Google just recently updated their published best practices for writing HTML title tags.
In early August, Google started a new system of generating titles for pages displayed in their search results. This update led to a larger portion of HTML title tags not being displayed as the title link in Google’s search results.
Since that update, Google updated their SEO page title best practices. Here are their best practices for writing descriptive title tags with our added Pro Tips. Following these title tag best practices can help ensure your targeted, ‘click-through rate friendly’ page titles are displayed as the title link in the search results page.
SEO Page Title Best Practices
- Make sure every page on your site has a title specified in the <title> element
- Write descriptive and concise text for your <title> elements
- Avoid keyword stuffing
- Avoid repeated or boilerplate text in <title> elements
- Brand your titles concisely
- Be careful about disallowing search engines from crawling your pages
1. Make sure every page on your site has a title specified in the <title> element
Pro tip: Make sure your site only has one <title> element. Sometimes plugins or different themes can cause issues resulting in multiple <title> elements.
2. Write descriptive and concise text for your <title> elements
Avoid vague descriptors like “Home” for your home page, or “Profile” for a specific person’s profile. Also avoid unnecessarily long or verbose text in your <title> elements, which is likely to get truncated when it shows up in search results.
Pro tip: Your title tag should tell users and search engines what they can expect to find on the page and entice them to click. Think about if you saw your page in Google’s search results or shared on social media—the title is one of the first things you see and one of the most important elements to attract you to click through. What would be the best concise way to describe the page and entice you to click?
3. Avoid keyword stuffing
It’s sometimes helpful to have a few descriptive terms in the <title> element, but there’s no reason to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times. Title text like “Foobar, foo bar, foobars, foo bars” doesn’t help the user, and this kind of keyword stuffing can make your results look spammy to Google and users.
Pro tip: You still want to include your primary target keywords for the page within the page title, but make sure it is relevant. We have seen success with this general structure, [Primary Query]: [Secondary Query] – [Brand Name]. For example, SEO Page Titles: Title Tag Best Practices – emfluence.
4. Avoid repeated or boilerplate text in <title> elements
It’s important to have distinct, descriptive text in the <title> element for each page on your site. Titling every page on a commerce site “Cheap products for sale”, for example, makes it impossible for users to distinguish between two pages. Long text in the <title> element that varies by only a single piece of information (“boilerplate” titles) is also bad; for example, a common <title> element for all pages with text like “Band Name – See videos, lyrics, posters, albums, reviews and concerts” contains a lot of uninformative text.
One solution is to dynamically update the <title> element to better reflect the actual content of the page. For example, include the words “video”, “lyrics”, etc., only if that particular page contains video or lyrics. Another option is to just use the actual name of the band as a concise text in the <title> element and use the meta description to describe your page’s content.
Pro tip: Invest your time creating highly targeted, unique and relevant page titles for your organic entry target pages. If they are internal functionality pages not intended to be an organic entry page, boilerplate, but unique, titles are fine.
5. Brand your titles concisely
The <title> element on your site’s home page is a reasonable place to include some additional information about your site. For example:
<title>ExampleSocialSite, a place for people to meet and mingle</title>
But displaying that text in the <title> element of every single page on your site will look repetitive if several pages from your site are returned for the same query. In this case, consider including just your site name at the beginning or end of each <title> element, separated from the rest of the text with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe, like this:
<title>ExampleSocialSite: Sign up for a new account.</title>
Pro tip: If you have a prominent, highly known, and trusted brand name, we have seen success by adding that brand name to the front of title tags. Example structure, [Brand Name]: [Primary Query] – [Secondary Query]. Here is an interesting case study on brand names in the title tag. Otherwise, we’d recommend adding the target queries towards the front. Example structure, [Primary Query]: [Secondary Query] – [Brand Name].
6. Be careful about disallowing search engines from crawling your pages
Using the robots.txt protocol on your site can stop Google from crawling your pages, but it may not always prevent them from being indexed. For example, Google may index your page if we discover it by following a link from someone else’s site. If we don’t have access to the content on your page, we will rely on off-page content to generate the title link, such as anchor text from other sites. To prevent a URL from being indexed, you can use the noindex directive.
Pro tip: We often run across sites that are unaware they are accidentally blocking portions of their site through robots.txt issues. If there is not a very specific reason to disallow something in the robots.txt, don’t.