overly long title tags that are cut off, which looks unprofessional. They are also often found to be overstuffing keywords.

Overly long title tags that are cut off look  unprofessional. They are also often found to be overstuffing keywords. 

Google comprehends semantic variations, so keyword stuffing is functionally pointless. Sticking to one or two core keywords per title tag also prevents keyword cannibalisation.

Make your title tags unique and engaging

Avoid duplicating your title tags where possible. As well as risking cannibalisation, it can confuse users who are relying on your title tags to find your pages.

If your website has hundreds of similar pages, you can use automation to speed up the process. But important pages deserve a human touch.

Don’t trust Google to write your tags for you

Sometimes, Google re-writes title tags. This is most likely because the above practices have not been followed.

This isn’t an excuse to be lazy – Google’s versions won’t necessarily be well written or targeted to your SEO needs.

Creating title tags for eCommerce sites

Title tags can be a nightmare for eCommerce sites. Every product page needs a unique and attractive title tag in order to attract shoppers and rank well in search.

Be honest about your offering. Don’t use the word “cheap” in your title tags just to get clicks. Focus on your real USP and trust your customers.

If not, use product name/brand/price tag, like the example below.

eCommerce title tag example

Use semantic variations to avoid duplications

It’s important to ensure titles are descriptive and unique to each page. Long titles that vary with just one word’s difference (known as boilerplate content) are not good practice. Google’s example of this is the standardised title tag: “<band name> – See videos, lyrics, posters, albums, reviews and concerts”.  

Be careful with your brand name 

Avoid putting your brand name at the front of title tags on any pages that are not your homepage or brand specific. Having your brand name at the start of your website’s title tag works for homepages where you will predominantly receive traffic via brand search. However, for other pages, you should be placing your primary target keyword as opposed to your brand name at the front of your title tag.  

This isn’t to say that you should omit your brand name completely from your meta. Instead, we would recommend having your brand name at the end of every title tag.  

Do emojis appear in title tags in 2021?

While Google supports emojis in search results, it only displays them when they are relevant to the query. That’s why they might appear when you search “doughnut emoji”, but not appear on your “Cheapest Doughnuts in Hampshire 🍩” search result.

Google filters out emojis from title tags if they are considered to be:

  • Misleading
  • Too spammy
  • Out of place

So demonstrating your “out of this world Doughnuts” with a rocket emoji would be considered misleading because you’re being hyperbolic.

There’s nothing wrong with including emojis in your title tags. Just don’t expect them to show up every time.

Don’t be afraid to test

There’s no formula to the perfect title tag. Experiment with new ideas, scout the competition and measure your click-through rate (CTR).

Natural feedback is one of the best forms of testing, so take the time to speak to your audience and understand what sort of headlines grab them. Maybe they like stats; in which case, include them where you can in your title tags.

The other sure-fire way to test is to look at your data. Split testing your title tags over a period of time will give you the data you need to make an informed decision on what a successful title tag looks like for you.

Still confused?

Remember to focus on describing your content in the title accurately and concisely. While doing so, including your keywords which have high search volumes and most importantly, relate to your content.

Weighing up the value of different aspects of SEO is an ongoing conversation. A lot of what we do operates in shades of grey and assumptions. But one area of SEO that is rarely debated is the optimisation and importance of metadata.

If you’re still baffled by metadata 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.

Get in touch

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