Page titles are the first things people see when they open web pages. And yes, it’s important for the page title to send a quick message to users about what they’ll find on the page (more on this below). But page titles show up in plenty of other places too. That’s why it’s critical to (1) make sure your title is appropriate for a variety of contexts and (2) make sure your title is identified as a title in your page code. Here we go:
Where Titles Appear:
On the page
When a user opens a web page, the most prominent text is typically the title. When the page opens, you have one or two seconds to convince your visitor know to read it. Here’s how you do it:
- Less is more – make page titles short and to the point; no clever language
- Front load the keywords – Put the most important words at the beginning of the title so that users will get the point even if they don’t read the whole thing. For example, “2016 Annual Meeting Attendee Information,” not “Everything you Need to Know if You Are Planning to attend our 2016 Annual Meeting.”
Page titles show up in browser tabs. Some things to remember:
- Depending on how many tabs a user has open, the tabs might be pretty short. So if you like to include your site name in the title tag, put it at the end, not the beginning of the string. Otherwise, all your pages may only show your site name in the browser tabs
- Try to make the first 25-30 characters meaningful. Even if your visitors have lots of tabs showing, they’ll be able to find your page quickly.
On list pages and search results
Page titles often display in list pages and always display in search results, so it’s important for titles to accurately display what visitors will see when they click on the link. Make sure the title is meaningful on its own, without any of its page content.
In Google/Bing indexing logic
Your pages mean nothing if your users can’t find them, right? All search engines use page titles to understand what the page is about. Search engines don’t like puns, clues or jokes. This is the time to be direct. Here are some tips from Google:
- Accurately describe the page’s content
- Create a unique title for each page
- Use brief but descriptive titles without unneeded keywords
- More people are viewing sites on phones these days, and phone screens are really small. So if we haven’t already given enough reasons to use short titles, here's another one
Make sure it’s a <Title>
A properly formed title is the text between the <Title> and </Title> tags in the <Head> section of your page (go to your page and click “view source” if you’re not sure). If the title isn’t wrapped in a <Title> tag, Google and Bing won’t know it’s a title. All content management systems automatically insert the appropriate tags for text in the Title field. But if you build your pages by hand, keep in mind that search engines don’t know that the big orange text at the top of your page is a title unless it is coded with a title tag.