Title Tag SEO: 50 Questions Answered.

on under Search Engine Optimization.

1. What Does The Title Tag Look Like In HTML?

If you need to hard code the title tag in HTML, it looks like this:

<title>Your Title Here</title>

While HTML code will typically render in most browsers without a title tag, it is considered invalid.

Valid HTML puts the title inside of the <head>...</head> tags.

2. What Is The Purpose Of the Title Tag Outside of Search Engines?

Browsers display the title tag as the name of the window or tab that your page is displaying in. Various other tools and scrapers may also use the title tag as the title associated with a particular URL.

3. What Does The Title Tag Do For Search Engines?

The search engines typically use the title tag as the text they display in the search results. Other than the description listed below it, it is the only content a user sees before clicking through to your page. The words used in the title tag are also weighed more heavily in rankings than any other content on the page.

4. How Long Should Your Title Tag Be?

There is no fixed character limit for title tags in Google at this time. Instead, Google truncates titles after a certain number of pixels. The number of pixels will also change based on whether or not keywords are bolded by Google. Google's room for title tags is also much smaller than it used to be, due to a new mobile-friendly design.

Google's search results are displayed in Arial font, and the widest character in Arial is a capital "W". You can fit 30 "W"s in a title (with no bolding), so it is likely a safe bet in almost all circumstances that if your title is shorter than 30 characters, it will fit on the search page, even if some of the words are bolded.

Whether or not this is the length your title should be is a harder question to answer. In general, it's a good idea to keep your titles short enough that users can see everything in the title. However, other than some weak correlative evidence, there's little data supporting the idea that a longer title would actually hinder your rankings directly.

5. Can You Rank For Keywords That Are In The Title After The Point Where It Cuts Off?

Yes, if your title is too long to be fully visible in search results, the words listed after the cutoff still weigh more heavily on search results than any other content on the page. There is some weak correlative evidence that words have more impact if they are listed closer to the beginning of the tag, but the effect is small. An enticing title is more important than word placement.

6. Does The H1 Tag Need To Match The Title Tag?

No, and this is a common misconception.

As described above, the title tag is shown to users from the search results page and as the title of a browser tab. It should be thought of as a call to action to entice users to visit the page.

The h1 heading tag, on the other hand, is visible on the page itself, and should be thought of as a greeting for users and a heading for the content on the page.

For blog posts it often makes sense to use identical title and h1 tags. But for sales pages, it frequently makes sense to make them different.

This is also related to the topic of title length. If you're tempted to make the title longer but realize it won't be visible to users, it makes sense to keep the title short and write a long h1 instead.

The h1 weighs more heavily on search results than anything else on the page except the title tag. Correlative data suggests that the weight of the h1 tag is almost as strong as the weight of the title tag. (While it's a bit off topic, it's also important to keep only one h1 on your page, despite the fact that this rule is getting broken more frequently these days.)

7. Should The Title Tag Be The Name Of Your Site (Or Brand)?

No, with one possible exception: the front page.

The title tag should describe a specific page. It should not be a broad message intended for every page on the site. Individual pages often won't rank in search results for the topics they discuss simply because the title tag doesn't match that specific topic. The more concrete, the better.

8. Should You Put The Name Of Your Site (Or Brand) In All Titles?

This is unnecessary if you want to rank for your brand name, except on the front page, but it's frequently a good idea as a way to get your brand name in front of people either for initial exposure if you're small, or for taking advantage of recognition if you're big.

9. Where Should You Put Your Brand Name If You Do Use It In The Title?

A common practice is to dynamically add your brand name to the end of your title tags, separated by a pipe "|". You can also work it into the context of the title itself. There is no ideal place to put your brand name. It depends on why you're including it and whether it will interfere with the message of what the page is about (or help it).

10. Should You Use "And" Or An Ampersand "&" In Your Title Tag?

This is really a choice about style and title length. If you can fit the word "and" into your title tag, some users might consider it more grammatically appealing, but the advantage of fitting all of the words in the search results can't be overstated. Google understands that the meanings of "and" and "&" are identical, and it often ignores them anyway. However, in some circumstances the search results will be different depending on which word you use in the query. This is typically because "&" is more likely to be considered part of a brand name.

