What Is a Title Tag & How to Optimize Your Title Tags for SEO

Kelly Lyons

Sep 12, 20229 min read
title tag example

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Is a Title Tag?

A title tag (or <title> tag) is an HTML element that provides a webpage title for search engines and internet browsers to use. It can appear in search engine results and link previews for the page.

For example, this is a title tag in HTML:

A title tag in HTML

Here’s how it displays in a browser tab on Google Chrome:

A title tag in a browser tab on Google Chrome

On a Google search results page: 

A title tag on a Google search results page

And in a link preview on Slack:

A title tag in a link preview on Slack

Why Are Title Tags Important?

Let’s explore the four main reasons that title tags are important, particularly in SEO:

Title Tags Can Affect Your SEO Rankings

Title tags can affect your SEO rankings (i.e., unpaid visibility in search engine results). 

Because search engines like Google use them to understand what your page is about. And how relevant it is to each user query.

For example, if your title tag doesn’t contain “peach cobbler recipe” or a close variation, you’ll struggle to rank highly for associated search terms. Because if it isn’t mentioned in the title, how relevant can it be?

Title Tags Can Appear in Search Results

Google commonly uses title tags as title links. These are the clickable titles in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Title link examples on the SERP

The title link can have a significant impact on the number of clicks you get (or your click-through rate). And searchers’ perception of your brand.

Title tags can appear in link previews on social media sites, instant messaging apps, etc.

Like this:

Title link on social media

If the title is missing or poorly optimized, users may be less likely to click through. 

Title Tags Appear in Browser Tabs

Title tags tell a browser how to display the page title in tabs. This helps users navigate to the correct page when they have multiple tabs open.

Page titles in tabs

Title Tag Best Practices

Optimizing title tags can help you rank higher, get more traffic, and improve user experience.

With these best practices, you can learn how to write a title tag that performs well:

Optimize Title Tag Length

Generally, you should aim for a title tag length between 50 and 60 characters. 

There’s no strict title tag character limit. But if your title tag is too long (in terms of pixels), Google may truncate it in the SERP. 

Like this:

Search result for "onboarding template" with a long title

This may confuse or frustrate your users, making them less likely to click your result.

If your title tag is too short, you might struggle to describe your page accurately. 

Here are some shorter page title examples that don’t get cut off:

Two search results for "onboarding template" with title examples that didn't get cut off

To keep your titles brief:

  • Avoid typing your title in all caps. Uppercase letters take up extra space and could cause your title to get cut off. They can also be harder to read.
  • Remove your brand name unless it’s necessary
  • Use symbols to save space (e.g., “&” instead of “and”)
  • Since they’re narrower, consider using colons (“:”) or pipes (“|”) as separators, rather than hyphens (“-”) or dashes (“–” / “—”)

Make Every Title Tag Unique

Unique titles help search engines determine each page’s unique purpose and may influence users to click.

Imagine you ran an ecommerce website that had the same general title for every single page, like “Furniture Store and Home Decor”:

“Furniture Store and Home Decor” title tag on SERP

If a user specifically searched for coffee tables, the generic title may suggest that this page won’t match their search (even if it does). After all, “coffee tables” doesn’t appear anywhere in the title.

This particular page is about coffee tables. So, including that keyword makes the page title more intuitive for the reader and the search engine. 

Like this:

"Stylish Coffee Tables" title tag on SERP

Target One Primary Keyword

It's best to include only one target keyword (search query you want the page to rank for) in a given page's title tag.

Stuffing lots of keywords into a single page title can hurt that page's rankings. Because it’s spammy.

It can also confuse users, making them less likely to click through to your page.

For example, this page title crams in three different keywords: "weighted blankets," "blankets," and "affordable weighted blankets":

Title link that reads: "Weighted Blankets | Blankets | Affordable Weighted Blankets"

But you can cover other relevant terms. Just make sure to do it more naturally.

Like this:

Title link that reads: "The Best Affordable Weighted Blankets in Canada"

Analyze the SERP

SERP analysis helps you understand what kinds of titles work well. And craft a title that will stand out.

For example, let’s look at the SERP for “interior design trends.”

We can see that most titles include the year, so the user knows the content’s up to date.

Google SERP for “interior design trends" with title tags including "2024" highlighted

So, it’s probably a good idea to use the year in your title tag.

But you don’t want to make your titles too similar to competitors’. Try to craft a title that will stand out and capture users’ interest. So you’re more likely to get clicks.

Make Your Title Tag Similar to Your H1 Tag

The H1 tag (or heading one tag) should contain the main title that appears on the page.

Like this:

An H1 tag in code (left) and on page (right)

Because the title tag and H1 tag both act as page titles, they should overlap significantly.

This gives Google more confidence in your page’s topic. And prevents confusion for users.

