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  • 40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + Resources

    A few months ago one of my clients has changed platforms. The new platform changed almost everything we’ve optimized on-site for years. It even messed up the obvious SEO basics like title tags and we’re struggling with them to this day as the platform maker insisted that title tags “get assigned automatically” in their system.

    While title tag optimization is the daily bread of every SEO, for many people, like

    1. software vendors
    2. content creators
    3. business leaders

    title tags appear to be completely random and negligible. They assume that

    title tags won’t get even really seen by the average user so why bother with them at all?

    They forget that title tags get displayed in search results on Google and elsewhere and that it’s still one of the most important ranking factors for Google.

    Also it’s not just one ranking factor.

    There at least around 30 signals from the title tag alone if you ask me. Thus I decided to list what I perceive to be the 40 title tag SEO for Google ranking factors and optimization techniques plus resources every website owner should consider. Many are common sense by now, others will be new to some people. Also I added some factors I personally assume to count on Google. I have no objective proof for those but I hope you will provide their own opinion on them.

    Not all title tag optimization techniques are ranking factors for Google but they need to be implemented as well in a thorough on-site SEO campaign.


    • Exact Match (of search query) – When your title tag matches the search query exactly than it’s 100% relevant for it. Example: searching for [seo news] without brackets would match a page with SEO News as a title tag. Nothing more or less.
    • Keyword Order – On Google it’s first come, first serve. The first word in the title tag is most relevant. So in case you want to rank for [seo news] you better write “SEO News” in your title tag and not “News SEO”.
    • Keywords vs Keyphrases – As we have seen in the examples above we in most cases attempt to rank for keyphrases containing two or more terms not single word keywords. You won’t rank for [seo] or [news] easily anyways unless you are Wikipedia or CNN so you better target keyphrases not just keywords.
    • Collocations and Compounds – Many keyphrases are just phrases for the sake of SEO but many others are already a combination linguistically. Many of them are not yet phrases but they are collocations (two or more words often used together) or compounds (one term consisting of two or more words). In English it is often difficult to find out whether you are using a collocation or a compound but in other languages it is. “Blue sky” is a collocation but “skyscraper” is a compound. Here you can spot it easily because it’s one word. Google users are often looking for compounds and collocations. So you want to write “blue sky” in your title to rank for it instead of “blue, sky”.
    • Modifiers (like “cheap” or buy) – There are common modifiers many searchers look for. In case you have an e-commerce website you certainly have users who are seeking “cheap [insert your product here]” or “buy [insert your product here]“. Google also tries to extract the searcher’s motivation from such queries. A search like [seo wikipedia] is different than [cheap seo] or [seo.com]. Depending on the query Google will attempt to find the right kind of website. So when you sell something you better add the appropriate modifier.
    • Length (70 characters) – Google will only show 70 characters on its search results page (SERP) so you want to make sure that the most important stuff is at the beginning while the brand is at the end. This item has been suggested by @SorbetDigital
    • Stop Words – Stop words are words that get ignored by Google, or are not useful in the title tag and search results itself in most cases. “And” is such a word. The less of them the better but some people really search for phrases containing stop words. In these cases you may rank better when you actually use one. “SEO UK” is not the same as “SEO in the UK”.
    • Numbers – Numbers, that is digits, not written numbers, are quite popular on the Web these days, especially on social media. The top 10 ways to do something are better than just ways to do it. When it comes to search though most people don’t use numbers or digits. On the other hand your click through rate (CTR) might still depend on the numbers contained in your title tag. Would you prefer 10, 30 or 101 ways to do something? It depends on the context but in many cases you will go for the higher number as a searcher.


