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What is a title tag?

09/24/11, 1:39 PM

Although it seems simple, the title tag of a web page is often both the most important and least understood piece of information on a web page with regards to basic search engine indexing and ranking authority.

The title tag is the main text that describes an online document or web page. It is the single most important on-page SEO element (behind overall content) and appears in three key places:

  • Browser
  • Search Results Pages
  • External websites

Browser: In this area, it appears at the very top of a web page in the browser "chrome" area. It's meant to be an accurate description of the web page content.

Search Results Pages: This is the area that appears when a search engine displays a list of results that include a web page. Search engines display title tags in their results along with another less important on-page factor, the meta description tag.

External websites: Often, external websites (especially social media sites) will use the title of a web page as its link anchor text.


An example of a title tag would be "Charlotte web site design services" as used on this page. It accurately describes the content contained within the page, as well as providing search engines with the correct information to list the page within it's results. Note that it also contains only 62 characters.

Importance to Search Engine Optimization

Historically, the title tag has consistently been one of the single most important on-page SEO factors. Before search engine algorithms increased their complexity, the title tag was an easy way to try and determine the topic and relevancy of a page. As search engines evolved, their algorithms started to include additional factors such as link data, social media interaction and traffic/performance metrics. The title tag, however, still holds great value for on-page search engine optimization.

Some basics to use when creating title tage for your web pages

  • Be Accurate – Try not to wander off topic with your title tags as they are used as a relevancy factor to describe a page in search engine algorithms. Stray too far off the path and you may look like you’re spamming, keyword stuffing or other manipulative techniques.
  • Don’t Target Too Many Terms on One Page – A good rule of thumb is to try not to target more than a couple keywords per page. If you could create a standalone article on the topic, it should be its own page. This method allows search engines to more easily determine the topic and relevancy of your page.
  • Optimize Your Length for Results Pages – Search engines standardize their results pages by limiting the amount of characters they show per element of a listing. Title tags are allowed a maximum of 70 characters is the maximum amount of characters before they display an ellipsis – “…” to signify that a title tag has been cut off. Your title tag may not make sense to a user if it gets cut off before the point is made, so be sure to check title tag length.
  • Keyword Placement and Order Matters – According to SEOmoz’s survey, the earlier the keyword is used in the placement of the title tag, the more helpful it is for ranking factors. Additionally, because it is near the beginning and likely not cut off at the 70 character limit, the more likely a user will see it and click on your search result listing.
  • Try to Be Enticing – Studies have shown that the message you convey in your title tag can get your more traffic than the search result listing ranked above you.

For those that build their own web pages using a content management system or other tools, the title tag is without a doubt one of the most important page attributes to ensure proper page indexing by search engines, as well as providing your web site visitors with a helpful, accurate and pleasant browsing experience.

Randy Smith