How you title a web page is one of the most important factors in how your page appears in search engines. This article lists five common mistakes people make and how to avoid them.
1. Repeating Titles
The first major mistake is using the same title on every page. Search engines like every page to be distinct and they tend to throw away pages they think are the same. The title of the page is one of their cues about how original or unique that page is compared with others they’ve already seen. If your title is the same as other pages on your site, that page loses some distinctiveness and will be more easily passed over.
When people first started designing websites, they used to use the title of their website as the title of every web page. Now, it’s more common to append the name of the site to the end of the title of the page.
There is a more subtle problem for sites that use content management systems (CMS) to manage their pages. CMS software will sometimes be configured so that many pages will have the same title by default across different sections of the site.
This practice may cause some pages not to be included in search engines. If your site is using a CMS, it’s important to take an inventory of the most important pages on your site and audit how they are generated.
2. Including Misleading Keywords
It used to be that search engines believed everything written on a page. If the title was about “blue widgets”, search engines would naively file that page under “blue widgets”.
Because of the enormous number of websites and the competition for popular search terms, entire industries grew to try and achieve the highest search engine rankings for those search terms — and some still build sites with the belief that this technique is highly effective.
Search engines try to figure out if you’re “gaming” their system by checking the title against content on the page.
If your title is about “blue widgets” and your content is about “red baskets”, then search engines won’t view your page as credible and will treat it accordingly by ranking it lower or possibly flagging it as spam.
Using words in the title that are also used on the page helps increase your page’s credibility, and hence, its ranking.
3. Including Irrelevant Keywords
This lower ranking may also happen if your content is about “red baskets” and your title talks about widgets, buckets, and other irrelevant topics for that page. While it may seem like good sense to include everything, what it actually does is dilute how search engines view your page.
Search engines won’t know what’s important if you include everything, or the wrong thing. Instead, making titles concise and relevant to the page will help search engines file your page under the right keywords.
4. Repeating Every Variation
Inserting every possible synonym or variation of your products and services into your title tag is also an easy way to dilute the relevance of your page.
Whether the title includes all “blue widgets, green widgets, orange widgets, red widgets” or “real estate agent, Realtor, real estate broker”, repeatedly repeating repetition lowers the credibility of your page to both search engines and readers. Again, a concise title, relevant to the content on your page will help search engines ensure your page is associated with the correct keywords.
5. Making the Title Too Long
A title that includes too many keywords not only dilutes how your page is viewed by search engines, it also has a very practical effect — even if all the keywords are relevant. If your title is too long, it will get cut off when presented to search engine users. The practical limit is 60 characters.
Your web pages titles will be displayed by search engines exactly as your write them, so they carry special significance when your pages are being indexed. By taking some extra time to review how your titles reflect the content of your pages, you can increase the chances of your site being ranked more highly in search engine results pages.