Title Tags in SEO | How-to Guide (6 Best Practices in 2024)

We dive deep into title tags and SEO, recap the importance of using title tags correctly, cover six best practices, share tips for resolving title tag issues, and recommend a tool to generate engaging title tags automatically.

May 15, 2024
Written by
Nate Matherson
Reviewed by
Charles Purdy

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Title tags play an important role in search engine optimization (SEO). In fact, title tags are a confirmed factor in where and how well Google ranks your website’s pages in organic search.

A title tag is simply a piece of HTML code that you can use to communicate with Google the title and purpose of a webpage. A title tag appears in organic search as the title of your page.

Title tags also help searchers understand what a webpage is about and give them a reason to click on its link. So if a page of yours is appearing on the first page of Google search results, its title tag can have a meaningful impact on click-through rate (CTR) and the amount of traffic you’re able to drive to your website.

Crafting the perfect title tag can take some trial and error. In this article, we’ll dive deep into title tags and SEO, provide a recap on the importance of using title tags correctly, cover six best practices for writing title tags for your website, share tips for resolving title tag issues, and recommend a tool you can use to generate engaging title tags automatically.

What Are Title Tags? 

A title tag is HTML code that Google and your web browser use, in some contexts, as the title of a webpage. In their raw HTML form, they look like this:

When your webpage is displayed in organic search results, title tags are pulled in as the title of the page. (They also appear in some other places, as we’ll outline in this article.) In the example below, we see a title tag for our webpage on internal linking for SEO.

If you’re using a static HTML website, you can add title tags to your pages very quickly by including the <title> HTML tag in the <head> section of your webpage, similar to the way you’d add a meta description. Fortunately, if you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Webflow, you can add title tags to your pages without needing to write any code.

As a best practice, you should keep your title tags to 50 to 60 characters without exceeding 65 characters. Otherwise, you might end up with a cutoff title tag (more on this later).

Title Tags vs. H1s

If you’re using a CMS, the H1 of your webpage (the title that appears on the page) will often, by default, be pulled into your page as the title tag. However, your title tag can be different from your H1 — and there are some cases in which you may want this.

For example, while your H1 might be optimized to a certain set of keywords, it may not make for an enticing title tag that will get someone to click on a search result.

Why Are Title Tags Important for SEO?

Title tags are important for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, title tags have a significant effect on your CTR from organic search, and that has a meaningful impact on the traffic you can drive to your webpage, as well as on your page’s ranking position. Title tags are also important when you’re sharing content on social media and for readers who have your page open in their browsers.

Improving CTR from Organic Search

In Google Search Console, Google provides the CTR for each page on your website. Title tags have a significant impact on the CTR and rankings of your pages in organic search. Engaging and thoughtful title tags can entice searchers to click on your result.

In Search Console, you can see the CTR for any webpage on your website:

For example, on one of our websites, this page has an average CTR of 13.3% and an average ranking position of 7.7. Given that this page is already ranking well on the first page of Google search results, it may be a prime candidate for title tag optimization.

By reworking and testing new title tags for this page, we could improve the CTR and average ranking position for the page. CTR from organic search has a direct impact on the average ranking position. So by improving the CTR, you can drive additional traffic and, in the process, improve average ranking positions, thus increasing the total amount of traffic to the webpage. It’s a compounding effect.

During your testing process, you can track how changes to your title tags change CTR and average ranking position directly in Google Search Console.

Title Tags Impact Social Media

Sharing content on social media is great for driving incremental traffic to your webpages. In addition, social signals can have an impact on the speed and ranking positions of your webpages. When your webpage is shared on social media channels like LinkedIn or Twitter, its title tag will be automatically pulled into the post:

By writing engaging title tags, you can increase CTR on social media platforms, too. And if you’re missing title tags, your posts on social media might look a little wonky or unprofessional.

Title Tags Show in Browser Tabs

If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely had too many tabs open on your browser. Did you know that the title of each page open in your browser is getting pulled from the title tag?

If you’re missing a title tag, your webpage is going to look a little funky in your readers’ browsers.

6 Best Practices for Writing Title Tags for SEO

When you’re creating your title tags, keep these best practices in mind.

1. Include the Primary Keyword

This may go without saying, but you should work to incorporate the primary or focus keyword in your title tag. For example, with this blog post, the primary keyword that we’d like to rank for is “title tags SEO.” There are a number of tools for doing keyword research and identifying target keywords, including Positional and its Content Planner:

If it feels natural, you can frontload the primary keyword to the beginning of your title tag. For example, with our title tag, we placed a close variation of the primary keyword at the beginning of our title tag:

<title> Title Tags in SEO | How-to Guide (6 Best Practices in 2024) </title>

We used a vertical bar to separate our title tag into two chunks. In the second half of the title tag, we then included other related and long-tail keywords. More on this below.

2. Use 50 to 60 Characters

Your title tags should be 50 to 60 characters long. If you need to, you can go up to 65 characters long, but be careful not to exceed that; otherwise, your title tags may get cut off. 

For example, our website has an article about building backlinks with a title tag that is 68 characters long. This is how it looks in search results:

In this case, we should rewrite our title tag with one fewer word.

3. Use Engaging Words, Numbers, and Dates

When writing your title tags, you should work to use words that will entice someone to click on your result. As mentioned below, using long-tail keywords can help in this regard. But you can also use numbers and dates to improve engagement with your post.

For example, here is our 59-character title tag:

<title> Title Tags in SEO | How-to Guide (6 Best Practices in 2024) </title>

In our title tag, we’re highlighting the number of best practices we share in this post. And we’re using “2024” to show readers that this article is up to date in an ever-changing SEO landscape.

