Writing Better Web Page Titles

One of the easiest things you can do to optimize a web page is to write a better title for it. Aside from writing great content, learning how to write better titles is the best thing you can do for your web page. I’ll start with the basics of a page title and then move into more advanced discussion.

What is a web page title?

If you look at the top of your browser window, above the address bar and the menus, you will see “Writing Better Titles – Social Patterns”. That is the page title of this page.

The title of a web page is specified by the title element aka the <title> tag.

Here’s the code for this page’s title:

<title>Writing Better Web Page Titles - Social Patterns</title>

Why is the page title important?

Page titles influence search engine rankings.
Naturally, search engines rank pages with relevant titles higher than web pages without relevant titles. The basic idea is that you are helping the search engine understand your web page through the page title.

The page title is often used as the heading for your site listing in search engines.
Not only does your web page need to rank well, but it needs to attract people to it. Search users will quickly overlook a web page with a lackluster or unrelated page title.

Page titles are the default label for browser bookmarks.
One of the best ways to attract repeat visits is to have someone bookmark your web page. Almost every web browser assigns the page title as the label for the bookmarked web page. If your page title is not descriptive or missing, most people will not remember why they bookmarked your site in the first place.

Page titles are stored in browser history lists.
Similar to bookmarks, browsers by default use page titles to label pages in the browser’s history. There are plenty of times I’ve wanted to find a page in my history but could never find it because the page had a non descriptive title.

RSS generators and content management systems use page titles to create headlines.
For example, any site powered by WordPress (like mine) will generate RSS headlines from page titles by default.

Most people link to web pages using the page title for anchor text.
This is important for two reasons. Search engines place high importance on relevant anchor text – so when someone links to your web page with the same anchor text as your page title, your ranking for words found in your page title will get boosted. The other reason is that your page title will be the call to action on someone else’s page. A weak page title makes for weak anchor text. Without a strong call to action, no one will want to leave the current page they are on.

Tips for Writing Better Page Titles

The most important thing to remember when writing web page titles is that web page titles are almost always read out of context. Normally there is nothing else except for the title to tell people what your site is about (especially with regards to a search engine listing).

Keep your titles short.
Google cuts off its display of titles at around 64 characters. Although Yahoo and MSN display more characters, I’d recommend keeping it under 64 characters. Keep it short and precise.

Write descriptive titles.
Avoid using word tricks and other ways to jazz up your title. Since web page titles may not be displayed with proper context, people will not have any contextual background to relate your title with. People want a clear description of the web pag before they commit to visiting. Don’t risk potential visitors by using a non descriptive title or worse, a teaser type title. Try and summarize your content in your web page title. (Bad title example: Guess why you are going to click here!)

Do not use the same title for all your web pages.
This makes it hard to distinguish between pages. Why make it tougher on the search engines and your visitors? If you need to always include something in your titles, such as a company name or a web site title – place it at the end.

Focus your keywords at the front.
Place the most relevant keywords at the front. Make sure those keywords are on topic, precise, and summarize your content. Search engines gauge word proximity, so always place the keywords that matter at the beginning and close together. Keywords phrases that are split up and too far apart won’t be considered as related.

Write in plain language.
People skim over titles. So any high flown language or clever text will be disregarded. Speak to your readers the way you would like to be spoken to. Try and avoid too much search engine marketing speak – keep it simple and honest.

Avoid unclear titles with more than one meaning.
Since titles typically lack context, ambiguous titles will generate untargeted traffic and waste your bandwidth. Be as descriptive as you need to. If your web page is about brown furry dogs, don’t just title your page “dog”. That title could mean anything. Title it “Brown Furry Dogs”.

Use a call to action.
Remember that your title is the main draw to get people to click through to your site. Start of with your keyword(s) and then follow up with your call to action. Real important for search engine marketing. In a few words you should explain to your reader what they can gain from visiting your site. People should know instantly what they will be benefiting from the moment they click. Even informational sites can utilize this. For example: “Pepto Bismol – Learn how Bismuth Subsalicylate relieves your upset stomach.”

Avoid unneeded words.
Some people like adding extra information in their title tags like article date, site section, or the URL. My advice is to remove anything that does not need to be there (for example: “Click here to head to My Page” could be reduced to “My Page”). If your page title is descriptive enough, there is no reason to add anything else.

Avoid keyword stuffing.
Plenty of beginning SEOs like to stuff all their keywords into the title. Please don’t do this. Focus on a couple and create more pages for the keywords you still want to target. There is no reason to keyword spam.

Use separators instead of words like “and” or “also”.
Search engines ignore widely used words like “and”, “a”, “the”…etc. These ignored words are called stop words. Instead of stop words, use separators like “-” or “|”. This will save you title space and allow you to put more information into your title if needed.

Use your own judgement.

