the importance of title tag optimization for better search engine ranking

The title of a web page or an HTML document describes the content of the page in a few concise words and can often be viewed as the headline of the page.

Title tag is an html markup element that defines this title of the document or page. This particular tag, that is specified using xml <title> is a required or mandatory tag in every valid html document. A page can have one and only one title tag and it is defined in the head of the document.

Use of the Title Tag

The title should concisely, adequately and correctly describe the contents of the page. This is important as the title tag is used in various different situations as your page is viewed and used.

Web Browsers: The title tag is used by all web browsers to display the title in the tab bar or the browser window bar. This helps the users to easily identify the tabs and pages in the browser easily. Having a good title is also considered a good web accessibility feature.

Bookmarking: When a particular web page is bookmarked either in the web browser or in a social bookmarking site, the title tag is used as the text. This again helps the users to easily identify the webpage later on from a set of bookmarks.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP): All search engines uses the text from the title tag of the page in the search results page. This is the first impression that is provided to the user who then have to decide whether the page is informative enough to be visited. The part of the title that matches the search query will be highlighted which increases the CTR for your page.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Search Engines heavily use the title tag text to determine the semantics of the page contents. Along with the content of the page, the title is one of the major factor that determine the relevance of the web page to a search query.

Mozilla Firefox displaying title tag

Length of the Title Text

The title tag can be as long as you want. There is no technical requirement on the length of the title. But, it often desirable to keep the title short to around 70 characters or so. This keeps them short, simple and concise and improves readability.

The browsers often have a limit on how much of the title text they can display on the screen, that means it will truncate the rest of the title and will not be shown to the user. This also hold true for the search engines in the search result pages.

Search engine result pages are heavily formatted with designated character counts for title fields and snippets. The character limit changes with search engines and also changes over time. Most search engines display anywhere in the 70 to 80 character range. So anything you have after this character count will be truncated and not displayed.

Remember that this limit by the search engines can change over time, as the SERP are revamped and modified. A while back, Yahoo used to display upto 120 characters for the title.

Be mindful to have the important keywords at the beginning of the title so that is almost always displayed to the user. Also, make sure to create a complete and accurate title no matter how long or short it is. This is important because even if the entire title is not displayed, it will still be parsed and indexed by the search engines. This will also make sure that your title will remain user friendly and scalable over time, no matter what changes happen in the browsers and search engines.

Distinct Title for all Pages

It is important to have distinct and unique titles in each of the web pages to match the contents of the webpage. This will allow the bookmarked pages to be quickly identified. Also, if multiple pages from the website are displayed on the same search results page, it provides a way for the user to identify the contents of the page easily.

Title Formats

Although there are no restrictions on the titles that you can have, there are usually some widely known formats that are said to yield the most impressions with search engines.

Brand name first: Sometimes the Brand name is the most relevant keyword, then the brand name can be the first words in your title. This may also be true for your top level pages that might be very generic in content to have a meaningful title.

Keywords first: If the page is rich in content and has a single relevant subject matter, then it is a good candidate to have a title with the brand name at the end. Make sure that the most important keywords appear earlier in the text. This ensures that they are given more weight and are also always visible to user in spite of truncation of the text.

Always write title after you have written the content of the page or the post. This allows you to write a correct and appropriate title for the content of the page. Forget about the SEO while you draft your title. After you have the title that is really relevant to page, then try to modify and make it search engine friendly without losing the integrity of the title.

The title tag does not necessarily have to be a full sentence that is grammatically correct. It should however convey the meaning easily and accurately, but not sound cryptic and keyword stuffed.