11. Should The Title Tag Match Your URL?

As with the h1 tag, this is unnecessary. Correlative data also suggests that the impact of the text in the URL is quite a bit lower than that of the title and h1.

In general, it is good practice to keep urls short enough that users can easily share them or type them out. Some consider it a good idea to include only the target keyword in the URL, while titles and h1 tags should be more descriptive. Plenty of sites rank very well with junky looking automated URLs, however, and it's possible Google doesn't use the text in the URL at all.

12. Should Title Tags Be Exact Match?

Typically not, unless you're Wikipedia.

The biggest issue with title tags that consist of the exact keyword you are trying to target, and nothing else, is that there is nothing to help them stand out. This impacts click-through rates for sure, which may also impact rankings directly or indirectly.

Titles should be written so that they are more enticing to users than the other options on the search results page.

13. Should Title Tags USE Exact Match Keywords?

This is a harder question to answer and it depends on several things.

It's not as important to use the exact words in the exact order as it was in the past. However, modern SEOs often overestimate Google's abilities to interpret the meaning and semantics of titles. While Google frequently uses synonyms, the exact word (or it's plural or some other minor alteration) almost always ranks better and more frequently than synonyms, even in the age of the Knowledge Graph.

The order of the words is less important. The same goes for phrases that are interrupted by other words. The only circumstances where this becomes a major issue is when the meaning could be changed.

Do not let exact match keywords interfere with creating enticing or concise titles.

14. Should You Target More Than One Keyword Or Phrase With Your Title?

There are several different ways in which this can be done and the answer depends on what you're trying to do.

If you are thinking of placing several small variations of a keyword in a title, this is typically a bad idea. It will certainly hurt click-through rates and will likely hinder your rankings.

If you are thinking of dumping all of your site's most important keywords into your titles, this is also a bad idea. It dilutes the relevance of each individual page and reduces your likelihood of ranking for any of them, as well as creates junky titles users probably won't click on.

If you are thinking of writing a post that marries two unique concepts in a new and interesting way, than of course a title that mentions both of these concepts is the best fit.

15. Does It Make Sense To Reuse Words In The Title Tag?

You should generally avoid reusing the same keyword more than once in the same title. There might be some circumstances where a word gets repeated naturally, and this is fine. You shouldn't repeat words intentionally in order to use every possible variation of a keyword phrase. If the word you are reusing is an adjective or adverb that gets repeated in a list, it often makes more sense to just use it once to be more concise.

16. Can Different Permutations And Combinations Of Keywords Rank Even If They Aren't In The Title Exactly?

Yes. While Google does often display slightly different results if the words in a phrase are combined differently, many of the same pages typically show prominently on the front page. The situation is different for each query, and each should be evaluated individually.

17. Should You Use Different Permutations Of Keywords In Different Titles Across Your Site?

In most cases, no.

You certainly shouldn't create several different versions of the same page, all addressing the same concept and bringing nothing new to the table, just so that you can get different versions of the keyword phrase in the titles.

If the new pages are actually bringing something new to the table, it might be useful to use different versions of the keyword phrase, but your primary goal should be to explain the concept clearly in the title.

18. Should You Use Synonyms In Your Titles?

You should avoid putting a list of synonyms into a single title tag.

Synonyms often return different search results from one another, in part because of their connotation, so you should choose your synonyms carefully based on not just keyword research, but the concept you are addressing, and the audience you are trying to reach.

It may be helpful to use different synonyms in different pages across your site, but you should only do this if the pages are sufficiently different from each other, from the user's perspective.

19. Do Longer Titles Dilute The Value of Keywords?

The number of characters in the title has very little impact on actual rankings according to the correlative data, and most of this is likely through the indirect effect of click-through rates and other secondary impacts. Concise titles are often more appealing, so using fewer words to convey the same idea is almost always the better option. But if the only way to enunciate your idea fully is to make it longer, you should, as long as you're not just stuffing it with keywords.

20. Does Adding "Irrelevant" Words Or Numbers To Your Title Tag Hurt Rankings?

This is only an issue if they are legitimately irrelevant for the user, or if they cause the title to truncate. If the words make the title more descriptive or enticing for users, they should definitely be included, even if no keyword research indicates that they're important.

21. Where Should You Put A Keyword Or Location In The Title?

There is very weak correlative evidence suggesting that your rankings may improve if the keyword is listed closer to the beginning of the title. Don't read too much into this evidence. An enticing title is far more important.

