seo page titles

Page titles are more important than ever. Everyone is competing for the same eyes in search results. Titles need to be top notch to improve your CTR. We’ve taken titles for granted, focusing solely on body content, but no more. In this article, I’ll discuss 6 reasons we end up with poor performing page titles and fixes for them.

 

1. We’re Unaware of Their Importance

SEO Element:

“Title tags, in particular, are still very much seen as one of the most important aspects of SEO when it comes to keyword targeting. Whilst the weight and relevancy of your content will work to build your page’s ranking, having keyword targeted title tags will help push you to that top spot.” – More on title importance for SEO

One of the purposes of SEO is to construct your content in a way that helps search engines like Google understand it. More times than not, the topic of the content is contained within the page title. After all, you wouldn’t have a title like “10 Technologies that will take us to Mars”, if the content is about saving endangered pandas in China. So the page title remains a big on-page ranking factor.

 Resource: Moz

Human Element:

Your page titles are not much different from book titles or newspaper headlines. Since the dawn of publishing, writers have known about the power of the title. It’s the first thing readers see and often controls whether a reader will open that cover or turn to page 6 in the newspaper. Readers lives are busy like anyone else and the options for their attention are now endless. Readers have become very selective in what is worthy of their time. A writers job is to craft a title that is descriptive, relevant, attention-grabbing, emotional, actionable and concise. You may think of yourself as a writer, but when it comes time to write the title, you’re a marketer.

2. We’re Unaware of Best Practices

Standard advice today is that a title should be between 50-70 characters long (or 600 pixels). This is the general amount of characters or character pixels that will be shown in Google search results without characters being chopped off. You’ll see titles that are too long be cut off resulting in ellipses being added. This is not a good look and removes potentially important words from the title. Note that this character/pixel amount is a moving goal post. As mobile use increases, and Google experiments, the exact number changes. Throughout the past several years it’s remained safe to be in the 50-70 range, with 60 being the best bet. You yourself may need to test and adjust on the fly if you find your title being cut off.

Resource: More on Titles

Resource: Character Counter Tool

For title casing use the industry standard for articles, “Title Case”. Title Case is professional looking and easy to read.

Resource: More on Title Case and Casing in General

“For starters, the meta title should always be typed with the first letter of each major word capitalized, in the style known as Title Case. This means everything is capitalized except for smaller words like “for”, “is” and “a”. If you run into discrepancies, consult a reference on Title Case.”

Resource: Title Case Converter

3. We’re Short on Time

The meat of the article is where we generally want to spend most of our time and where we keep our motivation. So it’s understandable when first sitting down to write that we quickly put in a generic title and move on to the body of the article. As the article develops it’s likely your title will develop with it. Just be sure to check back to the title once in a while to make sure it still expresses your article and meets the attributes above.

4. We’re Unsure of Target Keywords

When first writing your page on say the “endangered pandas in China” you may think that is an optimal title and it contains the best keywords and is the best keyword phrase. However, that phrase according to SEMrush is only searched for 10 times a month. A similar phrase of “extinction of pandas in China” is searched for 90 times a month. That knowledge can help you craft a title with more search volume. 

Resource: How to Do Keyword Research with SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool

Try to move target keywords as far left as possible. There is SEO speculation that Google weights keyword importance based on where it is located in the title. However, there is a proven reason to try and move keywords to the left and is for the fact that western (assuming your target audiences are western) cultures read from left to right. The earlier you introduce an important keyword to a reader, the better the chance they’ll see it and be influenced to read on. This of course also plays into the earlier section of title length and Google chopping off long titles. You don’t want your target keyword to be chopped off.

Of course, your goal is always to write a fluid, organic and user-centric title. Meaning, don’t force it. If moving your keyword to the front doesn’t feel or read right, leave it as it is or you could try doing a total rewrite. After all, putting a keyword at the beginning of a title might be good for search engines, but if a user isn’t compelled by it and thinks it smells funny, what is the point. Find that effective medium where both are happy.

5. We’re Unsure of Our Target Audience

Different audiences respond differently to the same title. Audience sets are not unlike unique cultures. They have their own customs, beliefs, languages, interests, and history. Figuring out what is compelling to them, how they speak and what topics they are interested in. If you don’t, your message could be ineffective and worst case, you might end up insulting them.

6. We Don’t Test Them

Why leave it up to chance and hope you’ve crafted a killer title? Literally, all it takes is to ask a few friends or a co-worker. Send them a message with the title and ask if they’d be likely to click on a link with this title. If not, ask them why or what would. This kind of feedback can really give insight and break us out of our internal marketing bubble. I’d be cautious about asking a significant other or a family member. Too often they will not give the constructive criticism you need. Furthermore, if you write a great article, but it’s not getting the traffic or ranking you think it deserves, go back to the drawing board and see if you can improve the title.

Conclusion

I’ve shown titles are still one of the most important parts of an article for both human readers and for SEO. We should take our time in crafting them, research our target audiences and keywords. Once we have a good candidate we should test them on friends and see what they think. Next article I’ll show a step by step evolution of a bad title into a good one! Until then good luck!

We hope you enjoyed reading our blog post “6 Reasons Why We Write Bad Titles and How to Avoid Them”!

Coming Soon: Turning a Bad Title Into a Good Title For Improved SEO and CTR

 

6 Reasons Why We Write Bad Titles and How to Avoid Them
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