Beyond numbers and dates, you can use engaging verbiage to connect emotionally with the searcher and showcase your unique value proposition. Words like “actionable,” “important,” and “tutorial” are useful for convincing someone that your page is a good one.

Finally, consider using parentheses, vertical bars, and brackets to stand out from the crowd. In our title tag above, we enclosed the “6 Best Practices in 2024” portion of our title tag in parentheses. 

4. Integrate Long-Tail Keywords, Too

As mentioned previously, title tags are a known ranking factor, and Google uses them to decide which keywords to rank your page for. Including the primary keyword is important, as is including other related keywords and/or long-tail keywords. 

Using a tool like Positional, you can generate other relevant keywords; for example, here are some related keywords for the primary keyword “title tags seo”:

In our title tag for this post, the one you’re currently reading, we incorporated additional keywords like “how-to” and “best practices” into our title tag:

<title> Title Tags in SEO | How-to Guide (6 Best Practices in 2024) </title>

For Google, this provides additional context that our page should rank for these longer-tail variants. And for searchers, it gives them an additional reason to click on our result.

5. Keep Your Title Tags Up to Date (for Example, with a Year)

Using dates in your title tags can help increase engagement and CTR. For example, if you’re writing a roundup of the best makes of a certain product, a searcher might be most interested in recent product reviews. With a product like golf clubs, say, there are new clubs coming out each year.

As years have passed, for example, from 2022 to 2023, you may have already updated the published date and the date in your H1, but don’t forget to update the date in your title tag, too.

6. Prioritize Pages That Are Already Ranking Well

If you have hundreds or thousands of pages on your website, you realistically don’t have the time to optimize each title tag and/or to go through the testing process. 

For websites with a large number of pages, it’s best to focus on the pages already on the first page for their set of keywords. Using Google Search Console, I’d work to flag the pages in ranking positions 4 through 12 as candidates for title tag optimization. Given that these pages are already ranking well but not in the top three positions, they make for good candidates for testing and improving title tags. 

From these pages, I’d select the pages with the highest value for our company or website. For example, I’d try to pick pages toward the middle or end of the funnel. I’d then run through the five best practices mentioned previously to see whether there were opportunities to improve the title tags.

Is Google Rewriting Your Title Tags?

We’ve all experienced it at some point. You write what you think is a fantastic title tag, only for Google to completely rewrite it for you.

Personally, this has always been incredibly frustrating for me. Why would Google throw my title tag out the window?

In 2016, Google’s Gary Illyes commented on this directly on Twitter: 

“We will never quit rewriting titles. We’ve seen so many sites whose titles really suck. A lot of sites have no title; a lot of sites have a title saying “Top Page.” In fact, Google almost always rewrites titles. We couldn’t provide useful results to our users if we quit rewriting titles. Experiments showed us users preferred written titles. So, we’ll continue to write titles,” he said.

In short, Google rewrites your title tags in cases where those titles really suck. In Google’s own testing against a large number of websites, they found that users prefer their rewritten title tags to low-quality title tags or pages without a title tag at all.

Google is actually working to improve user experience and help you entice users to click on your page when it appears in search results. They’re replacing title tags in situations where they believe that their generated version will increase CTR to your website. Thanks, Google.

If you’re experiencing this, you should think of it as a prompt to rework your title tags. In the process, you should consider the changes that Google is making directly and see if you can rework in that direction.

In addition, Aaseesh Marina, a member of the Search Quality team at Google, provided some additional context on Twitter. It turns out that the anchor text of the inbound links to your page can also influence title tags 

“If we see anchor text from website A linking to website B, sometimes we can pick, depending on the user’s query, sometimes we pick the anchor text that links from A to B as the title for that particular search result,” he said.

As you’re building backlinks to your website, keep in mind that the anchor text included may influence the page titles that Google ultimately shows for your pages on search results pages.

Generate Title Tags with Positional

Brainstorming and coming up with engaging title tags can be challenging. And when you’re dealing with large amounts of content, it can be a very time-consuming process. Fortunately, with Positional, you can generate title tags automatically for any piece of content on your website.

Simply enter a keyword or article title in Positional’s Content Planner, and it will generate title tag options for that specific piece of content. For example, if I were writing a blog post about title tags for SEO, Positional would provide these recommendations:

If you're unhappy with the suggestions, you can generate additional title tags instantly. Positional’s model attempts to use the primary keyword within the suggested title tag and works to use an engaging tone that would entice someone actually to click on a search result. Positional also provides related keywords that you can use to edit your title tags to capture longer-tail keywords and variations.

Final Thoughts

Who knew that you could dive so deep into title tags? 

In this article, we explained the importance of title tags for improving CTR and search rankings, we provided some best practices for you to implement during your next technical SEO audit, and we highlighted Positional’s toolset for generating engaging title tags.

Personally, I revisit the title tags on my website once a quarter while evaluating my search strategy. I typically focus on the pages already ranking on the first page for a given keyword. Small changes to your title tags may lead to significant gains in traffic and improve rankings overall.

If you have any questions about proper title tag implementation, I’d be happy to chat. And if you are interested in trying Positional, you can sign-up for our private beta on our homepage. At Positional, we offer a number of additional tools for everything from internal linking to content optimization.

Nate Matherson
Co-founder & CEO of Positional

Nate Matherson is the Co-founder & CEO of Positional. An experienced entrepreneur and technologist, he has founded multiple venture-backed companies and is a two-time Y Combinator Alum. Throughout Nate's career, he has built and scaled content marketing channels to hundreds of thousands of visitors per month for companies in both B2C (ex financial products, insurance) as well as B2B SaaS. Nate is also an active angel investor with investments in 45+ companies.

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