<title>What Is The Best Title Tag For Google?</title>
Title Tag Best Practices
Ranking in Google in 2015 is about SO MUCH more than just optimising one element of a page, but the Page Title Tag (or more accurately the HTML Title Element) is still – arguably – the most important on page seo element to address on any web page. Keywords in page titles can HELP your pages rank higher in Google results pages (SERPS) and the page title is also often used by Google as the title of a search snippet link in search engine results pages.
For me, a perfect title tag in Google is dependant on a number of factors;
- A page title that is highly relevant to the page it refers to will maximise it’s usability, search engine ranking performance and click through satisfaction rate. It will probably be displayed in a web browsers window title bar, and in clickable search snippet links used by Google, Bing & other search engines. The title is the “crown” of a keyword targeted article with important keyword phrase featuring AT LEAST ONCE. Most modern search engines have traditionally placed a lot of importance in the words contained within this html element. A good page title is made up of keyword phrases of value and/or high search volumes.
- Google displays as many characters as it can fit into “a block element that’s 512px wide and doesn’t exceed 1 line of text”. So – THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF CHARACTERS any seo can lay down as exact best practice to GUARANTEE your title will display, in full in Google, at least. Ultimately – only the characters and words you use will determine if your entire page title will be seen in a Google search snippet. Google used to display 70 characters in a title – but that changed in 2011/2012. If you want to ENSURE your full title tag shows in Google SERPS, stick to a shorter title about 59-65 characters. I have seen ‘up-to’ 69 characters (back in 2012) – but as I said – what you see displayed in serps depends on the characters you use.
- Google is all about ‘user experience’ and ‘visitor satisfaction’ in 2015 so it’s worth remembering that usability studies have shown that a good page title length is about seven or eight words long and fewer than 64 total characters. Longer titles are less scannable in bookmark lists, and might not display correctly in many browsers (and of course probably will be truncated in serps).
- Google will INDEX perhaps 1000s of characters in a title… but no-one knows exactly how many characters or words Google will actually count AS a TITLE when determining relevance for ranking purposes. It is a very hard thing to try to isolate accurately with all the testing and obfuscation Google uses to hide it’s ‘secret sauce’. I have had ranking success with longer titles – much longer titles. Google certainly reads ALL the words in your page title (unless you are spamming it silly, of course).
- You can probably include up to 12 words that will be counted as part of a page title, and consider using your important keywords in the first 8 words. The rest of your page title will be counted as normal text on the page.
- NOTE, in 2015, the html title element you choose for your page, may not be what Google chooses to include in your SERP snippet. The search snippet title and description is very much QUERY dependant these days. Google often chooses what it thinks is the most relevant title for your search snippet, and it can use information from your page, or in links to that page, to create a very different SERP snippet title.
- When optimising a title, you are looking to rank for as many terms as possible, without keyword stuffing your title. Often, the best bet is to optimise for a particular phrase (or phrases) – and take a more long-tail approach. Yes – that does mean more pages on your site – that’s the reality in 2015. Content. Content. Content. Conversely – too many page titles and not enough actual page text per page could lead to Panda or other ‘user experience’ performance issues. A highly relevant unique page title is no longer enough to float a page with thin content. Google cares too much about the page text content these days.
- Some page titles do better with a call to action – a call to action which reflects exactly a searcher’s intent (e.g. to learn something, or buy something, or hire something. Remember this is your hook in search engines, if Google chooses to use your page title in its search snippet, and there is a lot of competing pages out there in 2015.
- The perfect title tag on a page is unique to other pages on the site. In light of Google Panda, an algorithm that looks for a ‘quality’ in sites, you REALLY need to make your page titles UNIQUE, and minimise any duplication, especially on larger sites.
- I like to make sure my keywords feature as early as possible in a title tag but the important thing is to have important keywords and key phrases in your page title tag SOMEWHERE.
- For me, when SEO is more important than branding, the company name goes at the end of the tag, and I use a variety of dividers to separate as no one way performs best. If you have a recognisable brand – then there is an argument for putting this at the front of titles – although Google often will change your title dynamically – sometimes putting your brand at the front of your snippet link title itself.