Front-Load the Most Important Words

Generally, it’s helpful to keep the most “important” or unique words toward the start of your title tag.

❌ Bad example: Shop Online for the Latest Men’s Shoes

✅ How to fix it: Men’s Shoes | Shop the Latest Collection Online

This makes it easier for users to find the page they’re looking for in their browser tabs. And scan-read your result on the SERP.

Common Title Tag Mistakes

In some cases, a poorly written title tag can cause Google to display an entirely different title than the one you intended.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that Google’s version will perform better. 

And while Google’s rewrites won’t necessarily affect rankings, they may cause changes to your page’s CTR. 

Some of the most common mistakes you might make when writing title tags include:

Missing <title> Element

If you don’t specify a title tag in your HTML code, you don’t have a title. In search results, Google will make up a title based on the page’s content.

To find missing title tags quickly, use Semrush’s Site Audit tool.

Then, head over to the “Issues” tab of your report and filter for “title” errors in the search bar.

Finding missing title tags with Site Audit

Click on the “# pages don’t have title tags” error to get a full list of pages with missing title tags.

A list of pages with missing title tags in Site Audit tool

Repetitive or Boilerplate Titles

Title tags are supposed to inform a user what kind of page they’re clicking on. If you try to use a specific template or repeat the same keywords every time, you’ll create a poor experience.

❌ Bad example: Best Dessert Recipes from Recipe.com | Peach Cobbler

✅ How to fix it: Peach Cobbler Recipe | Recipe.com

The corrected example focuses on keywords that are relevant only to that page.

If you’ve already run a site audit for missing titles, you can find a list of pages with duplicate titles in the same report.

Finding duplicate title tag error in Site Audit

Click on the “# issues with duplicate title tags” error to get a list of pages with the error.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the process of unnaturally forcing keywords into content, in the hopes of ranking higher for them.

There’s no need to include the same or similar keywords multiple times in hopes of ranking.

Think like a user when writing titles. Focus on accurately and concisely describing your page with one or two keywords max.

❌ Bad example: Weighted Blankets, Cooling Blankets, Blankets for Anxiety, Blankets for Stress

✅ How to fix it: Weighted Blankets to Ease Stress & Anxiety

The corrected title is better because it doesn’t repeat itself. The “bad example” repeats several related keywords, which looks spammy and doesn’t inform the user about the content of your page.

Long Title Tags

Typically, Google shortens or rewrites title tags that are over 70 characters long.

Again, it’s best to keep title tags under 60 characters. This way, they’re less likely to get cut off on mobile or desktop.

❌ Bad example: Save hundreds on Stressless® recliners and sofas with our instant rebate offer – Ginger Jar Furniture

✅ How to fix it: Save on Stressless® Recliners and Sofas | Ginger Jar Furniture

Only include the most relevant information in your title tag. Everything else (e.g., instant rebates, save hundreds, etc.) can be added to your meta description, which may appear alongside your title in SERPs.

Non-Descriptive Text

Google does its best to serve users results that satisfy their search intent (the reason for their search). So, if you choose something vague like “Home Page” for your home page’s title, Google will probably update it to something more specific.

❌ Bad example: Travel Blog

✅ How to fix it: Traveling Solo as a Woman: My Life as a Travel Blogger

A travel blog simply titled “Travel Blog” doesn’t tell the Google algorithm or readers much what your site is about. Adding something unique about your site to your title tag will entice users to click. 

For example, adding “traveling solo as a woman” tells readers more about who you are. This would match the search intent of a woman who wants to learn about traveling alone, but would not match the intent of, say, a family of four. 

How to Review Your Website’s Title Tags

You can review your website’s title tags with Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker.

Import your pages and their target keywords to check whether:

  • Target keywords are present in the corresponding title tags
  • Title tags contain too many keywords
  • Google is using your title tags in search results
On Page SEO Checker recommendations

The tool checks many other on-page SEO elements, too. 

Its recommendations are based on analysis of top-ranking competitors. And SEO best practices.

An "Overview" dashboard in On Page SEO Checker tool

How to Update Your Title Tags

The most common way to update title tags is via a content management system (CMS).

For example, when you edit a page in WordPress with the Yoast SEO plugin installed, you’ll see a field like this:

"SEO title" section in WordPress with the Yoast SEO plugin

If not, you might be able to use a plugin to update the title HTML. 

Alternatively, you can edit the page’s raw code. You’ll need to create a title tag like this:

<title>Insert title here</title>

And insert it into the <head> section of the page’s HTML.

Keep Improving Your On-Page SEO

Optimizing webpages for search is about far more than title tag SEO.

Follow our on-page SEO checklist to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

Or get tailored recommendations with Semrush’s On Page Checker.

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Writer, editor, SEO strategist, and supporter of the Oxford comma. There‘s little I enjoy more than lounging on my couch playing video games and snuggling with my dog.
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