22. How Important Is It For Title Tags To Be Unique?

If two pages on your site use the same title tag, it becomes much more difficult for Google to determine which is the best fit for the searcher, which can dilute your rankings. More importantly, title tags should target slightly different concepts, not just slightly different variations of a keyword.

23. Can You Use The Same Keyword In More Than One Title On Your Site? Should You?

Using the same keyword in multiple titles is fine under the right circumstances, and it is certainly better than duplicate titles, but it can also create issues under certain circumstances.

You want to avoid creating a large number of pages that all target the exact same concept, and you want to avoid creating endless recombinations of slightly different versions of the same keyword phrases.

However, if your site is topically-oriented, it's only natural that you will revisit the same concepts to a certain extent. Using the same keyword phrase multiple times is a natural result of this, especially for broad categories, or topics that seem to do very well for your audience.

The important thing is that each page should bring something new to the table, and the title should reflect just how the new page is accomplishing this.

24. At What Point Does A Similar Title Become A Duplicate Title?

While a title isn't technically duplicate unless it literally uses all the same words, a site can receive a Panda demotion if too many of its pages cover nearly identical topics. There is no line defining where this happens, at least not one that is publicly available. In general, you should avoid publishing pages with titles that are indistinguishable in value or relevance to the user without clicking through. The easiest way to do this is by writing more concrete titles.

25. Why Isn't Your Title Tag Showing In Search Results Or Search Tools?

There are a couple of reasons this could happen:

  • The title tag isn't coded properly.
  • Google hasn't crawled the page since the tag was properly coded.

26. Why Is The Title In The Search Results Wrong, Or Different From The Tag?

Unless there is a coding issue, this is typically because Google intentionally modifies titles in ways it thinks could be more useful for users. In some cases this is unfortunate, but there isn't always anything we can do about it.

However, in many circumstances, this happens because the title tag is too long, and Google is attempting to write a title tag that is visible for the user. Shorter title tags can prevent this issue.

27. Why Isn't The Title Updated In The Search Results?

If you change your title tag, the search engines won't notice the change immediately. They need to crawl that page first.

28. How Long Does It Take To Change A Title In The Search Results?

It depends on how long it takes for them to crawl your page again, which can be a matter of minutes or a matter of months, depending on how often the page gets crawled.

29. Can You Get The Search Engines To Crawl Your Title Sooner To Get It Updated?

Pages are crawled based on a "random surfer" model, in combination with other factors, such as how frequently the page is updated.

You can increase the likelihood that a page will get crawled by increasing the number of links to that page, both from other sites and from pages on your own site, especially if the links come from pages that are heavily crawled themselves, which typically means they are important pages.

30. What Does The Colon ":" Mean To Search Engines?

It means the same thing it does in the English language (or whatever language you're writing in). It implies that what follows is a subtitle or some kind of elaboration.

31. Should You Use Pipes "|" In Your Titles? Does It Help Search Results? Is It For Users Or Search Engines?

The pipe should be thought of as a separator, and according to Matt Cutts, it is essentially ignored by Google. It is primarily for users, and it is usually used to separate the title from the brand name.

32. Is There A Difference Between Pipes "|", hyphens "-", And Commas "," In Titles?

Commas should be thought of more as part of the grammar of the title, while pipes and hyphens can be used as separators. Hyphens can also be interpreted more like colons. As a separator, the pipe is usually preferable because of its very small pixel width. Don't use pipes or hyphens in the middle of a sentence or list the way you would use a comma. It looks awkward to users.

33. Does It Make A Difference To Put Question Marks In Your Title Tag?

A study by Outbrain suggests that putting a question mark in a title can improve the click through rate. This has obvious benefits and may also help rankings as a secondary result. This obviously isn't something you should abuse. There's no indication that it would help or hurt rankings directly.

34. What About Parentheses?

There's no indication that parentheses will help or hurt rankings directly. According to a study by Ripenn, putting the word "Video" in parentheses or brackets at the end of a title can help videos go viral, which obviously benefits rankings in many indirect ways.

35. Can You Put The Registered Trademark Or Copyright Symbol In Your Title Tag?

Any symbol can be placed into the title tag using proper HTML code.