- Note that Google is pretty good these days at removing any special characters you have in your page title – and I would be wary of trying to make your title or Meta Description STAND OUT using special characters. That is not what Google wants, evidently, and they do give you a further chance to make your search snippet stand out with RICH SNIPPETS and SCHEMA markup.
- I like to think I write titles for search engines AND humans.
- Know that Google tweaks everything regularly – why not what the perfect title keys off? So MIX it up…
- Don’t obsess! Natural is probably better, and will only get better as engines evolve. I optimise for key-phrases, rather than just keywords.
- I prefer mixed case page titles as I find them more scannable than titles with ALL CAPS or all lowercase.
- Generally speaking, the more domain trust/authority your SITE has in Google, the easier it is for a new page to rank for something. So bear that in mind. There is only so much you can do with your page titles – your websites rankings in Google are a LOT more to do with OFFSITE factors than ONSITE ones – negative and positive.
- Click through rate is something that is likely measured by Google when ranking pages (Bing say they use it too, and they now power Yahoo), so it is really worth considering whether you are best optimising your page titles for click-through rate or optimising for more search engine rankings.
- Google has been recorded recently discussing an ‘over-optimisation’ penalty. I would imagine keyword stuffing your page titles could be one area they look at (although I see little evidence of it at the moment).
- Remember….think ‘keyword phrase‘ rather than ‘keyword‘, ‘keyword‘ ,’keyword‘…
- Google will select the best title it wants for your search snippet – and it will take that information from multiple sources, NOT just your page title element. A small title is often appended with more information about the domain. Sometimes, if Google is confident in the BRAND name, it will replace it with that (often adding it to the beginning of your title with a a colon, or sometimes appending the end of your snippet title with the actual domain the page is on.
Don’t Spam Title Tags
When you write a page title, you have a chance right at the beginning of the page to tell Google (and other search engines) if this is a spam site or a quality site – such as – have you repeated the keyword 4 times or only once? I think title tags, like everything else, should probably be as simple as possible, with the keyword once and perhaps a related term if possible.
I always aim to keep my html page title elements relatively simple, and looking as human-generated and unique, as possible, although it is easy to end up stuffing keywords in there.
Dynamic Titles In Google SERP Snippet
Google works VERY differently since the days I started publishing results on such seo tests. (I kept some of the information below on this page to show how SEO learned what Google seemed to like, and how you tested such a thing, in case anyone is interested in the future).
With DYNAMIC page titles – Google is free to ignore the page title you use – and will choose the best title for your search snippet, based on what it thinks, is the most relevant text, to a search query. It is now VERY COMMON for Google to create it’s own search snippet title, all but effectively ignoring the title you specified for the page.
I witnessed this tested for months if not for over a year (usually to help repair malformed titles or pages with the same title ‘tag’ as some call it, for instance), but it became very widespread, even for well formed pages too.
Example (from 2012):
Dynamic snippet titles seem to key off various signals – from anchor text pointing to the page in question, or from the page title itself, or from Headers (h1-h6) – all based on what the searcher actually typed in. I see a lot of folk asking in forums why their snippet title is different from their page title, and it’s probably that you just now can’t ever guarantee what title Google will pick to match to a phrase (unless you control the linking of course – more of that below). SEO are used to very dynamic DESCRIPTIONS in the snippet. Google is MUCH more confident at stretching that dynamism to the snippet title these days, and not just using this to ‘repair’ malformed or very unhelpful titles.
Perhaps EVEN more of a reason to mix up the anchor text pointing to a page, and creating unique page titles that are different from H1 headers etc….Note – There are other reasons your page title is wrong in Google (see below).
How Google, Yahoo & Bing Handle Title Snippets If They Choke On A Page Title
I demonstrated a long time ago Google will use the next available Header, be it a H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6 if your page title element is screwed.
The graphic below shows Google using a H6 header as the page title.
Yahoo and Bing now much work the same (as Bing actually powers Yahoo search now) – Bing and Yahoo will display as many characters as possible in the title tag. I would expect these to change to a more similar approach to Google’s in the coming year(s).
