Your website’s title tags are HTML elements that tell search engine crawlers (aka robots) the title of a particular page. Like any title – the meta title tells search engine users and search engine bots what to expect from the page.
Taking it one step further, the meta description expands on this. Just like a newspaper article has a title and a “lead” to give scanning-readers a good idea of its contents, it’s exactly the same for your website. Search engine bots use this information (along with countless other “relevancy” signals) to assign a rank to your website for an ever-growing list of search queries.
But first, let’s start with some definitions…
- Search engine results page (SERP) : is simply the page you are presented with after searching for something on Google or Bing
- Click-through-rate (CTR): is the percentage of people visiting a web page through a link or advertisement. For the sake of this article, we are measuring the CTR of your links in SERPs
- Bounce rate: is the percentage of users who visit a particular page and navigate away from it without viewing any further pages.
Note: a high bounce rate is not always bad. For example, if users find a page on your website directly from search results, spend a good amount of time there, and then leave – you’re still showing search engines your website delivers value. On the other hand, if the user enters the page and immediately exits – the data tells search engines a different story.
This, is a meta title
Continuing with the example from our article on how to write a better meta description we’ll look again at TripAdvisor, a brand with both national and local search aspirations. At first glance, you’ll notice a few specific qualities in this title that indicate it was very purposely written.
- Regional identifiers: For the purpose of this article, the scope of the region was the entire city of Boston – so it makes perfect sense to make sure BOSTON is included in the title.
- Timeliness: Restaurants and attractions change all the time – by indicating that this article was updated in 2019, TripAdvisor almost guarantees a click from searchers looking for the most up-to-date information. This helps with click-through-rate, which actively influences your position in search engines.
- Searcher Intent: Just like including the year in the title, adding other details like (with Photos) can also help encourage a click. Every web user is different. Some people want to read, some people want to walk through an image gallery, others want to watch video. Indicating what they’re going to find when they click-through is a surefire way to reduce bounce rate.
Meta Title Tag Best Practices
Meta title length: 160 characters or less
Meta title format (examples):
[Primary Keyword/keyphrase] | Brand Name – Service Page
[Brand Name] | [Primary keyword/keyphrase] – Home page
Other than keeping it below 160 characters – there are no hard-set rules for the format of your meta title, but it helps to use a consistent format so your repeat visitors will know which results to scan for in a SERP. In most cases, it’s also best to include one or two keywords as well as your brand name. For your home-page (or a contact page), it makes more sense to include the brand-name first (as shown above). While for a service-page, it’s usually best for the service-related keyword to come first.
The challenge is saying everything you want in under 160 characters. But don’t worry – you don’t have to say it all in the title. Read more about optimizing your meta description in: How to improve your website’s meta descriptions.
How to check your meta titles
Whether you have someone on staff update your website or you rely on an outside company, double checking your titles is as easy as going to google and searching for the following: “site:yourdomain.com” or – as Google helpfully reminds us, by using the Google Search Console (advanced). Simply take a look – determine if the results need work, and provide a document of edits to your current provider.
All you should need to say is: “Could you please update titles on the following pages to the attached versions?”
“How do I update my meta titles?”
For WordPress Users
Fortunately, updating this simple back-end HTML code is pretty simple – especially if your website uses wordpress. First, you’ll want to install the Yoast SEO – WordPress plugin. Yoast is the most respected and widely used SEO plugin available for WordPress (if you have a WordPress site, it might even be installed already). Once you or your web team have activated this plugin, the final step is to simply navigate to the page you’d like to update in the wordpress back-end and scroll to the bottom, where you will find something that looks like this:
For websites that aren’t on a Content Management System
Chances are, if you’re not familiar with HTML, CSS, PHP, or any kind of code – you didn’t create your website yourself. This is why so many companies are opting for websites using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress – because editing most pages doesn’t require any coding experience at all.
For these websites, the meta title (and description) exist within the <head></head>. Updating them is as simple as updating the html of the page and re-uploading it with your FTP program of choice.