    • Hyphens – While in English people don’t use as many hyphens as for instance in German using a hyphen is a good way to rank for different keyphrases while only adding it once. For instance sports-car in your title tag would be both recognized as [sports car] and [sportscar] in search results. While this works sometimes without the hyphen workaround in many cases you need to assist Google to rank for both versions of a keyphrase.
    • Commas – Commas are not a good way to separate your keywords in the title tag. Google basically discounts title tags with commas as a useless list of keywords. A comma is not only a waste of space in your title tag it raises a red flag: Your title tag appears to be a victim of keyword stuffing, a search engine spam “technique” from a decade ago.
    • Pipes – Many people prefer to use pipes as separators these days, that is using this character here “|” as in “SEO|PPC”. A pipe has no particular meaning beyond just “separator”. This is both a pro as a con. Some SEO practitioners advise not to use them at all because otherwise you look like an SEO and get down-ranked for that. This may be a “conspiracy theory” but the pipe is usually not used in written language so that it looks a bit artificial. While I sometimes use it I prefer hyphens and slashes in many cases.
    • Slashes – Everybody uses slashes “/” in URLs. You can use them in title tags as well and even be grammatically correct. A slash basically means “and” or “or”. I often use a slash for synonyms or for lists of phrases.
    • Other Separators – There are others separators you van use in your title tag. A plus “+”, a dot “.”, a number sign “#”, an ampersand or angle quotes “<”, “>” that can be used, especially when combined. Something like Search Marketing > SEO > Onsite Optimization can make sense in a title tag. This example also looks similar to a breadcrumbs menu so that people can recognize it’s meaning as a hierarchy. This item has also been suggested by @rishil
    • Misc. Special Characters – There are special characters out there that can lead to trouble though, either by not being displayed correctly by browsers itself or by confusing the search engines. Thus using very exotic special characters may have a negative impact. They can stick out as well and get the searcher’s attention on the other hand.
    • Blanks/Spaces – Most people use blanks or spaces as separators by default. As long as the title tag reflects a sentence structure it works quite well as in “the sky is blue”. Some people tend to list keywords using spaces though. The outcome is something like this: “SEO Services SEO Company India Search Engine Optimization (SEO) India”. While such a title may rank well, it’s #1 for [seo india] right now, the very poor readability and spammy appearance will result in a lower CTR.


    • Keyword Proximity – Not only keyword order is important also keyword proximity. A title tag like “SEO blog” will rank better for the keyphrase [seo blog] than “SEO, PPC and social media marketing blog” not only due to the number of keywords contained and thus lack of focus but also because the words “SEO” and “blog” are very wide apart.
    • Keyword Repetition – A few years ago it was a best practice to repeat your keyword twice in your title tag once varying it slightly. In recent years Google recognizes more and more variations. Thus you don’t have to repeat as many of them anymore. Keyword repetition can have both a positive or a negative impact on your ranking. Especially repeating a keyword more than twice can lead to a penalty for keyword stuffing, unless it really makes sense semantically.
    • Title Tag Repetition – By title tag repetition I mean repeating the same title tag on the same page. Many people accidentally use the same title tags on two or more pages. This is in most cases bad for your SEO when it comes to Google. Google will display just two results from the same site so having more than two pages with the same title tag does not make sense. It’s just duplicate content. You can assign the same title tag to the print version of your document but even there you can change it slightly by adding the obvious “print version” modifier. Each title tag should be unique.
    • Singular, plural – The most accepted method of repetition in one and the same title tag is the singular/plural variation. Example: iPhone/iPhones. It’s been widely used in recent years but Google does a better job by now of finding both the singular and plural versions independently from the query unless it really matters. Someone searching for [paris hotels] e.g. is looking for a list of them while a searcher typing [paris hotel] just searches for the best or most renowned one. This item has also been suggested by @jaamit
    • Synonyms – Synonyms are another legitimate way to add repetition to the title tag. Cars/Autos or Bikes/Bicycles are good examples here. Some SEO practicioners use multiple of them. I am by now not as fond of this technique anymore as Google recognizes more and more synonyms by now. This item has also been suggested by @rishil
    • Acronyms – Acronyms or abbreviations get treated almost like synonyms. Just search for [search engine optimization] and you’ll notice that some snippets in the SERPS only contain the acronym “SEO”. Depending on your priorities you can add both, the complete term and the abbreviations or just the acronym. In case you want to save space you can rank for the whole keyphrase just by using the acronym. Otherwise you can repeat your keyphrase once using the whole term, once only the short version.
    • Brand Names – In recent months Google has actually more than once changed the way it treats brand names in search results. The trend is to focus more on brands than solely on generic keywords and phrases. A brand can actually boost your organic ranking when many people already search for it. Don’t rely solely on generic terms in your title tag. Try to use a brand, be it a personal brand or a corporate one.