Registered trademark: &reg;

Copyright: &copy;

Here is the full list of HTML symbols.

36. Can You Put Superscripts Or Subscripts In Titles?

In general, no. The <sup> and <sub> tags don't work within the <title> tag. However, there are exceptions for certain symbols:

squared: &sup2;

cubed: &sup3;

37. Do Extra Spaces In The Title Have Any Impact On SEO?

There is no evidence suggesting that this would have any impact.

38. How Do Punctuation And Rare Symbols Impact Titles Tags?

Rare symbols are primarily ignored by search engines. Inserting the copyright symbol, for example, into the search bar, does not return any results. Punctuation is taken somewhat more seriously. A search for the comma or quotation mark will return pages about those symbols, for example. However, the impact of punctuation on search results is typically minimal. Use punctuation primarily to write titles that make sense for users.

39. How Do "Stop Words" Impact Your Title Tag?

"Stop words" are "function words" such as "the," "an," "is," "and," "of," etc. These words are primarily, but not always, ignored by Google. They don't hurt rankings, but if you can cut down on them, they can reduce title length so that it doesn't truncate. Of course, the same is generally true for adverbs and the advice to keep language concise, which is good writing advice, is the more important thing to keep in mind.

40. What Happens If You Put More Than One Title Tag On A Page?

If an experiment ran by Matt Morgan is indicative, Google will use the first title tag, the one closest to the top. You want to avoid using multiple title tags, of course.

41. Will Dynamically Generated Title Tags Hurt Your Rankings?

They can if they are poorly implemented.

You should avoid dynamically generated titles for blog posts and anything that you have the time to customize.

For massive ecommerce databases and similar scenarios, dynamically generated titles are probably the only way to go. However, you should try to avoid dynamically generated titles that reuse the same verbage. Dynamically generated titles should try to bring new information to the title every time, such as the product name and price, rather than reusing phrases, such as "Get the best deal on [product name.]"

42. Is Using The Same Title Tag A Form Of Copyright Infringement?

I'm not a lawyer so take what I say with a grain of salt, but even book titles cannot be copyrighted, so title tags can't be either. However, you should avoid implying that you have any association with a trademarked product if you don't, and you should otherwise avoid misrepresenting who you are.

43. Do Capital Letters In The Title Effect Search Results?

Capital letters are ignored in search queries themselves, so it is unlikely that they are factored into rankings in any direct way.

44. Should You Use Capital Letters In Your Title Anyway? What About The Full Title?

Using capital letters to highlight or emphasize specific words in your title is certainly acceptable, and could possibly improve click through rates, as long as the focus is on the user and the meaning that it implies for the title. (Since you can't use bold or italics in titles, this is the only way to emphasize certain words.)

In general, it's a bad idea to capitalize the entire title. Research by Conductor suggests that this will only hurt click through rates.

The same study found that titles in which the first letter of each word is capitalized tend to do better than all lowercase lettering.

45. How Should You Handle The Title Tag On Your Homepage?

The homepage should undoubtedly include your brand name, and could possibly include only your brand name.

Keeping in mind that the title tag acts as a call to action for users, if your brand isn't so well known, it may be a good idea to include a tagline as well.

It's a good idea to mention your most important topic in the title of the home page, since this is typically the page on your site with the most search engine potential.

You should never stuff the homepage title with keywords.

46. Should You Edit A Title Tag When You Already Rank Well?

If a page is already ranking well for a specific phrase, it can be risky to change the title, especially if you change it so that it no longer uses that phrase. Bear in mind that changing the title usually results in at least a temporary dip in traffic before you see any boost, if at all.

However, changing the title so that it targets a phrase that is more popular, or less competitive, can result in more traffic, as long as it is still fitting for the page.

There is no hard and fast rule here. In most cases, you can return to the same level of traffic by changing the title back, although this won't happen until the page is crawled again, and there are certainly no guarantees.

47. Is It A Bad Idea To Change Your Title Tag Too Often?

Yes. After changing your title tag, Google often drops you from the search results temporarily while it determines if the new title is a good fit for the page. Doing this frequently will prevent you from ranking at all and may reduce trust in the relevance of the page.

48. Is It A Bad Idea To Change Too Many Different Title Tags?

Changing titles for a large number of pages all at the same time can definitely hurt rankings.

