title tags seo



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George Panayides

Digital Marketing Specialist

Title Tags

The SEO Hack Everyone Argues About But Still Uses...

Quick summary:

Title tags are HTML elements that define the title of a web page, serving as clickable headlines on search engine results pages (SERPs) and playing a crucial role in SEO and user experience. They help search engines and users understand the content of a page, influencing click-through rates and search rankings.

The Basics of Title Tags in SEO

Today we’re covering title tags. They are a fundamental part of SEO and are still a large ranking factor to this day. In short, the title tags are your headlines that are displayed on the search results page like Google.

In the HTML semantic structure, it looks like this: <title>This is my guide to title tags</title>.

What are title tags?


Title tags are an important part of SEO and actually serve as the first touchpoint for both search engines and users to understand the content of your web page or article. As of right now, they appear as clickable headlines on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Now, title tags are crucial for usability of search engines and pages, SEO and of course social sharing as well. The title tag will be displayed in the rich links produced by many social media accounts. 

What does this mean? 

To put that into context, search engines actually use the title tag to gauge how relevant a page is to a search term. It helps provide a clearer message to search engines exactly what the contents of this webpage is about, and if it should be ranking for that search term. 

The same applies for users. When we search for something, we look at these title tags to choose which link we want to click on. They guide us to the most relevant page for our needs, making it easier to find what we’re looking for quickly.

Key points:

  • Title tags serve as the initial signal for search engines and users to understand the content of a web page. 
  • They are currently appearing as clickable headlines in search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • They play a significant role in search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Social media platforms display title tags in their rich link formats
  • Title tags help search engines decide on how well a page should rank for a specific term.
  • For users, title tags are crucial in making an informed decision on which link to click, leading them quickly and efficiently to the most relevant content for their needs.
Example of a title tag
Title tag definition: Title tags in SEO are HTML elements that specify the title of a web page. They are very important for both search engine rankings and user experience to understand what your page is about.


Why are title tags important?


Title tags are actually important for multiple things in SEO and user experience. They hold significant weight as they can directly influence your click-through rates, user perception, and search engine rankings. Remember, they are the first impression users have of your content on the SERPs.


The better your title tags, the higher ranks you will get. It’s as simple as that. If you can get users to become more enticed in your title tag, above your competition then they are more likely to click on your page. This will indirectly improve your rankings because Google will choose your site over the competition. 

Also, the title tag helps Google and other search engines understand that your page is relevant to the search term by a user. For example, if the title tag has the keyword “Dog Food”, Google can make sense that the content is about dog food. 

Title tag influencing factors:

  • Click-through rates (CTR)
  • Search engine rankings
  • User perception
  • Social media engagement
  • Bounce rate
  • Brand visibility
  • User retention
  • Relevance 
My advice: Ensure your title tags are descriptive and keyword-rich to maximise their impact on SEO. Don’t make your title tags overly click bait, as this may cause high bounce rates and a drop in your organic rankings. It’s also worse for user experience.


Best Practices for Writing Effective Title Tags

So, now you understand exactly what title tags are, and how they will affect your SEO you’ll probably want to get started optimising your own. Well, here’s the best practices in SEO to optimise your title tags for both users and search engines. Balance is key.

Importance of keywords in title tags


Make sure you are incorporating relevant keywords into your title tags. Here’s an awesome study to show that keywords in the title tags are a ranking factor and will make a difference. Adding the keyword is relevant to both search engines and users to know they have found the right page. 

By putting your keyword in your title tags, you are highlighting the importance of that keyword for your page and telling users and search engines that the contents of your page is highly relevant to that search term. The strategic placement of keywords in title tags is a key factor in optimising your content for both search engines and users.

Key points:

  • Keywords should be placed towards the beginning of the title tag for better search engine visibility.
  • It’s important to use keywords naturally, avoiding keyword stuffing which can harm your SEO efforts.
  • Title tags should include primary keywords that accurately reflect the page’s content.
  • Secondary keywords or phrases can be used to rank for niche terms, providing additional traffic.
Report showing increase ranking from changing title tags
My advice: Make sure you research your keywords first. If you choose a keyword that doesn’t get any search traffic, then you won’t see the results you’re looking for. I did this recently with a client, whereby we updated the title tags to a keyword with high search volume, and this is the improvement we saw.


Including your brand in your title tags


You can add your brand name into your title tags, as many big brands will do this. This really only has a big impact when your brand is large and recognised by a lot of people. It can help you stand out and retain customers who already trust your brand. 

