How to Optimize the Title Tag

The words in the meta title tags are one of the most important ranking factors on a webpage. Titles are usually what gets displayed in search engine result pages. Some people get confused because the title is not the first heading in the content area of the page. Instead, the words in your title tag are in the top bar of the web browser window, above the address or location bar as shown in the image below.

location of optimized title tag in browser

How Many Characters Should you Put in a Meta Title?

When counting characters in a meta title don't forget to include not only letters but such things as spaces, numbers, punctuation, etc. Google has indicated that you should use no more than 65 characters in a title tag. A meta title is actually measured in pixels so if you have a lot of capitals, or a lot of "m"s in your title, you may find some of the words cut off.[1]

The Title Tag Should Contain your Most Important Keywords

To properly optimize your titles, your most important keywords need to be in the front of the tag. If your business services a local area then you should also include your city/state on page titles, but put this on the end.

Use Keyword Phrases in the Title

Your ranking will fail if you only use one word in your title tags. For instance if your title contains the word "cars" people can't tell if you sell cars, repair them, review them or just provide information about them.

For better optimization, use 3-4-5 word phrases in the title instead of single words as shorter phrases have more competition and it will be easier for you to rank for the longer phrases. Arranging your titles so the words make up multiple keyword phrases will help even more, i.e., for instance I use Mobile Website Design Portfolio as the title of one of my pages which gives me 5 phrases in one ("mobile website design portfolio", Mobile website design", "mobile website", "website design", and "website design portfolio"), like in the image below:

add 4 words to a title tag that make up 4 keyword phrases

Use Synonyms Where Possible

People may use synonyms (words that mean the same thing) in search engines instead of the words you are targeting so try and incorporate some of those in your titles, and make sure you incorporate those words in the headers and text of your page also. You can find which words people are using by checking Google Search Console. It's important to optimize your pages with these additional words as much as you can as it will increase relevancy and reduce bounces for your website, which is another ranking factor.

Promote your Brand Name

If your company name is in your domain name you don't need to add your company name in the title, for ranking purposes, except for the home page, about page and any other page describing your business. You will always rank #1 for your domain name unless your site has been penalized or there are other companies using the same name with hyphens, etc. However, except for the home page, always place your business name last in the title as your main keywords should be first.

Use Similar Keywords on Several Different Titles

If you incorporate your main keywords on several page titles the search engines will be more easily able to know that is the main focus of your website. Notice that in the image below every title in this section of the menu has "CSS" in the title. This lets the search engines know that this site is optimized for CSS Tips. In fact this site ranks better for CSS tips than most other keywords.

title tag examplesTitle Tag Examples

Use Unique Titles

Using unique words in each title will prevent duplication and help the search engines know which page you wanted to rank for those specific words. Some CMS programs default to the same title on every page and this may affect your ranking so be sure and set up unique titles on every page. Some blog or CMS software programs do not allow the use of unique titles on every page, in which case either upgrade your software or see if you can't insert unique titles manually.

Don't use Special Characters

Google treats hyphens as spaces but all other characters are treated as the characters they represent, so don't use pipes "|" or arrows ">" to separate your main keywords in the title as it will affect ranking, unless the person searching also uses those characters.

Don't Over-Optimize Your Keywords

Google will not allow you to rank very well for the words in your title if you use the exact same words in too many places on the web page, so vary the words slightly in the text on the page. There are several tools that can help you determine if your keyword density is too high.

Titles That Are Too Long May Get Cut Off.

Most search engines will cut off the words in the title after 65 characters and spaces so don't put the most important words on the end. If your title is too long search engines will still give you credit for the words that are cut off but too many words will also water down your most important keywords. You can use this site to check your Meta Title Tag Length.

Beware of Changing the Title

Only change your title tag if you really need to because it can cause a temporary drop in rank for that page while search engines index the changes and adjust the ranking for that page.

More Optimization Tips

The more emotion you can incorporate into the title the more likely people will click on it. For instance writing negative or positive reviews about your competitors or their products might draw interest, so use words like: Avoid, Best, Compare, Scam etc.

Providing a call to action in your titles tags by using words that peak interest encourages people to click on your page in search results. Use action words like: See, Get, Buy, On Sale, Discounts, Improve, Reduce and Restore.

Instructional or Informational articles can benefit by using "How to" in the front of the title.

Numbers also help draw interest, like, 10 best, 9 steps, 8 examples, etc.

Summary of Title Tag Optimization:

If you put your main keyword in strategic places mentioned above you have a good chance for high keyword ranking in the search engines, unless your domain hasn't aged enough to gain any authority, or isn't penalized for some reason, in which case you might need an evaluation of your website:

order an In-Depth SEO Analysis Report


1. "Meta Description Length 2019." (2019) retrieved from

Lori Eldridge
Copyright, © July 5, 2001, updated 11-04-20
All rights reserved.

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