Title tags (also called SEO titles or meta-titles) are hidden snippets of HTML code that summarize page or blog post content, much like the title of a non-fiction book.
Generally, title tags will be seen in search results first, because they are the clickable headline in search engine results. Title tags are the #1 on-page ranking factor; they directly affect conversion before anyone sees your website. It’s important to get them right!
A simple title tag:
By default, the hidden title tag matches the visible title of the page. In this example, both are name “Home”. That’s the default behavior of most websites. Leaving title tags in this default mode is big disadvantage in SEO — don’t do it.
Instead, title tags should be independent of page titles.
Independence creates an opportunity. You can create a emotionally-compelling visible page title for readers, and also create a highly-optimized location + service title tag for search engines. Those two components are then combined by the Yoast SEO or Rank Math plugin in WordPress. This solution is the best of both worlds. (If you’re not using WordPress, you can still use this method, but it will be a bit more work.)
Example: This is what a typical unoptimized home page title tag looks like.
<title>Home | Fast, Effective In-Home Dog Training | Fresno & Clovis</title>
Firstly let’s dump “Home”. It’s a worthless page name. Also, keyword research tells us that searchers are not looking for “fast” or “effective” dog training (but “in-home training” is a valid, differentiating term). Finally, this title tag omits the name of multiple locations in the market area, when they should be there.
Optimizing the Title Tag
New research shows the benefit of greatly expanding title tags to include important keywords, modifier terms, and locations. This website (in red, below) gained 36 first-place positions in one month simply by switching to long-form title tags!
The improved long-form style includes additional elements:
- Core keywords that we know searchers are using
- Popular or alternate spellings: “k9”
- The modifier “best” which appears in a numerous keywords
- Multiple local service locations
- If it makes sense, a bigger competitor’s business name to gain some branded traffic on their dime. Use those pages to your (better) service to theirs.
Here’s the revised title tag:
<title>Fresno's 5-star Dog Trainer | Best In‑home Dog Training | Fresno, Clovis, Chowchilla, Madera, Visalia, Tulare, Hanford | Dog Training Near Me | Puppy Training Near Me | Dog Behavior and Obedience Classes | K9 Training | Leash Training</title>
The keywords come straight out of the keyword list that was developed early in the project.
The keyword list tells us what people want — then we match their intent and communicate it to Google in the title tag.
- We’ll drop the page name “Home” because it’s almost meaningless, and we’ll replace it with “Fresno’s 5-star Dog Trainer” because reviews are a super-important conversion factor.
- We added a couple of “near me” keywords. This is one of the few ways to optimize for popular “near me” searches without looking ridiculous.
- Finally, we’re skipping the brand name because it eats up space and isn’t worth much since results for local brand searches (if known at all) will usually be found in the #1 position.
Note that only a small portion of the title tag will be visible in search results. And, yes, every SEO audit tool will flag long title tags like this as an error. But it seems Google still “reads” very long title tags.
Our approach is to take a great deal of care to write the hidden portion of the title tag ONCE. Then, tell the reader what the post or page is about in the page title. Include a keyword or two in the page title that is not already present the hidden portion of the title tag.
Yoast or Rank Math will combine the post or page title and the hidden title tag automatically. So the full title looks like this:
visible post or page title + hidden seo title
Optimizing title tags is one of those fast / easy tweaks that produces real results. Ask us for a site audit, chances are we can bump your rankings with new and improved title tags!