What is a title tag?
A title tag is an HTML code used to display words at the top bar of a web browser.
A sample code for a title tag looks like this:
<TITLE>SEO Hong Kong</TITLE>
The title tag belongs in the <HEAD> section of your source code, usually placed right after the </HEAD> tag and followed by the <META> tags description and keywords although the order of placement of these tags is not important.
For sites whose pages are developed through handcoded HTML, placement of title tag is difficult to miss as it appears at the beginning of the page’s source code. However, for many What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) HTML tools (like Dreamweaver or FrontPage) and content management systems (CMS) it becomes easier to overlook this tag because these tools provide a default value of title tags. Most CMS for instance automatically generate title tags for all pages as “Home” or “Web Page” and certain versions of Dreamweaver places a default “Untitled Document” for all pages.
All pages must have unique page titles simply because each of them have unique content that must be highlighted on the title tag. Not paying attention to title tags can be costly especially when we are aiming for first page rankings for certain search queries.
Impact of Title Tags in SEO
Search engines use title tags when gathering information about our web pages. And since this tag is visible even before someone visits our page (that is, when this page appears on search results) because the words in the title tag are what appear in the clickable link on search engine results pages (SERP) along with the meta keyword snippet. For this reason, it becomes obvious that search engines put high importance on title tags.
Guides on what title tag is best for our web pages
- Page titles = keywords + organization / company Name. If we have a jewelry business here in Hong Kong with a business name called Glitter, we can use “Glitter – Hong Kong’s Discount Jewelry Shop” if we mean to target people who are looking for “discount jewelry shop”. “Glitter” should also appear in order to promote the name of the shop as a brand. So once someone finds a SERP with the words “Glitter – Hong Kong’s Discount Jewelry Shop” on a clickable link, it becomes easier to understand what the page is about — instead of just putting “Home” or “Welcome to …”. Of course this is not applicable to pages that do not explicitly mention a company or an organization.
- Refer to contents for title tag hints. There is no better place to find ideas when looking for an appropriate page title than the page’s text content itself. That is why it becomes more difficult to optimize all-Flash web sites because they have no text content apart from the ones embedded within the Flash animation. So even if some search engines are reputed to be capable of reading what is within Flash, let’s be conservative and stick with the more traditional text-rich content.
- Check title length — But don’t take it too seriously. I don’t think it’s a very serious matter to consider adhering to a fixed number of characters in a page title. The only thing I consider is that very long titles don’t appear very professional aside from the fact that it does not show up on our browsers. But with 66 characters alloted for Google and 120 for Yahoo!, I think those limits are long enough to constitute page titles that are effective for SEO. Also, page titles are meant to be meaningful phrases and not sentences.
- Repeat keywords if necessary. If I need to create a title “Manila Hotel – Manila’s premier hotel destination”, repeating the words “Manila” and “Hotel” doesn’t look spammy simply because they are necessary to describe the hotel name (Manila Hotel) and describing its location (a hotel located in Manila). I hate to see page titles that bear “Manila, Hotels Manila, Manila Hotels, Manila Accommodation, Manila Discount Hotels” because they don’t make sense except for a hope to get a high ranking for certain keywords. No doubt this is a spammy title which should not be emulated.
- Avoid ALL CAPS. CAPS are often associated with spammers, not only in sending spammy e-mails but also on spammy web pages. Since search engines are case insensitive and treat CAPS and smallcases as same entities, avoid having an all CAPS title unless it is a trademark such as GAP or MUJI.
- Develop the pages first before the page title. Since I mentioned that page titles appear on the top of the HTML code and is likely to be filled in before text content is encoded/pasted, and titles should depend on page content, they appear to be contradicting, right? No. You can leave the title tag empty until you finish all your text content for that page. That’s the time you can decide on an appropriate page title.
With interesting articles and sufficient text content, it’s easy to derive suitable page titles that could zoom our pages into the first page of search engine results.