A central aspect to the search engine optimisation (SEO) game is the ability to generate title tags and headings that work. On the surface they might appear like neat little descriptions that help the user find you, but they are so much more critical than that.
What these manage to do is boost your keyword visibility to provide a direct link to your content and subsequently, assist your search engine ranking. Title tags that are relevant to the niche or subject in question will help sites like Google work a roadmap of sorts whereby they can navigate the domain easier.
Get the title tag right and the rest of your SEO campaign will benefit. Struggle to narrow down this element of the equation and the challenge becomes greater.
So what we need to do now is break down the topics one by one:
- What are title tags and headings?
- Where do they emerge?
- How should they be utilised?
Let’s start that process right here.
Title Tags and Headings: Are They The Same?
Simply put – title tags and headings operate on a similar level but with contrasting degrees of importance. For SEO purposes, title tags are the domain that must be preferenced.
The title tag is the first port of call a search engine will view to find your domain. This metadata will work complimentary to the meta description to act as a signal for the likes of Google.
Your headings on the other hand will be viewed in list of importance from H1 to H2 and all the way down to H6 depending on the degree and detail of sub-headings you want to utilise.
They should have a relationship to your content and follow a similar pattern to title tags, but will be more concise in relation to the page in question. In that respect, we will focus on the need to maximise and optimise the potential of your title tag.
Take Marie Haynes blog as a key example. For her blog on the importance of title tags in SEO, the article has kept true to the formula required:
“Is title tag keyword order important for SEO? An experiment.”
The above quote is the title tag. It happens to feature 3 keywords:
- Title tag
The blog itself deduces that the title tag is a critical part of the search engine optimisation strategy, challenging John Mueller’s assertion that it has no bearing on rankings.
While the content is vital, the title tag is the superior tool to establish keyword relevance and to narrow down the focus of the website.
Title Tag Visibility: Where Your Headings Will Emerge?
Before we venture further with an analysis of the title tag process, it is best to gauge why this area of content matters. Rather than just being the highlighted blue text that fronts the Google search, it will be the guiding force that headlines the page in three domains of note.
If they say that first impressions matter, then the search engine results page (SERP) is the one location you need to perfect. The words will be apparent on here the most with the target of attracting as many clicks as humanly possible.
Popular social media hubs like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will follow many of the same title tag principles that the search engines utilise. However, they are not necessarily a copy and paste replica of domains like Google with each platform including their unique meta tag approach.
This is a positive development because it allows you to curate your subject and niche towards the audience. Search engines are a wide and vast playground of websites that put the emphasis heavily on your shoulders to get the title tag right. For sites like Facebook, it is easier to put your domain within a select category.
Sitting at the very top of your web browser will be a title tag. This is helpful for those who are surfing the internet and have a number of tabs open simultaneously. Pages that are kept as bookmarks or favourites as an icon or within a folder are done so if the web browser is clearly marked.
If this domain is muddled or confused, then there is a likelihood that visitors can lose track of your site on their search history without the clarity of a concise title tag.
Steps To Optimise Your Title Tag Game
So you now have a grasp of what a title tag is and where they will emerge online. The next step is to take advantage of what they have to offer by following a select set of nimble tricks and strategies.
Use It as an Engagement Tool
If your title tag does nothing to draw and attract new eyeballs to your site, then you are doing it wrong. Not only is it a great SEO tool to help the search engines out with their discovery, but it is meant to entice those scanning the web to click that button and venture on to your domain.
This is where language becomes critical. Try and eliminate or minimise stop words where possible. They will include any of the following:
- Pronouns: “She,” “We,” “He”
- Conjunctions: “While,” “But,” “And”
- Articles: “A,” “An,” “The”
Essentially anything that halts the momentum of the title tag is eating up precious character space. They should be designed for your target market, be specific to the niche and be presented in catchy font.
Not a simple process by any means, but nothing of value should come easy. Your competitors will also encounter the same challenge, so getting one-up on this metric can reap significant dividends for web traffic.
Those sites that are in the gazebo game for example could curate a blog that garners a lot of online attention with a title tag that reads: “Architects 101: 7 Easy Gazebo Design Tips For DIY Specialists – (Brand Name Here).” Cut to the chase and entice the audience with something intriguing without confusing the issue.
Undertake Keyword Research Efforts
As you have probably noticed by now, the topics of title tags and keywords have a fair degree of overlap involved. The terms that are curating a lot of online attention in your business category might be overused or there could be scope to take advantage of that exposure.