However, in terms of improving your rankings I wouldn’t suggest this is the best tactic to choose. For smaller brands, I’d aim to provide a title that is more enticing and utilise the copy towards engaging new users to click through. 

Of course, if you are a known brand like Nike, it can help pull customers towards your pages over your competition by highlighting that it’s your page in the SERP results. 

Notes to remember:

  • Position your brand name at the end of the title tag to ensure primary keywords remain prominent.
  • Only use your brand name if you have a large brand or else it may be pointless for driving more traffic. 

Adding action words in your title tags


If you are looking to increase your click through rates then consider adding action words into your title tags to enhance your engagement and appeal. These dynamic verbs encourage user engagement and can lead to higher SERP click-through rates.

What do I mean by this?

The use of action words can make your title tags more compelling and persuasive. It can also bring out your brand personality and allow people to associate this style with your content and pages. 

Naturally as humans, it’s a trigger when we read action words to make us feel emotions. We also associate those words with real life experiences and actions mostly in a positive or negative way. 

List of the best action words:

  • Discover
  • Unlock
  • Boost
  • Explore
  • Master
  • Learn
  • Create
  • Transform
  • Achieve
  • Improve
  • Increase
  • Maximise
  • Overcome
  • Simplify
  • Unleash
  • Build
  • Enhance
  • Revolutionise
  • Save
  • Win
Action words in title tags examples
My advice: Get creative with it. Make sure that your content is standing out. Try to choose an action word that isn’t used by your competition on the first page of rankings. It’s also good to try and use action words that we as humans relate to emotionally.


Creating unique title tags for each page


This is very important for a number of reasons. Firstly, your web page should be seen as unique, and therefore the title tag represents the uniqueness of your content. Secondly, duplicate content is frowned upon by Google and actually removed or changed directly. 

What do I mean by this?

Each page should be targeting a new, unique keyword. Therefore, that keyword should be represented uniquely in your title tags. You do not want 2 pages targeting the same keyword so it’s important to create unique title tags for each page. This also helps both users and search engines understand the pages of your site. 

Key points:

  • Title tags highlight the uniqueness of your web page’s content.
  • Google can penalise duplicate content which will affect your search visibility.
  • Each page should target a unique keyword, reflected in its title tag.
  • Creating unique title tags for each page aids in clear differentiation.
  • This uniqueness helps users and search engines understand your site’s structure and content.

Using numbers and dates in your title tags


It’s recommended by many to include numbers in your title tags. This helps users more than anything. It’s because we associate numbers with specificity. If we say there are 5, the user can trust that they will be reading 5 options. This will improve trust and click through rates. 

Not only that, but it’s also to do with perceived value. For example, if there is a blog saying 7 best dog food brands and then another saying 15 best dog food brands, likely you will click on the one that says 15. This is because you are getting more value and more options. 

Important things to consider:

  • Numbers are becoming more and more overused now. This may mean you blend in with the other search results instead of standing out. 
  • Pick and choose when is best to utilise this as it won’t work on every page and every title tag. 
Example use of number in a title tag
My advice: Only add numbers when it’s relevant. This isn’t an actual ranking factor but it may indirectly improve your rankings through a better user experience. I would be aware of this, but not make it a top priority. Pick and choose which articles, pages or posts you are going to do this with.


Matching title tags with content & search intent


This is very obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of pages I see without matching the content or the search intent. It’s also very important to do this. Title tags are critical for reflecting what your page is actually about. 

If you do not have matching title tags, you may not rank at all. However, if you are ranking, users may bounce from your site quickly as their search intent was not met when they landed on your page. 

Key points:

  • Title tags should provide an accurate summary of the page content to meet user expectations.
  • Understanding the search intent behind keywords helps in crafting title tags that resonate with the user’s needs.
  • Misleading title tags can lead to high bounce rates and negatively impact SEO.
  • Title tags that match content and search intent can improve click-through rates and user engagement.
Bounce rate report in Google analytics
My advice: Monitor your bounce rates in Google Analytics. If they are high on your page, try to optimise your title tags to be more relevant to the search intent behind your target keyword. You can also use AI to help you understand the search intent behind AI.


Testing title tag variations


Experimenting with different title tag variations is a strategic approach to optimising your pages for better click-through rates and search engine rankings. It’s also good for keeping your content up to date on the SERP results as well. 

This could be the difference between #5 position, and #1 position. With a small amount of testing and optimisation, you could boost your rankings altogether. Here’s a list of things you can test using Google analytics, AI and your title tags. 

