A meta title (also called title tag) is an element in the head section of an HTML document that defines the title of each page of a website. It is retrieved by web browsers and also used by search engines such as Google to display a webpage in search results (SERPs). Often the meta title is mistakenly categorized as a meta tag. However, this is not correct since it is a unique HTML element.
<head> <title>page title</title> … </head>
Relevance for SEO
The title tag is an important element for Google to judge the relevance of a website for a particular search query. Keywords which are used in the meta title are of particularly high importance for the ranking of a webpage. Therefore, the optimization of meta titles is one of the most important SEO tasks, whereby a high impact can be achieved with little effort. For this reason, the meta title is considered one of the low hanging fruits in search engine optimization (SEO).
Furthermore, the wording and content of the title often determine whether a user clicks on a search result on Google or not, because he recognizes by the title, what the page is about and whether it is relevant to him. Thus, the title can also contribute significantly to an increased click-through rate (CTR) of a website in the SERPs which is also positive for its SEO.
How to optimize your meta titles
When optimizing the title element, there are some formal and content-related factors to consider.
Regarding the length of your meta titles, you should bear in mind that Google only uses 580 pixels to display the meta title of a webpage in search results, which corresponds approximately to a length of 70 characters (including spaces). This number should not be exceeded since the title is otherwise cut off by Google. Optimally, your meta title is between 55 and 65 characters long. With the Seobility SERP Snippet Generator you can easily check if your meta title exceeds this optimal length:
SEO Title Checker
Check the length of your SEO meta title
In terms of content, the title tag should contain the most important keywords for the SEO of your website. These should be combined to a meaningful sentence instead of stuffing your title full of keywords. Otherwise, it could be evaluated negatively by search engines because of "keyword stuffing". In addition, the most important keyword should always come first, as Google attaches great importance to the first word of the title. In total, up to four keywords can be used. Word repetitions and spelling errors should be avoided. Moreover, if the title consists of several terms, they should not be separated by a hyphen, but rather by a vertical line "|". This allows a more prominent display of the title in the search results pages.
Furthermore, your meta title should give users a brief, concise and comprehensible impression of what the page is about and why it is relevant for them. Terms that don’t provide any information on the page content, such as "Welcome" or "Home", should be avoided. In addition, your title should be appealing to users in order to increase your click-through rate. Especially online shops should, therefore, use call-to-actions as well as emphasize the uniqueness of their own offer in comparison to competitors.
If no meta title is specified or if it’s not informative enough, there is a risk that Google will automatically create a title for your webpage based on the content of that page. Since this does not always lead to good results, it is important to ensure that a meta title is defined for each page of a website. On the HTML Improvements page in Search Console, you can easily check which of your pages have missing or problematic Meta Titles. Since August 2021, Google is rewriting more page titles in search results if they don't meet Google's quality standards. This includes titles that are too long, generic titles, keyword stuffing, etc. To generate new titles, Google uses other page elements, such as heading tags.
Overall, you should use each meta title only once on your website since it should reflect the individual content of each page. In this way, you can ensure that individual subpages reach a high ranking for specific search queries. If you use the same meta title for each subpage of a site instead, you'll lose much of your SEO potential, as Google will usually display only one page of a domain in the results for a particular search query. If you have a large website, you can also generate your meta titles automatically. However, you should ensure that these titles are individual for each page as well.
Below we have summarized the most important points to consider when optimizing your meta titles:
- optimal length between 55 and 65 characters (maximum 70)
- combine important keywords to a meaningful sentence
- most important keyword should come first
- avoid word repetitions and spelling errors
- provide a concise and understandable description of the page content
- use a call-to-action if necessary
- use individual titles for each page of a website
Good and bad examples
Here you can see a good example of a meta title by Time Out, which is displayed when searching for "cheap restaurants london":
Screenshot with Time Out Snippet from google.com
This title has a reasonable length and describes the content of the page in a concise and understandable way. In addition, it is appealingly formulated.
The following result for the search query "black shoes" can serve as a good example, too:
Screenshot with adidas snippet from google.com
This meta title also has an appropriate length and is therefore not shortened by Google. In addition, all major keywords are included and the most important ones ("black shoes") come first. With the addition "Athletic & Casual", this title also sounds appealing and encourages users to click on it.
The following page title, on the contrary, can serve as a negative example:
Screenshot with The Iconic snippet from google.com
First of all, this title is too long and is therefore cut off by Google. In addition, the keywords “black shoes” are repeated three times. This requires a lot of space, which could instead be used to formulate a more appealing meta title.
- More information on how Google generates titles for web page results Google Search Central. Retrieved on October 4, 2021.