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How to Write SEO Friendly Page Titles

One of the most important aspects of a webpage, with regards to SEO, is the page title. It's also one of the most common things people neglect or get horribly wrong. In this post I'll help you understand what to do, and what not to do, so you can start writing SEO friendly page titles.

What is the page title?

The page title is the text set within the <title> tag within the <head> of your document. It is not visible to your visitor within the page content (although you should be including the keywords from the title in your content, more on this later).

Once you understand what the page title is, and realise it's not visible to your visitors, you might be wondering why it's so important…

Why page titles are important for SEO

Page titles are important for SEO because they are used as the title text displayed on SERPs. Becuase of this search engines place a fair amount of weight on the title, trying to match keywords from the search term to your title and then to the actual page content.

There's a lot at play here, your page titles are not the only factor in deciding where your pages are ranked in search results, good content is more likely to win you a higher ranking, but page titles are certainly an important factor in page rank.

Page titles are just one aspect of SEO that you need to concentrate on… They are an important first step towards improving your SEO.

The other reason for wanting good page titles is becuase it's often your site’s first impression to a potential visitor. When your site is returned on a SERP, the title is the first thing people read. A sloppy, poorly constructed title will lead to fewer clicks. Have a think about when you search for something, you’ll have skipped past some results becuase the title didn’t sound appealing to you.

SEO Page Titles — Things to consider

Before doing anything else, you should spend some time considering the keywords and phases you want to target as you'll need to integrate those in to your page titles.

What you want to do is hit a sweet spot between describing the content on the page, including some of your target keywords (yes, you need to do some keyword research), and matching terms people are actually searching for.

This all sounds a little scarey, but once you have the basics down, trust me it's not too difficult.

In short: if the title describes the content and matches the user’s search term, the search engine will give your page more points.

If you keyword stuff your page titles, you might see some short term gains, perhaps even end up on page 1. SEO however is a long term commitment. Keyword stuffing will lose points for your entire domain, and possibily land you on the black list.

Good Page Titles for SEO

So with all that being said, let's take a look at what a makes a good page title, erm good!

Before we look at those, there are a few of keys points to keep in mind when writing your titles:

  1. The page title should describe the content on the page
  2. The page title should contain your target keywords and phrases
  3. Keywords used in the page title should be scattered throughout the page content

1. Keywords first

Your target keywords and phrases should be at the beginning of the page title.

Nobody knows the exact formula behind ranking algorithms, but research suggests that words placed at the beginning of the title are scored higher than those at the end (my guess is because they are read/seen first by the user). So with that in mind...

2. Company name last

Put your company/brand/business name at the end of the title. It is not important. Google already knows who you are, what they care about is the content on the page and that it matches the search term entered by the user.

Keep in mind that there is a limit to the amount of characters displayed on SERP before the titles are chopped off — roughly 55 characters will be displayed. Using up some of these with your business name is not going to describe the content or help the user find what they're looking for.

There are exceptions to this rule. In certain cases you might want to put your company/brand name first. As an example; on our homepage we put our company name first as we want it to be the first page displayed when someone searches for Realmac Software.

Side note: you won't be penalised for going over the ~55 character "limit", but anything after 55 or so characters isn't going to score you any SEO points either.

3. Describe the content

This is key. The title must accurately describe the content displayed on the page, if it doesn't you're going to be penalised.

Describing the page content in under 60 characters is an art, but with a bit of practice you'll get the hang of it.

Side note: if you find your page titles are really long, perhaps that is a sign you should break up your content in to multiple pages. Single pages focused on one subject are better than one long page covering a range of topics.

Examples of good page titles

Let's pretend I run a coffee shop in Brighton. Here are a couple of example page titles that could work well. The formula for a good page title is basically:

{content description with keywords} {company name}

It's no more complicated than that.

  1. Amazing coffee in Brighton at Ben's Coffee
  2. Coffee brewing courses in Brighton at Ben's Coffee
  3. Amazing coffee in the north laines, Brighton | Ben's Coffee Location

Those are fairly basic examples, but you get the idea. Describe the content using the keywords you want to be found for, then include your business name.

In the examples above I would be targeting keywords and phrases such as Brighton, Coffee, Brewing courses, and amazing coffee in Brighton.

What not to do

There are a few key things you should not do when writing page titles. Here's a quick overview of those, and some common mistakes I come across.

1. Don't keyword stuff

Don't keyword stuff your titles. You might see some short term gains, but SEO is a long term commitment. You might find you site on page 1 of Google tomorrow, but next week once the Google Bot has caught up you'll find you've disappeared.

SEO is a long term commitment. Keyword stuffing could land you on the black list.

Search engines don't like it when websites try and trick their way to page 1. Do this at your own peril. I've seen sites black listed before, and you obviously don't want that.

2. Don't over complicate it

Keep it simple and describe the page content in a natural, easy to read manner.

Don't move an "important" keyword to the very beginning of the title if it reads better with it placed towards the middle or end.

3. Don't have duplicates

Every page title on your site should be unique.

The reason is that search engines like to find the authoratative source of information, if you have multiple pages with the same title it's going to make things more difficult.

This can be a problem if you have any type of dynamically generated pages (especially with pagination). If you do, simply adding Page 2 to the end of the title would be sufficient.

Bad page title examples

Again, let's imagine that I'm running my coffee shop in Brighton. Here are some examples of bad page titles.

  1. Ben's Coffee | About (company name first, not descriptive)
  2. Brighton's Best Coffee Shop in Brighton | Ben's Brighton Coffee Shop (spammy keyword stuffing)
  3. Brighton Coffee Shop (too short and generic)

Roundup

Because every site is different, I can't tell you exactly what to do. However, if you follow the guidelines here you'll be well on the way to writing SEO friendly page titles.

Having said all this, page titles are just one aspect of SEO that you need to concentrate on (there are many), but they are an important first step towards improving your SEO. I find a descriptive page title can often help focus and shape the content on the page.

As I've touched on in this article, it's important your titles describe the page content because the content is what everyone actually cares about.

Also, keep in mind that good page titles won't get you anywhere without great content to back it up — but that's a subject for another post.

Further reading and resources

As always, if you have any questions or think I've missed something, please let me know!