Title tags are often the first introduction to the world of SEO for many marketers. But because of this, they are sometimes considered a beginner’s tactic.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. When optimised correctly, title tags can provide a huge amount of value for brands and businesses.

The following tips and ticks are designed to boost click-through rates (CTR) and earn more traffic.

The importance of title tags

For those unaware or unsure, title tags are the clickable headline that appears on the search engine results page (SERP). Along with catching the eye of users, title tags are also designed to help search engines understand the content of a page.

Reasons for their importance include:

  • It’s the first thing a user sees on the SERP – “People may ignore your content, they may skim over it, they may ignore your meta description, your bread crumbs,” says Cyrus Shepard, SEO consultant at Moz. “But everybody, when they do a Google search, sees your title tag as the number one decision.”
  • They’re a ranking factor – Despite a slowdown in correlations between title tag signals and rankings, they remain influential for click-through rates. “No matter what you do, the title tag more than any other element that displays in the SERPs influences whether or not people are going to click your result,” adds Shepard.
  • They’re an opportunity to engage audiences – Even if you’ve got little to no chance of ranking highly with your content, a title tag can still entice and engage users. With the right language and message, you’ve got the power to encourage users to visit your site.
  • They’re easy to test – “You can change your title tag, go to Google Search Console, recrawl, reindex the URL, and see the changes in Google search results, sometimes within minutes,” says Shepard. After doing this, you can examine your SEO performance to see whether it’s had a positive or negative effect.

Going beyond the basics

When you’re only just starting out with title tags, there are a few ground rules to follow according to Shepard:

“We know that we only want one title per page, that the title should be relatively short – 50 to 60 characters – the title should be unique, meaning it shouldn’t be a duplicate of other titles on your site.”

In addition to using target keywords, writing compelling copy is another prerequisite. To do so, remember the NPR acronym:

  • N = Noticeable

In many search results, you’ll see every title tag essentially saying the same thing. They’re not inspiring, not enticing to click and therefore not noticeable. Try to make sure your copy differentiates itself from others.

  • P = Promising

“When a title is promising, it tells you what you should expect when you click. It goes beyond the keyword to promise you something to satisfy an emotional need. And good titles typically offer this,” Shepard explains.

Think about how to use promising language to satisfy the needs of your users. Techniques to use include:

  • Surprising them
  • Thrilling them
  • Impressing them
  • Educating them
  • Reassuring them
  • Helping them

“Even if you’re selling, you know, blenders. You can try to surprise people, thrill them, and impress them. They’re not just looking for blenders. They want something extra. Give them that in the title and you can entice the click. It’s hard to do, but you can do it,” Shepard says.

R = Relevant

More so than ever before, Google’s algorithm is attempting to deliver results that are relevant to searcher intent. Without relevancy, the elements of ‘noticeable’ and ‘promising’ can be diluted easily.

How to achieve systematic success

Here’s how to win at title tags every single time.

  1. Test ideas to find those that win– Develop a hypothesis, set targets and use the NPR model to identify the biggest variation. Testing should be an integral part of your title tag process.
  2. Don’t be concerned by collateral damage – “There is going to be some unintended consequences,” warns Shepard. There’s no guarantee that title tag testing will provide traffic gains, so it’s important to make room for potential losses.
  3. Don’t be afraid to backtrack – There’s no point keeping a title tag you’ve changed if it isn’t yielding a positive return. You can always revert back to the better performing original.
  4. Learn from your wins – The job of title tag optimisation doesn’t end when you’re achieving solid CTRs and traffic. Keep your winners but make sure you learn from them too.
  5. There’s no magic bullet – A one-size-fits-all formula doesn’t exist with title tags. It’s all about “finding out what works for you and your audience,” Shepard says.