This will be a decision that ultimately comes down to your keyword strategy, something that can be developed with the assistance of Google’s Keyword Planner software application tool.
Take note of the pricing structure involved and follow the suggestions. We must stress that you will not execute the perfect keyword strategy from day one. There will be trial and error included. One ploy that helps is to type your niche into the search engine and see what related phrases emerge.
For example, a “fishing equipment Sydney” search will result in a number of other suggestions:
- online fishing store Australia
- fishing gear eBay
- ocean storm fishing tackle
Achieve an understand of your consumer market’s searching habits and cater your title tag approach accordingly.
Balance Protocol With Creativity
To actually do well with title tags, sites from a variety of niches will have to include certain terms that mirror what their consumer base searches for. This makes the format a key indicator and an example where routine is actual important to follow.
The format for a title tag is not an exact science, with these two formulas managing to tick the right boxes:
- Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
- Keyword/Page Name | Location (Optional) | Business Name
A site like Time Out Melbourne manages to stick to this strategy well by ranking highly on the Google search “Online Shopping.”
Their title tag is broken into three essential segments:
“Shopping | Melbourne’s Best Stores & Sales | Time Out Melbourne”
Every title tag should be unique as Time Out Melbourne’s competitors have their own method of garnering attention to this market. But use your competition as a guide because there will be opportunities to score hits if the terms are well written and well positioned.
The optimal title tag should be anywhere between 50 to 70 characters inclusive of spaces. For some, that will be an incredible challenge to distill your message down to brass tax. Others might even struggle to make that many depending on what the topic happens to be.
Should a title tag drag beyond that 70-character mark, it will be shortened into an ellipses. Crucial keywords can be cut from the listing and both the search engine and the users become disillusioned and uninterested.
Keep tabs on your title tag because an engine like Yahoo has been known to create ellipses at an even shorter vantage point around the 65-character mark.
Keyword Over Brand Name Every Time
The common consensus for online marketers and SEO specialists today is to position the keyword/s first and bookend it with the brand name. Every page of yours on the domain will act as a ranking tool – from the ‘About Us’ section to ‘Products’ and the ‘Contact’ tab, all of it counts in the overall scheme.
In order to achieve genuine currency with those individual URL’s, the title tag should begin with the keywords that relate to that exact page.
Take note of how Australian retailing giant Harvey Norman dominate the television market domestically. They will list their product keywords before their own name, wanting to drive online shoppers to their site with the terms they are looking for.
As a consequence, a search for televisions will issue the following title tag:
“Smart TVs, LCD, LED & 4K TVs – Samsung, LG … – Harvey Norman”
This is a textbook example of a title tag executed properly. Their competition in Bing Lee also follow the same formula to ensure they don’t miss out on any online traffic that will flow through daily.
Yet both of these marketing giants understand that none of the traffic is interested in brand loyalty. They are after the domain that can showcase the best product for the best price possible, making their keywords vital and the brand name secondary on the scale of importance.
Don’t Engage With Stuffing or Black-Hat Tactics
There will be occasions when some degree of repetition is simply unavoidable. The keyword will have to be reused throughout certain moments, but it is fundamental that keyword stuffing is never engaged with.
That is when one term is utilised over and over again to the point where it is obvious that it is not for the benefit of the user, but for the search engine. This actually has a negative effect because sites like Yahoo and Google have become savvy to these tricks of the trade.
A domain like news.com.au has their cricket sporting hub and while they repeat the term, in no way can this be deduced as keyword stuffing. The different forms of the sport are all mentioned in the meta description, but there is a need to differentiate “Test Cricket” from “Big Bash Cricket” and “Cricket News.”
With keywords, it is not a case of less is more, it is just not to have too much of a good thing. The target is to drive traffic organically and showcase your domain in a clear, professional and concise manner. If your title tag happens to be littered with the stuffing of certain terms, then that objective is completely negated and you are back to square one.
This is one example of what is known as black-hat SEO – a dark art tactic that attempts to deceive search engines. Some have tried and succeeded with black-hat strategies, but none have enjoyed any lasting benefit. Google implement regular algorithm changes to adapt to those that believe they can con the system. Keep your title tags simple and avoid the black-hat backlash.
What do you think about title tags and headings? Let us know what you think in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you.
Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.