    • Domain Matching – Exact match domains have a strong advantage in search results on Google and elsewhere. A domain like SEO.com greatly improves your ranking for a generic term like [seo] as long as you don’t make some big mistakes elsewhere in your SEO campaign.
    • Domain Mentioning – Does the domain mention the keyword? It doesn’t have to match it completely. A combination like brandseo.com or seo-brand.com is good enough to be mentioned in the title tag along the actual keyphrase. A title tag like “SEO Services by Cool-SEO.com” can give you an additional boost on Google.
    • URI Matching – Some people will disagree but IMHO title tags matching the actual URL structure are better than those that don’t match it. This may look a bit automated and get down-ranked on large scale websites but on small business sites it’s the way to go. So when your URL is domain.com/seo-services add “SEO Services” to your title tag as well.
    • h1/2 etc. Matching – Again, this here is my own opinion. Matching h1 or h2 tags on your page will support your title tag as a ranking factor. On the other hand when they don’t match you lose out a bit of relevancy.
    • Text Matching – Content should always reflect the title tag. In pages where there is not a single mention of the keyphrase found in the title tag, the title tag itself won’t have as much of an impact.
    • Relevancy – Google may select the display title tag from three different places – The website, DMOZ, or it may be auto generated by Google depending on which Google deems most relevant. This item has been suggested by @GuavaUK


    Advanced SEO for title tags

    • Use click-through rate data from AdWords to help find the perfect call to action, and work it into the title . This item has been suggested by @SharkSEO
    • Load two different titles for Google News and organic search by modifying the title after 12 hours. This item has been suggested by @GuavaUK
    • Use snippet tools to see how it all looks to improve CTR. This item has been suggested by @SEO_Doctor
    • Big brands should not put their name in the homepage title – let Google use the DMOZ title to get better CTR. This item has been suggested by @patrickaltoft
    • The same as above but use both to target both generic keyword and brand name. This item has been suggested by @rishil



    Additional title tag optimization resources from elsewhere in the SEO industry:


    Do you have something to add about title tags and SEO? Do it in the comments please! I may add it to the post itself.





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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    I help people with blogs, social media & search. I help you succeed on the Web. I've been online publishing for 15 years. I started back in 1997.

    59 Responses to “40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + Resources”

    1. Thanks for making mention of my post! It’s much appreciated.

    2. This is extremely helpful as not everyone is aware of the fast changing climate of seo. Tons of people are using archaic means of seo like keyword repetition they would get a lot of tips from here.

    3. [...] and SEO managers at Fortune 500 companies who still could not answer that question. …40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + ResourcesSEOptimise (blog)Discover why the Google keyword tool in AdWords is bad for SEOHelium10 Tips for DIY [...]

    4. Very nice list for text items and symbols used in SEO. Thanks for your hard work and research. Would like to hear your thoughts for how Google decides image thumbnails to show for a search phrase. On a lark, yesterday I was looking at search results for the phrase; ‘web design’. ( I am in Virginia ) The thumbs I saw yesterday were different from the ones I am seeing today. When looking at the file names for the images, ALT tags and the websites serving them up; there is no pattern or method I can detect as to why Google is serving these particular images on a random basis per day.

    5. Corri Byrne says:

      Good comprehensive view of the title tags and their usage – broad spectrum of examples and insightful. Thanks for your comments.

    6. Tag Clouds – SEO Benefits Or Not? | Easy Name says:

      [...] 40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + Resources (seoptimise.com) [...]

    7. [...] 40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + Resources (seoptimise.com) [...]

    8. George says:

      Thanks for sharing title tags for SEO. Really helped me. Thanks again.

    9. Renaud JOLY says:

      Great post, very interesting to read. I may add one thing : I don’t see browsing. Categories (or sub categories)can be repeated in child pages to push ranking. In the case of searched keywords are matched by sub-catogiries more than product pages.
      Renaud – French SEO Manager

    10. “Length (70 characters) – Google will only show 70 characters on its search results page (SERP) so you want to make sure that the most important stuff is at the beginning while the brand is at the end. This item has been suggested by @SorbetDigital”

      If the focus of your campaign is on brand recognition/ visibility I suggest to include the brand name in the title tag or to start the title tag with the brand name.

    11. And I thought title tags were meant to be simple! Obviously not.

      Thanks for this!

    12. Alex says:

      Ted, A great in-depth resource for Title tag SEO. Thanks and love to see information.

    13. Whilst it usually makes sense to put the brand name at the end of the title tag, an exception should be made where the brand is a key part of the focus for that particular page. The typical example is the homepage, where the site name on a well known site is more important than keywords of your products – people searching for your company brand name want to find your homepage.

      There are instances where this works for internal pages too, but as a general rule brand name first for the homepage and at the end of the title tag for most internal pages.

    14. Also I disagree with @patrickaltoft’s suggestion to allow Google to use the DMOZ titles – you have little to no control over the DMOZ title whereas you have full control over the one you use on your site. It will almost always be possible to get better CTR & rankings via a well written title than the relatively bland DMOZ ones.