Does Google penalise keyword stuffing of Title Tags?
Some time ago I showed if you had a long spammy page title Google would ‘forgive you’. Last year Google seemed to count the first 8-12 words (displaying 70 characters in a search snippet) and then just count the rest of the words as part of your text but it would not obviously penalise you for a massive title.
I’ve only ever seen one obvious case of Google ‘maybe’ responding negatively to a very spammy title.
A company contacted me to ask:
I was looking to see why my site has not been getting any hits
I Looked at the home page title:
Company Name – xxxxxxx, telephone, health and safety, xxxxxxx, scanner, PC, fax, monitor, xxxxxx, keyboard, office equipment, cleaning, cleaning service‚ cleaning company, computer cleaning, xxxxxxxx cleaning, PC cleaning, dust control, telephone cleaning, computer xxxxxx cleaning, anti static, xxxxxx room, printer cleaning, xxxxxxx display unit, raised access xxxxxx, preventative maintenance, zinc dust, anti static mat‚ xxxxxxx room, anti static flooring, xxxxxxx room, computer cleaning equipment, keyboard cleaning, companyname uk
Google showed no title in the page title link in the SERPS:
There was H1s on the page (multiples too) – but perhaps if created correctly, Google would have used a H1 as the title tag. Unfortunately, the site in this example was using images as H1 Tags too.
So, this could have been more about sloppy code, than actual penalty.
On the whole, I’ve not made many observations of Google really penalising for keyword stuffing decent page title elements.
How Many Words In A Page Title Tag?
Way back in 2007 I tested how many keywords will Google read in the title tag / element using a simple test. And here’s some of the observations, which were quite surprising.
First – here’s the test title tag I tried to get Google to swallow. And it did. All of it. Even though it was a bit spammy;
HoboA HoboB HoboC HoboD HoboE HoboF HoboG HoboH HoboI HoboJ HoboK HoboL HoboM HoboN HoboO HoboP HoboQ HoboR HoboS HoboT HoboU HoboV HoboW HoboX HoboY Hob10 Hob20 Hob30 Hob40 Hob50 Hob60 Hob70 Hob80 Hob90 Hob11 Hob12 Hob13 Hob14 Hob15 Hob16 Hob17 Hob18 Hob19 Hob1a Hob1b Hob1c Hob1d Hob1e Hob1f Hob1g Hob1h
Using a keyword search – hoboA Hob1h – we were surprised to see Google returned our page. We also tested it using – Hob1g Hob1h – the keywords right at the end of the title – and again our page was returned.
So that’s 51 words, and 255 characters without spaces, 305 characters with spaces, at least! It seems clear Google will read a title length of just about any amount – hence why some seo do use very long titles.
Update: Qwerty pointed out an interesting fact about the intitle: site operator in Google.
…..results as expected. But next in the sequence returns the following, unexpected result…..
So what does this tell us? Google seems to stop at the 12th word on this page at least when returning results using the intitle: site operator. Another interesting observation. Thanks Qwerty.
We’re obviously not sure what benefit a title tag with this many keywords in it has for your page, in terms of keyword density / dilution, and “clickability” in the search engine results pages (SERPS). 50+ words is certainly not best practice.
When creating your title tag bear in mind Google only shows you the first 69 characters (about 8 words) in SERPS and many think you need to get a well formed understandable call to action in this space.
How Many Characters will Google DISPLAY As A Page Title SERP Snippet?
Google USED to show a maximum of 70 characters in the title – but it is now not possible to lay down an exact number of characters for page snippets in Google.
Google displays as many characters as it can fit into ”a block element that’s 512px wide and doesn’t exceed 1 line of text”. So – THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF CHARACTERS any seo can lay down as exact best practice to GUARANTEE your title will display, in full in Google, at least.Ultimately – only the characters and words you use will determine if your entire page title will be seen in a Google search snippet.
