Title Tags – SEO Best Practices

July 27, 2012 •

Seo Top Page RankHave you ever wondered if there is a search engine optimization (SEO) best practice for writing title tags?

Maybe you have keyword phrases you want to include, but you’re not sure how to do so. Utilizing the proper keyword phrases in your title tags will lead to better SEO for your website. We will explain how to best go about writing keyword phrases in your title tags to gain domain authority and higher search engine rankings.

Title Tag Navigation Format
The title tag can be seen at the top of your internet browser or show up on the tab that you have open, depending on what internet browser you may use. It’s one of the most important critical factors determining search engine rankings for on-page SEO and user experience. The title tag, or technically called the title element, should consist of a primary and secondary keyword phrase, with an optional third keyword phrase.

Including Your Company Name in the Title Tag
Are you considering including the brand or company name in the title tag? If so, position the brand name at the end of your last keyword phrase followed by your separator on all landing pages, minus the homepage. The homepage, or root domain name, is formatted to open up with your brand name followed by a separator and your slogan or selected competitive keyword phrases.

For example, Nordstrom’s homepage title tag opens with the brand name: “Nordstrom: Free Shipping. Free Returns. All the Time.” However, the title tag for the product landing page for women’s shoes ends with the brand name: “Shoes for Women |”

Title Tag Tip: The goal is to use the least amount of characters for your brand name in the title tag. This will leave you with more characters to maximize the keywords in the title tag. A way to cut back on characters is to abbreviate where you can. For example, don’t write out “Company” but instead use the abbreviation “Co.”

Title Tag Character Count
You should aim to not exceed 70 characters in order for your title tag to read best across the search results.

However, it is okay to exceed this number by a few characters on landing page title tags because this will only impact the brand name, which is not the primary focus of the page (as opposed to the homepage, where brand is the focus). Using around 66 to 68 characters with spaces produces some of the best “white hat” SEO title tags in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

With this character count, it is highly unlikely that your title tag will be cut off and you will see the “…” at the end of the title tag in the organic results, like you see in the image below.
Title Tag Cutoff in SERPs
Primary Keyword Phrase
The primary keyword phrase is often based on the navigation of the page. For example, let’s say your eCommerce site sells shoes and your landing page is for women’s sandals. A logical primary keyword phrase would be “women’s sandals.” This doesn’t have to match exactly, but, at minimum, it needs to be relevant and consistent with the page navigation and theme of the associated product pages.

Secondary Keyword Phrase
The secondary keyword phrase should support the primary keyword phrase but be more focused on long tail keywords. For example, if the primary phrase was “women’s sandals,” the secondary keyword phrase might be “high-heel wedge sandals.” Generally, a form of the primary keyword should be included, but without repeating too many of the keywords from the primary phrase because this would be considered keyword stuffing.

When choosing keyword phrases, utilize the keyword research and competitor analysis to support your decision making process. This will help to improve rankings while also increasing traffic from different variations of your chosen keyword phrases.

Optional Third Keyword Phrase
Using a third keyword phrase is optional. Whether this is even possible will depend on if you have enough remaining characters to utilize a third keyword phrase.

Often the third phrase is quite short. Remember to avoid keyword stuffing. You shouldn’t repeat a word more than three times, even if it’s in the brand or company name. However, you may use related keyword variations to diversify long tail search query phrases all while increasing search traffic.

For example, you have the option to utilize different variation keywords for “bike shoes”, including “bicycle shoes”, “bicycling shoes”, “cycling shoes” or “cycle shoes.”

How to Separate Keyword Phrases in the Title Tag
Commas are a way to separate or segment your keyword phrases. Generally, the primary and secondary keywords are separated by a comma. Using commas will give more exact match to search engine “spiders” that will “crawl” and then index your site and determine how your site will organically rank. Usually once you reach the optional third phrase, it is good to use the “&” sign or a comma.

There is more than one acceptable way to separate your last keyword phrase and your brand name. You could choose to utilize a keyword such as “at” or “from.” This will add to your character count, but it does read well, especially with title tags that have a sentence based focus. On the other hand, if you are going after specific keyword phrases, you may choose to do that by utilizing unique characters, such as the divider bar “|” or a hyphen. It is acceptable to remove the space between the separating character and the brand name in order to free up more characters. Keep in mind this still doesn’t have the same value as a comma symbolizing an exact keyword phrase match.

It is acceptable to use words like “for” or “and” within a keyword phrase (so, not as a separator) if you use it in a way that turns it into part of the keyword instead of a filler. A good example of this would be utilizing “and” in the keyword phrase “peanut butter and jelly.”

Competitor Research
Before creating your title tags, it’s important to do an analysis of your competitors’ title tags and see their search query utilization. This should be done in addition to keyword research. The goal of the research is to see what current title tags are being used, which have authority and what is working.

For example: Search for “women’s wedge sandals” and see what shows up on page one.

However, you should not copy what a competitor is doing just because their title tags are doing well. If you use the same title tag as your competitor and simply switch the brand name, it is highly unlikely that your brand will do better than your competitor on a title tag that the search engine has already indexed for search placement.

Page One, Position One – How to Get There
Making it to the top of page one, position one on organic (natural) search engine results is every website’s goal, and correctly utilizing title tags can help you get there. Taking these tips into account and utilizing someone well versed in online marketing will help you achieve your on-page SEO goals.

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