A better approach is to start by changing titles for the bottom percentile of pages on the site, wait for changes, and then take another look at what has now become the bottom percentile. It's always important to make sure that the title is very concrete and relevant, never vague or broad. Always put the user first.

49. Should You Use Districts, Greater Metropolitan Areas, Cities, or Small Suburbs and Towns In Titles For Local Search?

Local search is based on physical locations, so the location you mention in your title will likely be most valuable if it matches the location that you would use in your physical address. Local search hinges quite a bit on consistent use of your name, address, and phone number throughout your site, in phone books and directories, in G+, and elsewhere.

For that reason, at least on the title of the home page, about page, and contact pages, it is a good idea to use the location name that you would use in your address.

However, if you run a blog, for example, it can certainly be useful to mention surrounding towns, the greater metropolitan area, the entire district, etc, since this can help you speak to customers in those areas. You may also offer services in other cities, and it obviously makes sense to build out landing pages targeting those locations, and using that location in the title tag.

50. If The Searcher Doesn't Use A Location Name, Is It Still Useful To Put It In The Title?

Yes. Google tries to guess whether the user has local intent by looking at their search query, and often returns results from in their area, even if they don't mention the area specifically.

51. What Do You Do If The Actual Title Tag Code "<title>" or "</title>" Is Visible To Users?

If this code is visible, not only does it confuse users, it likely also means that it won't be recognized as a title by search engines, browsers, and other tools. The most common reason for this is that the title tag is wrapped inside of another tag, such as a paragraph "<p>" tag.

52. What Is The Difference Between <meta name="title"> And <title>?

Very few crawlers care about the <meta name="title"> tag. You Must use the <title> tag if you want titles to display in search engines and browsers. The <meta name="title"> tag has little to no SEO implications, but it is possible that at some point a scraper or tool will use this information. You can include one for completeness, and should almost always make it identical to the <title> tag if you do, but it is not necessary.

53. Can You Put Title Tags In Your Body, Footer, Navigation, Etc.? Does It Matter Where You Put Them?

The title tag should go in the header. If it is not in the header, it is considered invalid HTML code. It appears to render properly in both browsers and search engines, but if you are breaking the rules of HTML you shouldn't count on search engines or other tools rendering or interpreting your title properly. It is possible search engines will give less weight to pages with invalid HTML code.

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  • Nice roundup, Carter! Thanks for mentioning Ripenn. Here is the link to the study you referenced: http://www.ripenn.com/blog/7-things-marketers-can-learn-from-2616-viral-headlines/

    • Carter Bowles

      No problem Josh, great study.

  • Moty

    Thanks!

  • drewspinoso

    Interesting! Even the crazy ass questions! Thank you!

  • Tony

    Love this. Do you have any links to more information about parentheses affecting ranking? It's on my mind and I'm very intrigued by it. Yours is the only place I could find a relatively solid answer (compared to the shifting sands of opinion on various forums and what not). Cheers!

  • rob

    Great job, and this will stay in my go-to bookmarks. One question I thought would be more popular though. An abbreviation such Co. for company. Does google know to treat these as the same or do we need variants in the title?

    • Carter Bowles

      I would avoid using both variants in the title, use "company" if I were chasing the keyword and "Co." if it were part of a brand name.

  • Aristocrat Designs

    Hi
    i used html symbol of ❶ its a symbol of 1 , i got it in the page as symbol but when i see in google result there no symbol appear y it so ???? i gave No ❶ services, but in google result i got No Services no symbol

    • Carter Bowles

      Interesting. A Google search for that unicode symbol is returning search results that include it in the title. If you paste that character into the title tag I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. This page appears to be doing it without issue:

      http://graphemica.com/%E2%9D%B6

      ❶ | dingbat negative circled digit one (U+2776) @ Graphemica

  • Paul

    We already made changes to title tags for all pages in short period of time as they were not relevant and too short. Did we make a big mistake here and as we are seeing some drop in traffic. How can we rectify this situation?

    • Hey Paul, it's tough to say from that alone. In my experience, what you described is almost always a positive adjustment, and, there are hundreds of other moving pieces. It's possible that the traffic drop correlates with a seasonal trend (if rankings remained), an algorithm update (if they didn't), competitors doing something new, etc.