On-Site SEO Ranking Factors: Title Tags

Many of us in the business of Search Engine Optimization fret over link profiles, link anchor text, social signals and other external factors that affect our website ranking when some of the most potent influencers are right on the page you want to rank. Arguably the most important of these is the title tag.

The title tag, sometimes referred to as the "meta title", is your opportunity to tell search engines exactly what the page is about, and your choice of the main keyword for the page should be prominently featured and tie in directly with the written copy on the page as well as images. The title, along with your meta description, is what usually displays in Google search results when your page is displayed.


seo title tag

Google has mentioned that title tags are "not a critical ranking signal." saying that while they do influence results, a page can rank without a carefully planned title tag. While this is accurate, we've seen many occasions where a page will improve ranking position significantly, sometimes jumping multiple pages where editing the title tag was the only change.

Well-planned title tags can also help you to organize your site's content and can help you to see at a glance if you're using a focus keyword multiple times on your site which can potentially cannibalize the potential of a page's ranking. You'll want to avoid using the same title tag on multiple pages.

Creating Your Title Tag for Best Results

Crafting an ideal title and the elements contained within are dependent on the length of your focus keyword. The length of the title tag can include only 65-70 characters before being truncated in Google search engine results, so do your best to keep it under 70.

If there's enough room, we like to generate a title tag using the primary keyword, followed by a separator character, then the title of the website.

It's also a good idea to have the focus keyword as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible as well.

To illustrate how we'd put a title tag together using these criteria, I'll use an example of a product page about "pink ballet shoes." The focus keyword is the same, and the website is called "Ballet Planet."

In this case, we might use the title:

Buy Pink Ballet Shoes Online | Ballet Planet

This title satisfies the requirement of containing the keyword along with the site title, and it's only 44 characters long. The keyword is featured close to the beginning, and we also added words before and after the keyword that are relevant for an e-commerce store. A well-written title tag can also improve the click-through rate of a page if it describes precisely what the searcher should expect to find on the page.

One thing you should be careful of is not overdoing it. Don't attempt to "keyword stuff." by adding the keyword multiple times, for example:

Pink Ballet Shoes | Pink Shoes for Ballet | Shoes at Ballet Planet

In this example, we've remained under the limit at 67 characters but notice that the words "shoes" and "ballet" both appear three times each. Keyword stuffing can appear to Google to be a clear signal of trying to "over-optimize" a page for ranking results and can do more harm than good.

Despite your best efforts to create a title tag that helps your site rank and gets the clicks, Google will sometimes opt to show the title that displays in search results they think is best. These changes can be annoying but don't tend to happen often, and usually are the result of bad titles, for example, using "homepage" as the title for your homepage.

To recap:

  • Keep it short. 65 characters are ideal.
  • Try to use the main keyword as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible.
  • Make sure the title is relevant to the page content.
  • Use a different title tag on each page.
  • Don't keyword stuff