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Title Tags have been a basic element of SEO from day one and they are still a part of any best practice SEO strategy as we all know. Though the rules around title tags have changed over the years as has their use to a certain degree, their main function has always been intended to be a clear definition of the content the user and Google are about to see.
Title tags have been abused (especially in the heyday of spammy blackhat SEO of days gone by) and maybe once upon a time a keyword stuffed title tag would have given you a ranking boost for a short time period but even then, the user would have bounced directly after clicking through so it had very little positive impact on a site and did far more harm than good. The title tag has evolved, and very much in a positive way, to be a key indicator of the content the visitor is about to see rather than simply an opportunity to trick Google for a short term gain in rankings.
Google has played with the best practices and rules of title tags over the years and has adjusted the way they display a few times over including fairly recently when they changed the width of the result container from 512 pixels to 600 pixels allowing for a few more characters to be visible in the search results. The trend of title tags “rules” seem to always be leaning to the main point of improving the experience for the user which is very much in keeping with Googles overall trajectory these days in the world of AI.
As we all know, title tags are not all about appeasing Google, they are also integral to a page’s click through rate (CTR). A title that displays and reads well will entice a visitor into your site over one that doesn’t so it is of course a good thing for your overall conversions to craft title tags that read well within the defined display area as well as truthfully inform the visitor of what they are about to see when they click through. In a world of sites battling it out on page one of the search results a title tag could be the difference between someone clicking on your site over another. Take a look at what your competitors titles look like in the results and craft yours to stand out as the authority to the users. This is your sales pitch, use it! But I caution you again, be truthful in your titles, there’s no sense in bringing in a visitor to have them bounce feeling frustrated.
On that note I will now point you in the direction of title tags and how they affect the user experience (UX). As mentioned already, a misleading title tag will only frustrate a visitor and lead to a bounce which not only doesn’t help you out on the conversion side but may negatively impact your rankings as UX-related behaviors are indirect ranking factors on Google. Now I do admit that Google has flat out said that user behavior doesn’t affect rankings BUT Google has also said that they are increasingly looking to match user intent and for us to assume that they are not watching things like bounce rate or session duration and considering that would be ignorant. There is really no way to be sure that you are matching user intent without watching user behavior so to me it seems that these factors do affect your rankings or at the very least, will in the not too distant future. Google has not hidden, in fact they have loudly broadcast, that AI is driving the future of search so in my opinion all elements of your site must recognize this.
So how do we craft title tags to increase positive engagement with users and tell Google that we are a good match and an authority on our subject matter? Below are two tools that I like to use, one for crafting new title tags and the other for finding issues with existing title tags.
Title Tag Length and Meta Description Length Preview Tool by McCullough Web Services.
This tool allows you to quickly and easily play with your titles to see how they will display in a Google SERP. There are some limitations to this tool that are clearly defined on the page and I recommend familiarizing yourself with that information but it is the most up to date version of this type of tool that I have been able to find.
This tool will crawl your entire website and allows you to quickly isolate any problem pages that may be missing titles, have incorrect title lengths, etc.
Tools like these will help you out tremendously and I highly recommend their use!
Additionally as I have already mentioned, I suggest snooping around the SERPs (both organic and paid) that are relevant to you and see what others are doing right or wrong. There’s always room for improvement so seek it out and implement it. Your title tags are there for a purpose they are there to inform Google that you have useful information that is relevant to specific queries and they are also there to inform the users that you are the authority on a subject. Lastly, I will leave you with the direction that your work is never done. Testing your title tags is a great way to see what works best so don’t be this guy.