Key points:

  • Length of the title tag
  • Use of numbers
  • Inclusion of keywords
  • Use of action verbs
  • Emotional appeal
  • Question format
  • Brand name placement
  • Use of special characters
  • Use of power words
  • Specificity and clarity
  • Use of benefits or value proposition
  • Targeting for local SEO
  • Seasonality or timing relevance
  • Use of unique selling propositions (USPs)
  • Experimenting with different call-to-actions (CTAs)
My advice: Make sure you are tracking your results. This is the hardest part, but after you have reindexed your page keep testing to see when it’s been changed over and track from that date compared to the previous period.


The Role of Title Tags in Search Engine Ranking

Next, we need to fully understand the role of title tags in SEO. Then we focus on optimising them for both search engines, but with a user first approach. So let’s take a deeper dive to have a look at how Google and other search engines understand title tags, and use them in search engine rankings.

Title tags and SEO visibility


As mentioned above, title tags play a crucial role in enhancing SEO visibility. They are a primary element that search engines utilise to determine the topic and relevance of a webpage. 

Notes to remember:

  • Title tags are a significant factor in search engine algorithms when determining the relevance of a page to a search query.
  • They help search engines find out the relevance of your content. 

Impact on click-through rates (CTR)


As we previously mentioned above, title tags have a direct impact on click-through rates (CTR), as they are one of the first elements a user encounters in the SERPs. Now, with the rise of AI generated content, CTRs and bounce rate might become more and more important. 

In short, a compelling headline and title tag can be the difference between a user clicking on your website, or clicking on your competitors. 

Click through rate report in Google Search Console
My advice: To positively influence CTR, create title tags that are clear, engaging, and accurately reflect the content of the page.


Relationship between title tags and meta descriptions


The age old friendship is title tags and meta descriptions. They both work together to provide search engines and users with a snapshot of the web pages content. 

Title tags are displayed at the top in larger, bolder fonts. Whereas meta tags are displayed underneath the title, in a smaller font. Both will positively affect your SEO in terms of targeted keywords, ranking and CTRs.

However, it’s worth noting that title tags carry more ranking power than meta descriptions which seem to have fallen out of favour with SEO experts over the last few years. 

Key points:

  • Title tags and meta descriptions should be aligned in message and intent to provide a cohesive understanding of the page’s content.
  • Both elements should contain relevant keywords to improve visibility and search rankings.
  • Meta descriptions complement title tags by elaborating on the information and enticing users to click through.
  • While title tags are a ranking factor, meta descriptions are not directly used for ranking but can influence user behaviour.
Example of meta description and title tag together
My advice: Use meta tags to help provide more context into your title tag and positively affect your CTRs on Google. Make sure the meta descriptions are targeted and very concise.


Historical changes in title tag importance


The importance of title tags in SEO has evolved over time. Before, they used to be a much more impactful ranking factor however because of its history with black hat SEO and manipulation, it’s become less and less powerful. 

That doesn’t mean it no longer helps increase your organic rankings. AS a matter of fact, John Muller has mentioned that “titles are important”. 

What does this mean?

With that being said, title tags have always been a significant element in SEO. However, the way they are used and their impact on search rankings have shifted with the advancement of search engine algorithms.

History of meta title tags:

  • In the past, title tags were heavily weighted for keyword matching, but now there’s a greater emphasis on relevance and user experience.
  • With Google’s algorithm updates, such as Panda (2011) and Penguin (2012), the focus shifted towards the quality and relevance of title tags.
  • Search engines have become more sophisticated in understanding the context and intent behind search queries, affecting how title tags are evaluated.
  • With the rise of mobile internet usage and local search, title tags became crucial for mobile SEO and local SEO.

Future trends in title tags in search generative experience


Now on our doorstep is Google’s new search generative experiences. No longer will it be search engine optimisation, it’s going to move to generative engine optimisation.

Now, more than ever is the best opportunity for businesses to optimise their content for SGE which includes title tags.  

Title tags are still going to be very important, to allow AI to understand what your content is about. But likely, they are going to become less important in terms of providing context simply because the AI will be able to understand “entities” much better. 

From what I’ve personally researched over using the search generative AI it seems that more unique, human design titles are being pulled or highlighted by the rich snippets. 

This is because AI is looking to provide a comprehensive summary, and requires multiple websites to scrape for the most accurate answer. 

