6 Characteristics to Use for Title Tags – SEO (in 2019)

Woman searching the web, drinking tea

Just like sunscreen, it’s not sexy … but it’s effective.

Sunscreen Giphy

I’m talking about title tag optimization.

What is a title tag?

A title tag is an HTML element that indicates what the title of a web page is.

Where are they found?

Your title tag can be seen in two main places:

1. The top of the browser when you highlight the tab

Title Tag on Web Browser Tab

2. In the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page)

Title tag Example in the SERPs

Why are title tags important?

Title tags are important because they’re one of the main indicators telling search engines what your web page is about. They’re also a signal to Google indicating the keyword you’re targeting. Finally, title tags are a great way to entice a user to click on your site’s link on the SERPs page.

Just look at the SERPs for “top colleges”:

Top Colleges Title Tag Serps

Which link would you click?

1, 2, 3, or 4?

I personally would jump on No. 1. The addition of rankings and data makes me curious, and it gives the piece of content more authority, in my humble opinion.

How should I write title tags?

You want to write title tags in order to optimize for two main outcomes:

  1. To ensure you’re communicating to the search engines what your content is
  2. To entice people to click on your web page

As far as communicating to the search engines which keyword you are targeting, it’s a fairly simple process. Just ensure your keyword is mentioned directly in the title tag. Plus, if you have the room, you can add secondary keywords to the title tag.

Enticing people to click is a whole different beast.

Cyrus Shepard, a former Moz employee and current SEO magician has a specific formula he sticks to when writing title tags.

These types of characteristics help with CTR (click-through rate). I would strongly suggest using them when applicable.

  • Numbers
  • Dates
  • Symbols
  • Proper Length: 50-60 characters
  • Use synonyms and variants
  • Leverage action words (buy, download, search, listen, watch, etc.)
  • Influential language (proven, powerful, discover, instant, etc.)

So let’s take this page, for example. Using this formula, the title tag I would write for this page would be: 6 Characteristics to Optimize Title Tags — SEO (in 2019)

I’ve created this Google Sheet to automate a rough outline for title tags using Cyrus’ formula.

Title Tag Formula

Using Influential Language

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the spectrum of emotion.

Imagine a spectrum ranging from “boring” to “I MUST CLICK THIS!” In the world of copywriting, you have Webster’s dictionary on one end of the boring description:

“This is a bathing suit.”

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the way Buzzfeed might describe a bathing suit:

“You can’t IMAGINE what Gweneth Paltrow wore to the beach (IMAGES INCLUDED)!”

Any sane person will want to write their title tag along this emotional spectrum. Too boring and you won’t optimize your click-through rate. Too sensational and you’ll cheapen your brand and people won’t take you seriously. There is an art to this, it’s definitely not a science. Remember to use influential language that’s in line with your brand.

Who writes title tags?

The SEO on your account will be the one who writes them … usually. Once in a while, I’ll rope in a copywriter for some collaboration.

When are title tags updated?

The title tags on a web page get updated as part of a page’s on-page optimization tasks. Preferably, you would be periodically updating these title tags in order to test them for improved CTR.

Looking for some help writing title tags? Feel free to use this free Google Sheet.