    15. Bing has also specified a number of “special characters” not to use in title tags:

      Bing says:
      Don’t use any of the following special characters in title text: ‘”<>{}[]()

      Source:
      http://www.bing.com/community/blogs/webmaster/archive/2009/07/18/head-s-up-on-lt-head-gt-tag-optimization-sem-101.aspx

    16. Mike says:

      Very practice steps for naming a title tag for SEO. very much appreciated.

    17. TomasPospi says:

      Separators can be very useful for me, thanks.

    18. [...] (blog)Availing The Best SEO Services For Successful Promotion Of WebsiteFPRD (press release) (blog)40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + ResourcesSEOptimise (blog)Helium -MarketingProfs.com (subscription) -Search Engine Marketing [...]

    19. Connor Bringas says:

      Great info, title tags are extremely important for seo. Google recognizes what your site is all about by the title tags. I was recently in a discussion whether multiple title tags were ok or not. What is your take?

    20. [...] 40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + Resources | SEOptimise [...]

    21. Christina says:

      Lengthy but it was really interesting to read, I find the title very useful and reading your blog gave me more idea on how to go about it. Especially if you have a lot of pages to work on. Very helpful, thanks.

    22. Jason says:

      Great info, title tags are extremely important for seo

    23. Garious says:

      I never knew that title tags can be this important, really and your advice just made me want to redo everything I’ve written lately. Thanks a lot for this wonderful list of very useful advice. I think the challenge here now is how to write effectively for both search engines and readers alike.

    24. Ken Sundheim says:

      This was a legit article. It was especially helpful because I’m starting a website for my father-in-law from the ground up and needed to make sure I still had the right idea. Could somebody answer this question?

      If I start a website from scratch, regardless of the url, metas, landing pages for each keyword phrase etc. Also, I’m going to get really hard, coveted links. Does this still mean that Google will not rank a website because it is new? If somebody could shed some light on this, it would be much appreciated.

    25. John says:

      Very well researched indeed. I specially liked the introductory part of the article and its sublime message.

      Just imagine how the SEO company feels when after all these years of optimizing, he/she finds one fine morning that everything/all the hard work has been wasted.:(

    26. ckymky says:

      This is brilliant and I have gone through all my static pages making changes thankyou!

      However I’m no web developer and 50% of my site is database driven, how do I make relevant title tags if the product pages use a template that has a title tag already in it, which means all my database pages have the same title tag. As I mentioned I have created static pages for SEO which are fine but is there a way around how a template pulls in different title tags dependant on the products that are in the page? Any help would be much appreciated!

    27. Terri says:

      Thanks for the great info on title tags. I am wondering what you think about the use of hyphens to separate the keyphrase from the rest of the title. For example: if the keyphrase is “ladies golf clubs” is it o.k. to have a title such as, “Ladies Golf Clubs – How to Buy the Best Clubs to Lower Your Handicap”

    28. Greg says:

      You need to re-assess your statements on acronyms. The SEO example is a bi-product of common co-occurrence, not really any kind of special understanding of acronyms. So you can’t just automatically rank for a main phrase just by using the acronym. That only happens when the total volume of occurrences across the web is enough for them to make the association. and even when they do make it, the actual rankings can still be quite different.

    29. David says:

      @Greg you mean that SEO and Search Engine Optimisation are different… but isn’t that just another marketing mistake like American Airlines is number #3 for AA but most people would associate that acronym with Alcoholics Anonymous. So do you really want to be number 1 for terms people associate with Alcoholics Anonymous?

      SEM is an example in our industry it means “search engine marketing” but to the science and medical community it means “scanning electron microscope”.

      In Australia “Tax Office” and “ATO” only the first 2 results are similar, but government acronyms carry much more weight because of backlinks and volume of traffic.

    30. Thanks for this article I have learn something new..

      But what I really like when making or doing meta tags is to put the keyword in the title and putting the keyword phrases to in the descriptions.

      This kind of technique could greatly help Google index your page title and description properly..

    31. Beth says:

      This is a great article for title tags and how important it is to stay relevent and consistant with your title and heading tags!

    32. [...] more insider tips on title tags, check out the blog post from SEOptimise – 40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors & Optimization Techniques + Resources. (And note how their blog post url has lots of lovely keywords in it – yep, even blog posts, [...]

    33. web solution india says:

      More importantly, off-page optimization, specifically those processes that generate high quality Back links needs to be the number one focus of any serious, long term SEO strategy.Back links are one way links that originate from outside of your website with a link pointing directly into your website.

    34. boxing day sales says:

      Excellent article, page titles are bit factor for on page seo (along with the other 4 million factors!).

