Every web page needs a label. Telling both human visitors and search engines what the main topic of each page on your business website is done through the use of a 50- to 60-character title tag.
Title tags are part of what are known as meta tags, and originally these tags were used to tell search engines about the website. The most popular meta tags were the title tag, the meta description and keywords. The problem? People tried to use these tags to "game" the system by stuffing them full of keywords and terms.
Quickly, search engines stopped putting much stock in the description and keywords terms. Today, the keywords tag is obsolete, while the description tag is sometimes used to tell Google or social media tools like Facebook what the page is about. However, Google often discards the page description in the meta tag in favor of its own summary. That leaves title tags. Why are they still used, and what are the best practices for doing so?
Why title tags still matter
A title tag gives you a brief place to explain your page. If what you write in the title tag correlates to the content on the rest of the page, search engines can use it as part of their algorithm to determine what your page is about and rank it accordingly.
Title tags are part of what are called page-level keyword use. Search engines are looking to see what words show up frequently on your page, including in the title tag, H1 tags or headlines, alt tags that describe images, and of course, the main text you present to site visitors.
Setting a proper title tag that is the correct length and includes keywords that are repeated appropriately throughout the page is a best practice that search engines look for to better understand page content. The search company Moz surveys 150 SEO professionals each year, and in 2015, those experts said that in their experience, having the main keyword in the title tag was the most important page-level keyword factor.
Oh, and human visitors may use your title tags too, which usually show up at the top of the browser window or in the tabs of the browser.
What you can do to optimize your title tags
First, make sure that your titles fit into the 50- to 60-character range. If you go over, the title will be truncated and it may actually have a negative impact on your search rankings if it is very long and looks like you were trying to stuff in keywords.
To help you keep it short, boil your page content down to one main idea. Eliminate adjectives and focus on that main point. Are you a small plumbing business? Don't write a title tag like "Best Plumbing Service in Ohio," instead try, "Pipe Repair and Plumbing Service in Columbus, Ohio" for better results.
Do you need the location? If you are a physical small business that serves customers mainly in one city or location, then listing that city in the title tag may help. This used to be more important, however, because Google and other search engines do a good job of finding your contact information if you have it on the site. But it can't hurt.
Second, place the title tag in the correct location, near the top of the Head section of the page. You want it to be easy for the search engine's crawler software to find.
There are many more factors that go into your page ranking besides on-page keyword usage, including proper use of a title tag. Search engines want to see signs of longevity and quality that may include being responsive for mobile devices, loading quickly, being linked to from other pages and having well-written text and unique images. While title tags may no longer be the only or the most important factor for your page to rank well, it is one of a number of things that should be present for good search results.
For more information on what you can do to have your website rank well in search engine listings, contact us.