About Page Titles
How you title online content can make the difference between reaching a sprawling audience and a handful of accidental clicks. No pressure, but an article’s title is among the most important aspects in SEO success and getting people to view the content.
Page titles are more than just the big text at the top of webpage. They are coded elements within a web page that control behind the scenes technical aspects. In most web copywriting situations, the page title gets its value from the text you enter in the platform or CMS title field. Other times you may have to come up with a title, but your editor actually fills in the value. Some web copywriting gigs feature pre-assigned titles which leave the title out of your control; however, if it is under your control making sure you write a good one can go a long way.
Where Titles Appear
Your audience can encounter your page title more than once when accessing an article. Even if the title text isn’t displayed on the webpage itself the browser will display the title at the top of the screen or in the tabs. If site pages link to your content they will likely use the title information in some aspect of the link preview. Social Networks actually scrape shared pages and build the composite preview using the title field and other on page information. Finally, the page title appears as the link to the content within search engine results.
Writing Good Titles
The most important thing in writing a good title is to write it for a human audience. Search engines constantly update algorithms to devalue content that tries to game the system. If you want to see long-term SEO benefits it’s best to play fair. Long titles won’t hurt you in SEO crawls, but they can count against you for human clicks. Click-throughs help improve search rankings. Google will only display around 50-60 characters in the title field on search results pages depending on the text character width. If the truncated title doesn’t get the point across, people will likely click another link. Write your titles using words that the general audience would use and place important words closer to the beginning. If you have to use branding or the location is relevant, include it, but separate it from the other content using pipes, or the “|” character for clean visual split.
Common Title Errors
Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs because search engines penalize it. Keyword stuffing is using words that people search for that may be loosely related to the content at best. You may encounter overly long titles that don’t fit in the preview text because of boilerplate text and repeating words, both of which should be avoided. Finally, non-descriptive titles rank poorly in results.
Page URL Tips
The page URL also plays a major role in SEO and isn’t as important to human viewers. If you have the capability, include the important words from your title separated by hyphens in the URL. Do not use underscores or other special characters to split URL text.
Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.