These are a set of tips that can help you write better titles for your readers and for the search engines. Of course there are always exceptions, but hopefully this article provided you with some basic guidelines and gets you thinking on how you can improve your titles.

If you have any tips of your own, leave a comment!

62 thoughts on “Writing Better Web Page Titles

  1. Hi,

    I usually use character entities for my “separators.” Something such as § (§).

    I’m sure those don’t affect page rank, right?

    This is a great reference for writing page titles – good stuff.

  2. Good tips. It’s hard to overstate the importance of page titles in SEO terms. For example, I recently wrote a piece about obscure Internet Explorer bugs; within a few days, my site ranked top for a search on those four words. Another page ranked seventh for a search on its title within a day of being published.

    It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that journalists have long known the value of a good headline for drawing readers in; now we do the same to draw machines in :-)

  3. Does title we used affected by the kind of permalink we choose? Which is better: category/title-of-web-page or year/month/day/title-ofweb-page ?

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  5. writing good titles is even good for use in bookmarks or saved documents. I do save some good articles on my notebook for offline reading in the train. Since firefox uses the pagetitle for saved documents, I need a pagetitle which tell me something about the content, not the name of the domain.
    Thanks for the article, I will remember next time I create a theme.

  6. I know this is a late addition to this topic. Sorry about that, but I found this article through a google search on writing page titles. This is one of the better articles on this subject. :-)

    I find it especially helpful when sites use good page titles because of bookmarking. I’ve also been known to include the domain name at the end of the title though.

    Is it a good idea to include the domain name in the title at all or is it better to just get rid of it and assume the url is good enough to let people know where the article or content is?

  7. Hi Lynn,

    I’m glad my article could help.

    The choice to include the domain name is usually a branding issue. Do you to associate your site with a domain or a more general name? For instance you can look at how Ask.com uses the domain to brand “Ask.com” across the entire site, while Google chooses to brand “Google” over “Google.com”.

    If you feel like your visitors need help remembering your domain name initially, then include it in the title. You can always remove it later (assuming you don’t need it for optimization purposes.)

  8. Good advice, I tell people to go to google and search their niche keyword. Then I tell them to look at the adword ads on the right. Your title needs to show a more compelling benefit to the searcher then the adword ads on the right, or visitors visit other sites. A good call to action helps too.
    Roger

  9. Good tips. I’d add by saying always give them a reason to click while still being brief as you advise above.

  10. This is a great post, I really am enjoying your blog. Just thought I should say you’re doing a great job.

  11. Thank you for this info, I agree that it’s helpful to have your page name appear when someone is adding to their favorites so they don’t have to overtype or forget what the page is.

  12. This is a lot of good information. How do you know how to target in on good keywords?

    I’ve been looking and reading a lot, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting information at times, or someone is just trying to see you something.

    What do you use to check for keywords to help with SEO on your site and yet keep the content valuable for the human reader?

  13. I see lots of contradictory opnions about the importance of Titles, but it seems pretty obvious to me that it MUST help if your Title gives both real readers and the search engines an accurate “snapshot” of what is going on in your article.

  14. In order to keep jeyword phrases effectively up the front of a title, it’s easier using a hyphen or a colon.

    Eg.

    Article Marketing Strategy – 7 Tips To Effective syndication.

    Using keywords Effectively – My failures turned into success!

    etc. etc.

  15. Robert,

    With finding good keywords, you are looking at two main factors:

    1) search volume. The easiest way is to use the Yahoo! (Overture) search tool, or a free tool like GoodKeywords.com Make sure the term has a decent number of searches. What that number is depends on what type of makreting you are doing, but also relates to…

    2) The competition. An easy way to determine this is to type the phrase into Google in inverted commas, eg:

    “article marketing strategy”

    Up the top right, Google will tell you:
    Results 1 – 10 of about 11,000 for “article marketing strategy”

    The lower the competition the better.

    The ratio between search results and competition, (sometimes known as KEI) can be helpful, but don’t forget very high search volumes, and moderate competition can give high KEI, but it can still be quite a competitive term to rank on…

  16. Thats a good mini tutorial…but i believe you need to be really creative to make a short, descriptive and keyword embeded title.

    I mean I have found it tough to do so to some extent.

  17. I find a good way to write the title is to capitalise the first letter of each word; so for example: “Free Website Traffic” This makes your title stand out in the search engines & will lead to higher ctr’s

  18. Another nice blog post! I think it’s a good reminder that we need to focus on those title tags. Sometimes we forget that title tags are very important to not only human readers, but to the search engines as well.

  19. One of the things I teach my article writing students is to ALWAYS at least try and do the keyword colon trick where you front load your TITLE with the exact keyword, follow with the colon, and then try and BEND the rhetoric you use after the colon.

    The serach engine bots love the up front stuff in the TITLES!

