A meta title is an important part of website optimization, and it's distinct from the headline on the page itself. It acts as a name tag for the web page. The title is displayed on your browser tab and tells you what page you're on. Meta titles are also read by search engine robots and seen by users searching the web. Because of this, it's important to use a title that is strong for search engines, yet makes sense to humans surfing the web.
The meta title used to be overly important for helping the page rank higher in search engine results. As a result, many webmasters wrote their titles to cater only to search engine robots, disregarding how they read to website visitors. However, the trick to writing a good meta title is to make them sensible and natural to the reader while incorporating good keyword usage and ensuring relevance to your site.
What to Avoid
Meta title mishaps can hurt your website's performance in search results or confuse web users. Some of the most common ones include:
- Not creating any page title at all
- Making titles too long (see below)
- Naming your page the same name as your website or business name
- Naming all your pages the same name or something similar to each other
- Naming the page without connecting it to your content and other metadata (like the meta description)
- Repeating keywords within the title
If you are having trouble figuring out which keywords to focus on, you can use keyword selector tools and keyword density tools to help you write your meta title.
Examples of Bad Page Titles
The following meta titles are too vague and do not give search engine robots or your website readers enough information:
- Population Statistics
- Chocolate Indulgence
- Tax Tips
Titles like these will fail to drive traffic toward your site.
Examples of Good Meta Titles
In contrast, good meta titles are specific and detailed without being long-winded:
- Easy Tips for Growing Flowering Shrubs
- 2018 Population Statistics: Number of People In U.S.
- Award-Winning Coca Chocolate Cake Recipe
- Tax Advice—How to Pay Less In Taxes
Note that the above title tags accomplish three things:
- They help robots understand what is most important about the content on the page by repeating part of the keyword phrases that would be found in article headings and content.
- They make sense to the people who are reading them.
- Where possible, they use different words or plurals that mean the same or similar things without actually repeating identical words.
How Long Should a Page Title Be?
Search engine robots may only read a certain number of characters in certain types of metadata and ignore the rest. Different search engines read different numbers of characters, but most robots are happy if you keep your titles no more than 55 characters. Google sometimes seems to stop just shy of 55 characters based on how much linear space individual characters take up. Still, a 55-character limit is a good general target.
Tips for Creating Powerful Meta Titles
A well-constructed title tag will greatly increase your chance of standing out in search results. Consider the following when creating page titles:
- Repeat keyword ideas in pluralized form or with synonyms, no more than twice. Keywords shouldn't be identical within the same metadata string. This is called "keyword stuffing," and search engine bots will knock you for it.
- Tie in phrases to your content and other metadata.
- Limit the use of punctuation.
- Use initial caps throughout the title.
- Make it interesting.
When writing meta titles, ask yourself how it sounds when you read it out loud. Does it make sense? Would others know what you are talking about? If not, then you are probably trying too hard to appease search engines at the expense of connecting with your audience. In the end, you are much better off creating human-friendly meta titles. After all, it doesn't matter how high your page ranks in search results if no one understands your title enough to click on it.