What is was pre-2012
This is a common question and surprising how many people don’t know it. Google will display up to 70 characters maximum in a Page Title for Google. How many characters or words Google actually counts in terms of attributing it to the page title in the TITLE element is another story. Best practice – keep your page titles to under 70 characters and keep your important keywords in the first 55 characters or 8 words if you think like me there must be a limit on the number of characters in anchor text link. If your page title is over 70 characters, Google will truncate your page title when it displays it in the SERPS leaving you with a page title that doesn’t make any … ;) PS – here’s some test pages that illustrate Google displays 70 characters in the page title – and if it encounters 71 characters, it will consider the page title malformed and Google will use the next available H tag as the page title (although sometimes it will use incoming anchor text too).
Home Page Title Is Wrong/Different In Google Search Results
In short, Google will often make up it’s own snippet title for the page, if it thinks it can create a cleaner one, based on what it knows about the page from internal links, content, html markup and links from other sites to this page. I thought I would list some of the more obvious reasons your home page title seems wrong in Google search results:
- If you’re totally new to this, Google will look in your page <title></title> tags in the HEAD for your page title information, to display as the link to your page in search results (SERPS)
- If you’ve made changes recently to optimise your page title for search engines, it might very well be just that Google doesn’t know yet, because it’s not visited your page since you made the change. So give it time. Check the Google CACHE link under your listing in search engines to see which page Google is “supposedly” using for your page (it’s usually accurate).
- If this is clearly not the case, it might be because it is using Open Directory Project (ODP) data (the DMOZ directory) to replace your title with your directory listing data – that is, it’s using the link on that directory to replace your title because it thinks its more relevant to a specific query. If this is a possibility, add <meta name=”robots” content=”noodp” /> and <meta name=”robots” content=”noydir” /> – for the same issue in Yahoo – to your home page and once Google visits the page again, the problem should be resolved See – NOODP & also NOYDIR.
- If you are not in DMOZ or the Yahoo directory, it may well be your title element ‘My Title’ is malformed in someway – I’ve shown before how search engines can choose to use a Header ‘tag’ as a Page title, or ignore the page title completely if you’re a spammer in the making – so ensure your Page Title is properly marked up and starts with and ends with and is in the HEAD of your document – and there is only one.
- Another reason is you may be confusing Google in some way from getting to the correct page title, and/or from displaying it in results, using directives in your meta tags or Robots.txt. When Google knows about the page because other pages it CAN read link to your page with descriptive keywords, it might very well use these links on third party pages to determine what that page title should be if it decides to include the URI in it’s listings, and you CERTAINLY don’t want that. For questions about Robots.txt I go to Sebastian.
- Google uses many signals to help create a search snippet title these days, and will use elements or attributes of your page, or the information in links to your page, to create a snippet title, based on what a searcher typed in.
An intelligent, well formed page title, that is highly relevant to the page, and not duplicated on other pages of your site, is just about the most important single thing you can do to ‘seo’ a page on your site – after you’ve got some text to put a title on, of course.
Your Page Title is still INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT
Having valuable keyword phrases in your page title is a must for Google to work out the topic of your page, but it’s also a great opportunity for a call to action.
If running an e-commerce shop, for instance, with product pages can compete on price, this is one of the easiest tweaks you can make to your site to increase click through rates from search engines. I find that having a price (or a SAVING/DISCOUNT/SALE) in your page titles (if it’s a good price compared to the competition) attracts clicks even from way down the rankings – WAY down – if oyu don’t have enough domain reputation to rank higher.
I’m often surprised when I look at stats and see the product was featured on page 3 in Google and still got a click. The only thing that makes it stand out from the competition? Price in the page title. Hey, they’ve checked the competition already and can see at a glance you’re cheaper.
There’s lots of opportunity to find if you experiment with more laser focused page title for search engines, or more engaging title for humans, however if you take one thing away from this article today – remember th
A highly relevant unique page title is no longer enough to rely on if the page itself is ‘thin content’. Google wants to rank long form, keyword rich text pages (with nice titles) these days – rather than the opposite of that, which is what it used to want to rank. Single, unique, long form quality content pieces with a well thought out page title perform REALLY well in Google in 2015. That’s better for users, better for Google’s bottom line and harder for spammers….perfect, for Google.
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