    -kevin

  20. I continuous teach my writers to front load their titles with exact keyword matches and then to rhetorically question in on the back end of the headline.

    It works well when you just throw as colon behind the keyword and ask away.

    -kevin

  21. I made some experiment with the number of words in the page title. It is interesting that increasing the word number from 3 to 6 (keeping only 1 keyword in it) did not change the Google ranking. Maybe word count become only a minor aspect?

  22. headings or titles is one of the first things to check for SEO, as someone said it’s like getting free classifieds ad.

  23. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your very valuable advice.

    Certainly good title plays great role in getting noticed by search engines. Good and relevant title sure brings visitors to you but a perfect description matching to your site subject doubles the traffic. Quality contents with regular updates do the most important job – they make your visitors regular on your site.

  24. There is just not enough GOOD info on this subject. Unbiased info is hard to find. its usaully somebody trying to sell you some ebook or software package.

    with regards to my expience with SEO and keywords, i have just acheived a PR 4 and a 1st page ranking for some of my keywords, the best thing you can do is pick a handfull of keywords, and optimise your page for those only. Pick words that are meaningful to your content, that return not too many sites in google but are searched for alot, a good tool i used was goodkeywords. Also make sure for each keyword you have them in a title, as standard text and as an acronym in you html. Also repeat them but not too many times. After that you just need lots of good google PR sites to link back to you. Submit a few articles relating to your chosen topic. I would say though this is a longer game to play.

  25. Excellent tips for creating hypnotic titles.

    A good, descriptive, to the point headline is the name of the game here. To this day you say many webmaster’s get it all wrong. Either they dont do anything, thus you get a bunch of pages title ‘untitled” or they go for something like “Welcome to…”

    Using the keywords in the front of your title, whether in a or tags is solid advice. If your writing an article about “How To Stop Your Puppy From Chewing”, then the page title would be the same. But if the niche was in puppy chewing then the home page might be something along the lines of Eliminate Chewing | Puppy Training | Dog Training Behavior

  26. I too like most of you have sourced out the best keywords.however is the keyword metatag dead.If so I can stop wasting my time adding them to my website.What do you all think.Where is the best place now for keywords!

  27. I like your tips and have found them interesting for more than just page titles.

    See I use Private Label Articles to submit to websites and as I use software to submit them I write between 5 – 10 different titles for each article. And it can get a little difficult sometimes to write them.

    Your blog has given me some great ideas.

    Thanks
    Justin Bryce

  28. Thank you for your great site and tipps. Can you tell me what i can do better with my tittles?Do you know what Mikrosites is? i heard this will be more better. greetings

  29. Thanks from the UK, A few moments reading and i have learnt so much great tips and advice, bless you, Mike.

  30. Awesome stuff

    Any seasoned article marketer will tell you the importance of including key words in your title. Heck even use em twice eg:

    Article Marketing: Secrets to successful Article Marketing

    Regards

    Rodge UK

  31. Some really useful tips. I run an article directory, so I get to read loads of useful tips, so all you bloggers, feel free to pop over and check out the seo articles I’ve got.

  32. That is really true that the title is the first capture your reader attention.

    And for Google, their spider only read the first 60 chars of your title, so it have to be short and nice!

  33. since google will only show a portion of your web page title, its best to make it short and concise. this will increase the CTR in the SERP if the surfer can easily understand what your web page is about.

  34. Great stuff and sound advice.

    Another thing to consider in some situations is using negatives to draw interest, for example, with dog training I’ve just done one saying “Does your Dog Training Suck?” and various plays on that theme to see what works best vs more conventional positive and “how to” , “learn/discover” type approaches. Any thoughts in this?

  35. yes thats right is one of the most important things when playing with SEO. title have to contain most important keywords, most important starts as close to the beginning as possible. remember not to spam(use it too many times)

  36. Page Title’s are a lot like writting classified ad headlines. This is a great resource and I enjoyed this page very much–well done!

  37. Thanks for the info. Page titles should be engaging to the viewers. A page titles is one of the major SEO factors used by search engines to score/rank a page.

    Make sure you have one or two of your major keywords on a page title.

  38. I think page titles have to be the most important factor for ranking, and attracting new vistors. Google say it’s how the page title is written that attracts new clicks, which is simmilar to their experiments with adwords titles.

  39. The page title is my secret weapon if I get stuck at the 2,3,4 spots. Simply writing an engaging NON-BORING title steals the clicks better than anything else :)

  40. Excellent article – I will add it to my blog and give you credit.
    The only thing I can add is that I have found it is good to add a the chosen keyword in the first and last sentence of the article body.

  41. Wow, this article was very helpful. It’s like a crash course in jumpstarting the web page title. Most people don’t give enough time to actually read titles so the title has to short, functional and above all, eye-catching.

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