- How to create optimal SEO page titles
- What does the Yoast SEO plugin do?
- Google’s best practices for writing page titles
- What to avoid when creating title links
Crafting compelling page titles is an essential skill for any SEO marketer and extremely important from a business perspective as this is the first piece of information a user sees in search results.
Meta titles are also one of the most important factors for helping Google understand the context of a page, so marketers should put a considerable amount of time and effort into creating great page titles.
At the end of August, Google also announced an update to how title tags will be generated for websites. So if you’re wondering whether you should be concerned about the new SEO title system, the answer is yes, but don’t worry; we’ve covered best practices for writing meta titles.
How do Meta Titles Benefit SEO?
The purpose of your SEO title should be to pique user interest and encourage them to click through to your website and read your fantastic blog or purchase a product.
If you have a weak meta title, you’ll struggle to gain clickthroughs as people will ignore your search listing in favour of other results.
So, how do you craft an effective SEO title? There are two factors to consider when writing SEO titles:
- It must help you rank for your primary keywords
- It must make users want to click through to your page
Although Google considers various elements when determining page rankings, even if your pages are optimised to search engine standards, your rankings could deteriorate if no one clicks on your result.
You can imagine then that this is the same in reverse. For example, suppose your pages are currently positioned lower in search engine result pages (SERPs) but are generating high clickthrough rates (CTR); your rankings may improve over time.
Google has also stated that what is specified in your page title influences rankings, meaning that you need to ensure your page title reflects the topic explored on said page. The easiest way to go about this is by including one or more of your primary keywords in the SEO title – but be careful not to commit keyword stuffing!
You could also install the Yoast SEO plugin on your website, a handy tool to help craft powerful meta titles. The plugin assesses two vital aspects of the SEO title:
- Whether the keyword/s are being used
- The width or character count of your title
So, we’ve covered the importance of SEO titles. Next, let’s dig a little deeper into how the Yoast SEO plugin works.
How Does The Yoast SEO Plugin Work?
Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that helps you optimise your metadata to improve your chances of performing better in SERPs.
You’ll find the plugin in the form of a Yoast SEO sidebar or meta box, which will allow you to improve the quality of your SEO titles by:
- Inserting a focus keyphrase
- Checking the keyphrase density
- Checking whether the keyphrase appears in the first paragraph of your content
- Identifying if your keyphrase links to another page with words you want this page to rank for
- Examining the width of your title
The easiest way to see whether your SEO titles are performing is by the “coloured face” in the SEO and Readability tab. When it is showing as a green smiley face, this means you’re optimising your page and titles correctly, amber signals warnings and red suggests that there are several issues.
For a more detailed analysis, click the analysis dropdown, which breaks down how every factor scores based on green, amber and red bullets.
How to Create an Optimal SEO Title
If your title is not of optimal length or width, Google will truncate the text, which happens when result listings appear with an ellipsis.
You should also be aware that the way results appear in search can differ depending on the device you’re using, so it’s essential to check how your title looks on both mobile and desktop SERPs in the Yoast SEO preview section.
Google has also published updated best practices for writing SEO page titles, including advice on preventing Google from replacing your meta title in SERPs.
How Does Google Generate SEO Titles in Search Results?
The way Google generates search results underwent an update back in August, designed to replace SEO titles that are not “readable and accessible.”
According to recent reports, the update will impact less than 20% of meta titles, with the number expected to decrease if websites adhere to Google’s latest best practices.
The new document, published in the “Advanced SEO” section of Google Search Central (GSC), lists common issues leading to meta titles getting replaced.
Here are Google’s best practices for writing meta titles, or what the search engine now refers to as “title links.”
Google’s Best Practices for Writing Title Links
It’s helpful that Google has created a new term to distinguish the difference between a meta title and a title link despite them both being SEO titles.
You can indicate a preference by writing descriptive text in the <title> element with a title link. And even if Google doesn’t acknowledge your preferred title, the <title> element will still count towards search ranking purposes.
Here are Google’s best practices for writing title links:
- Every page needs its own specified <title> element
- Titles need to be unique to avoid cannibalisation
- Ensure titles are short, concise and descriptive so avoid using vague text
- Don’t repeat text in titles for the sake of adding keywords
- Brand your titles where necessary, such as the homepage, by adding your company name to the front of them
Now we’ve covered best practices for writing title links, here are some common issues that you should avoid if you want your preferred title to appear in SERPs.
What to Avoid When Creating Title Links
According to Google, you should avoid making the following mistakes when crafting your title links:
- Using incomplete or ambiguous descriptive text
- Obsolete or inaccurate titles that do not accurately reflect the main content
- Boilerplate text which appears to be repeated across multiple pages within the site
If you’ve avoided all these issues, but Google has decided to replace your preferred title with alternative text, here’s where the information for the title link may be sourced:
- Content in <title> elements
- The headline or h-tag on the page, particularly the <h1> element
- Other prominent text contained in the main content
- Anchor text on the page
- Text within links that point to the page
Essentially, Google takes a page’s content and any references pointing towards it into account to display what it perceives as a title that best reflects the content on that page.