Key points:

  • Google is introducing new search generative experiences, shifting focus from traditional SEO to generative search engine optimisation (GSEO).
  • Businesses have a prime opportunity to tailor your content for SGE.
  • Title tags will retain their importance in helping AI understand content topics but may provide less contextual significance as AI improves at recognising entities.
  • Unique and human-like title tags are increasingly being featured in rich snippets by the search generative AI.
  • AI aims to provide complete summaries and draws from multiple sites to ensure answer accuracy.
Generative AI and title tags

Optimising Title Tags for Local SEO

For businesses that focus on local SEO, your title tags will play a very important feature in helping your content rank, and get seen by your local audience. I’ve worked with multiple local businesses, and title tag optimisation for local keywords is one first thing I look at. 

I’ve also created a very comprehensive list of everything you need to do when you are considering optimising your title tags for local SEO. 

Local keyword integration


Local keywords in your title tags are very important for visibility in your local areas. Also, because local SEO tends to be less competitive, these keywords actually make a bigger difference. 

What should you do?

It’s important to include these local keywords because users then feel more comfortable that they are going with a business that is local, close to them and relevant. Actually, it tends to increase the CTR for headlines when they do include a local keyword. 

This is mainly relevant to local businesses offering a local service such as a plumber, or a dog sitter. 

Things to consider:

  • Local keywords typically include the name of the city, region, or specific locality where the business operates.
  • Including local keywords in title tags helps search engines understand the geographical focus of your business and match your content with local search queries.
  • Title tags with local keywords can increase the likelihood of appearing in “near me” searches, which are common on mobile devices.

Here’s a list of examples title tags for the keyword: Dog sitter Brisbane

  • Brisbane Dog Sitter – Caring & Reliable Service
  • Dog Sitting Brisbane – Safe, Loving Pet Care
  • Pet Sitting Brisbane – Experienced Dog Carer
  • Dog Care Brisbane – Your Trusted Sitter
  • Brisbane Pet Sitting – Professional Dog Care
  • Dog Sitter Brisbane – Affordable, Quality Service
  • Pet Care Brisbane – Local, Trusted Dog Sitting
  • Brisbane Dog Care – Certified Sitter Available
  • Dog Services Brisbane – Compassionate Sitting
  • Brisbane Dog Minder – Secure & Friendly Care
Local keywords into title tag

Service area mention in title tags


Another awesome strategy is to mention your service area in your title tags. This can help both Google and users understand where you are, and which areas you service. 

Especially for Google, it’s a great hint of where you can start to show up in the rankings in terms of location. 

I’d strongly recommend local businesses do this for their service pages or at least test this on their homepage. It particularly works well if you are a mobile mechanic or have a mobile business that targets specific areas. 

You’ll also find larger brands doing this with particular locations for example McDonalds Annerley, or McDonalds Yeovil.

Competitor local seo title tag analysis


Analyse your local competitors title tags and see if they are using local keywords. Also take note of those who are and those who are not. Research which site is getting more traffic and which positions they are in the SERP results. 

Next steps:

If you can see that no one in the top 10 results are using local keywords, then it’s a pretty clear indication that maybe they are not as effective. However, it could just be because no one is optimising their title tags. So on the other hand, give it a try and see what happens. 

Key points:

  • Check local competitors’ title tags for local keywords usage.
  • Note the traffic and SERP positions of sites with and without local keywords.
  • Lack of local keywords in top results may indicate their limited effectiveness.
  • Consider the possibility that competitors may not be optimising title tags.
  • Test using local keywords in your title tags to see if it affects your SERP ranking.
Competitor analysis of title tags used by competition
My advice: You can also use tools like Ahrefs to look at your competitors webpage and see which pages are getting the most traffic. You can also identify their title tags and understand what they are doing in their strategy to keep it successful.


Ideal Character Count for Title Tags

Did you know that there is actually a limit to the number of characters you can use in your title tags? If you have too many, your title tag may not be displayed correctly, losing out on user experience.

Well, now you do. And here’s a more in depth overview of the character count limits in title tags and how they could affect your SEO.

Character limit guidelines


The character limit is between around 50-70 characters. The reason why it isn’t a specific number is because it’s based on pixel width. The pixel width is around 600 pixels wide. Ensuring you are within this metric can help optimise your title tags. 

I’ll go into more details in the next section, but if your title tags are simply too long, then Google and search engines will replace them or generate them automatically for you. This is OK, but may be less effective than what you can create. 


“Brisbane’s Best Dog Sitting Services – Your Pet’s Home Away from Home” – Using the same message please shorten this to be more concise and within the 60 character limit. 

Title tag character limit example with number
My advice: You can use ChatGPT or Gemini AI to help you shorten your title tags if they are too long. Prompt it to shorten without losing the content or the message of the title tag. Usually they will give a good response.