    35. Building A Findable Website | Findable Designs says:

      [...] Ways to Optimize TITLE Tags [...]

    36. sandy says:

      thanks for the tips.I just went to count the no. of alphabets at title tag for a google search and I saw that google will only list 65 characters and end with 3 dots. It is not 70 contrary to general belief which i think now, Google may have updated its algorithm and the older ones no longer applies.

      thanks and feel free to correct me if i am wrong!

      sandy
      malaysia

    37. [...] snippets in search results are, for the most part, pretty terrible. Check out SEOptimise’s excellent post on title tags if you’re looking for ways to improve [...]

    38. Excellent…complete post on SEO..
      I didnt know that in Title Tags, commas are bad. So can u suggest, what to add instead of commaas. U mentioned | are also not good

      ATUL

    39. [...] important page-level SEO elements that can affect your search engine ranking.  There are lots of different signals a title tag can send the search engines.  For example, it is considered a best practice to include [...]

    40. Long tail keyword phrases are really easy to dominate on the search engines because you have little to no competitors to beat. In fact, merely submitting your new content pages to social sites using those target keyword phrases as your submission titles can get you on top of Google really fast if not immediately upon getting the page indexed.

    41. AuGuides says:

      I 70 characters is not true, pages that are far over 70 characters rank well on google than pages with less than 70 characters and i seem this many times

    42. Seolion says:

      Many of the information contradicts with what you can find in this video by Matt Cutts from Google http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHSqLYUPq8w
      Using commas, pipes, dashes except underscore in title tag is fine with google

    43. [...] 40 Title Tag SEO for Google Ranking Factors [...]

    44. [...] by a CMS and can’t be overridden or alternatively it’s too long so focus is lost. This summary of title tag options is the best advice I’ve seen, but with 40 ideas, it’s possibly too long. Watch for more [...]

    45. Separators are always recommended in optimizing a title tag

    46. Joe says:

      I agree with most of what you said, but the one thing I don’t agree with is the use of commas. Google has never said commas are bad and I have never read it anywhere else by any other respected SEO. I have been optimizing sites for over 6 years and have never had a site penalized as spam or for keyword stuffing when using commas. Commas are better than the pipes because they takes up one less character and allow you to get more of your title tag shown in the results. I have optimized hundreds of sites in my career and have never failed to get a site on the first page of results and have never been penalized. If what you said was true then the odds are at least one of my hundreds of sites over the years would have been “caught” by now and penalized, but that is not the case. I have to say your wrong about commas.

    47. [...] by a CMS and can’t be overridden or alternatively it’s too long so focus is lost. This summary of title tag options is the best advice I’ve seen, but with 40 ideas, it’s possibly too long. Watch for more [...]

    48. Bob says:

      I would never want my title tags “automatically assigned”. That sounds like a horrible decision on the platform. Crazy the things that SEO’s have to deal with sometimes.

    49. Very interesting article, particularly regarding commas in the title. You also made reference to a search for Paris Hotels which is exactly the type of site i’m looking to improve rankings for… i’m now off to remove any commas!

    50. DanielSem says:

      Hi, I see your article, I created this plugin for wordpress:

      Stellissimo SEO Title 512px for Google

      if you think that it’s related to your article, help me to share my little plugin after try it :-)

      Thanks a lot.

      (sorry for my english but I’m italian)

    51. Joris says:

      Hey,

      I see in some SEO reports that they count all words in the titles and have a average length of the title of the whole site.

      Is there a (free) tool to count words in the title, content, the amount of headings (H1, H2 etc.) for the whole website (including the subpages).

      Thanks in advance!

      Joris

    52. stellissimo says:

      Great resources about title tag, that was i was looking for, thanks!

    53. stellissimo says:

      Great information, thank you very much!

    54. Vicky Ch says:

      very informative article. Title tag is very important for better ranking on a search engine and every one who is doing seo must consider it very important..
      I learn very new things from this article. Thanks for such good information.

    55. [...] important page-level SEO elements that can affect your search engine ranking.  There are lots of different signals a title tag can send the search engines.  For example, it is considered a best practice to include [...]

    56. Giovanni says:

      I recently launched local music site for upcoming young talents. But I realize that most mp3 search engines still rank better that our site even when they don’t really have the content Google has indexed them for. For example, whatever artist you try to search, these sites will always pop up in the Google top 5 with your search query in their title tags but when you click and get to the site. they don’t have the content. What tricks are they using to actually attract search engines this way. i mean how to you generate title tags depending on search queries? For example sites like mp3skull.com and so on.

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