SEO and Page Titles

Last updated: June 28, 2016

Every web page should have a unique title; the title element, referred to as the “title tag” it should appear in the page source code of your page as high up as possible. The page title is an important aspect of optimisation, it influences page rankings so you must consider it when building SEO optimised websites.

Most web page content management systems you use will not have to directly edit the code, if you right click a web page and “view source” you can see what it appears like in the page code between these tags:

<title>My Page Title</title>

When someone visits your site, the page title is not apparent, but it is used as the blue clickable link in the Google search engine results.

It appears above a short snippet or exert from your sites copy, it is what is shared when someone socially likes your website on Facebook, twitter Google+1, It will influence on your websites ranking is very important.

It should be noted that sometimes search engines might choose an alternative title for your web page based on the users query.

In order to influence the click-through rate (CTR) to your web page, writing good titles is important as not only does it influence the searchers actions, if it is compelling, and more searchers click on it than titles that appear above it.

A pages title sends a strong signal of relevancy to Google that your site is satisfying the user’s intent for that given query and thus your page should rank higher in the search results.

Better CTR means an increase in page will lead to an increase in website shares providing the pages are good, this means shares that are more social and this influence correlates to improved rankings. It is a signal used by search engine algorithm’s to determine a websites position.

The page title has a more important reason to be optimised than the pages CTR. The reason it is so important is that Google uses the title of the web page in determining what keywords to rank the page and the position to rank it in the search results.

Optimising a websites page title for search engines is a vitally important aspect of an SEO consultant’s job, when combined with good content written for your site and incoming links to your site.

Trying to write a better title than the competition, that satisfies the user and search engines, requires finding a happy medium between including compelling keyword rich descriptive phrases that entice the user to click and the optimum density of targeted words you wish to rank for.

Writing the perfect title can be tricky and can require multiple rewrites to make it engaging and different from the competition and other titles on your website.

Analysis the competition to find the top co-occurring words that appear in the broader set of keywords.

Use these additional words to augment your core targeted phrase to make your title relevant to the broadest possible subset of longtail phrases possible, while remaining relevant to your primary keyphrase.

Optimising titles for search engines requires selecting the right keywords, as a rule of thumb it is usually better to include the targeted keyword in the title, it is not essential but it makes it easier to rank for the keyword.

If you are not using the keyword in the title, your web page will require external links that include the keyword in them to rank for the term.

Some secondary words in the page title can be semantically related to the actual targeted term, you can find what these might be by using a thesaurus to discover semantically related keywords to include in your page title, the reason to do this is to avoid over optimisation of the title tag.

Another point to consider is that when a user conducts a search the words that are in the title and in the searchers query will appear in bold, making them stand out increasing your sites title and visibility and therefore CTR.

Repetition (or density) is a matter of looking what the search engine likes and using that as a guide as to what is acceptable or desirable to obtain top ranking results.

Having the words being targeted in the correct order and nearer to the start of the page title is also important.

Google has decreased the displayed character count in its search results, to around 55 characters in length, this is probably to accommodate the increase in mobile searches and the ever-increasing volume of web pages, and it becomes more important to define your exact targeted phrase concisely

Keywords being near the start of the title will also increase their CTR as readers scan from left to right, focusing primarily on the content nearer to the left of the results page.

As you add more keywords, it diluted the relevancy of the primary targeted word or phrase, so although it might be tempting to add additional words it can have a negative impact.

Use concise descriptive titles, it can be challenging and may require the skills of an SEO specialist.

Make sure you include incidental words such as, a, an, to, the, in the title, do not try to remove them to save characters.

Although doing so can help you fit in more keywords it can look spammy and not appealing to human readers, so don’t just write titles for search engines but remember its important to make them appealing and relevant to.

It is important to make the title descriptive and reflect the content of the page a high degree of correlation between page title and content is essential both for search engines and people who click the links.

Controlling your titles presentation in the search results can be done by punctuation using a hyphen (-) to indicate the end of a phrase or a (|) pipe mark, you can capitalise the first letters of words (avoiding capitalising a, an, to, the, etc.) is also acceptable.

Keep a consistent structure of page titles thought your website pages, keeping the format the same across all the websites pages.

Good examples

The Primary Keyword | the Brand Name

The Brand Name “ The Primary Keyword

The Brand Name “ The Primary Keyword & Secondary Keyword

A Primary Keyword “ A Secondary Keyword | the Brand Name

A Primary Keyword as part of a Sentence | The Brand Name

The Brand Name “ The Primary and Secondary Keyword as part of a Sentence

The Primary Keyword “ The Secondary Keyword

The Primary Keyword | The Secondary Keyword as part of a Sentence

Bad examples


The Primary Keyword Secondary Keyword

The Brand Name

Using very long sentence that only has the Primary Keyword near the end

The Primary Keyword + the Secondary Keyword + the Tertiary Keyword

The Brand name “ The primary Keyword AND Secondary keyword

If your content is not aligned with your page title and there is little relevancy between the two then human readers will bounce and instantly click the back button.

The reason bounces are bad for your SEO efforts are that they send signals to search engines that the content is not relevant to the search as the users spend little time on your website.

Overall viewing time is low the ranking algorithms will use this as a signal to lessen your sites exposure in the search results in future, and human readers will be less likely to click on links to your site in future.

Incorporating your sites brand name in the title to increase brand awareness can be helpful, when people read and click on results branding can help deliver a reliable signal. This may be impractical if you have a long business name.