Impact of SERP truncation


Search Engine Results Page (SERP) truncation refers to the shortening of title tags and meta descriptions in search results. As I explained above, this can affect how users perceive and interact with content potentially limiting your CTRs. 

What this means…

Truncation can make your headline feel slightly more confusing and less trustworthy. Therefore it’s crucial to double check your titles when they are live and indexed on Google. Always aim to be within the size limit. 

Key points:

  • SERP truncation shortens title tags and meta descriptions, impacting user interaction.
  • Truncated headlines can seem confusing and less trustworthy, affecting click-through rates (CTRs).
  • It’s important to review live titles on Google to ensure they fit within size limits and avoid truncation.
  • Staying within the recommended character limit is key to maintaining clear and effective titles.
My advice: When you make changes to your title tags, make sure you re-index your pages in Google Search Console. Be patient, and wait a few days. After that you should see the correct updates on the SERP results.


Mobile vs. desktop character counts


Title tag limits are shorter on desktop. This is because there are more results being shown at once on the desktop, which prevents the title text wrapping to the line below. 

Mobile has an awesome option where the text folds down a line so you can see the characters more. With this being said, you can likely optimise your title tags based on your users. 

Key points:

  • Desktop displays title tags with shorter limits due to showing more results simultaneously, preventing text wrapping.
  • Mobile devices offer text folding, allowing more characters to be visible by moving to the next line.
  • Title tags can be optimised based on user device preferences.
  • Understanding the audience’s primary device usage can guide the optimisation of title tags for better visibility.
  • Device-specific optimisation might improve user engagement by tailoring content visibility to the viewing platform.
My advice: When you make changes to your title tags, make sure you re-index your pages in Google Search Console. Be patient, and wait a few days. After that you should see the correct updates on the SERP results.


Common Mistakes to Avoid With Title Tags

If you are just starting out writing your own title tags and want to make sure you are not making any mistakes, I’ve put together some things you can try and avoid below. 

Some things are similar to the best practices, but there are the most common mistakes I see across the web on a daily basis. Anyway, here’s everything you can try and avoid when you’re creating your title tags in SEO. 

  • Duplicate title tags

Avoid using the same title tag across multiple pages.
Instead, do this: Ensure each page has a unique title reflecting its content.

  • Overuse of keywords

Keyword stuffing can harm SEO and readability.
Instead, do this: Integrate keywords naturally into content.

  • Non-descriptive titles

Vague titles fail to convey content value or engage users.
Instead, do this: Make titles clear and relevant to content.

  • Overly long title tags

Long title tags risk being truncated, losing key information.
Instead, do this: Keep titles concise and within recommended character limits.

  • Lack of unique value proposition

Titles without a UVP blend in with competitors.
Instead, do this: Highlight what makes your offering unique in titles.

  • Skipping local keywords

Forgetting local terms can lead to missed targeting for local searchers.
Instead, do this: Include local keywords in titles for better local SEO.

  • Forgetting mobile optimisation

Non-mobile-friendly sites deter a vast mobile audience.
Instead, do this: Ensure your site is responsive and mobile-optimised.

  • Failing to update old tags

Outdated tags may not reflect current content or SEO practices.
Instead, do this: Regularly review and update tags to stay relevant.

  • Neglecting Click-Through Rate (CTR) Factors

Ignoring CTR influencers can decrease ad and listing performance.
Instead, do this: Focus on ad relevance and creativity to boost CTR.


Overall, as we look towards the future of title tags, I think they will continue to hold significant importance in SEO strategies. However, the way we approach them might evolve.

With advancements in AI and search algorithms, title tags will need to be more unique and human-like to stand out in rich snippets and search results. I foresee a greater emphasis on creating title tags that not only appeal to search engines but also resonate deeply with users on an emotional level.

Experimentation with different variations and the inclusion of action words, local SEO keywords, and seasonality will become even more crucial for staying ahead in the rankings.

As always, I’ll keep testing and adapting my strategies to ensure my content remains at the forefront of these changes, and I encourage you to do the same. The future of title tags is dynamic, and staying informed and agile will be key to our continued success in SEO.


About The Author

George Panayides is a digital marketing specialist, focusing on SEO, Google ads, Social media marketing, website development and link building. He’s looking to help other freelancers or business owners become a master in their industry and move towards a better, more successful future.

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Hey, it's George. I'm giving away my marketing secrets (because apparently, I'm just that nice 🙄). You can thank me by linking to my content ha ha.

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