If I had a nickle for every time I heard “how do I write a title tag?” There seems to be some confusion about writing title tags and the best way to do it these days. In all fairness, the best way to write a title tag has changed a bit over the years. It doesn’t help when someone is trying to learn about title tags and the article they’re reading was written in 2011.

It’s probably mostly wrong!

For example, in the past people wrote title tags like this:

SEO Services | Search Engine Optimization Services | SEO Company

Where they would simply list each keyword separated by the “pipe” symbol or sometimes with the use of commas. Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s done anymore and there are probably still quite a few pages out there advising people to do title tags that way.

So how do you write title tags, then?

A lot of people today are using popular SEO plugins such as Yoast or All in One SEO and using these tools to optimize their pages. These tools are a great help in making on-site optimizaiton easier, but they should not be the only thing being used to keep track of on-site SEO.

With this post, we’re going to take a step back from the title tag, and look at a simple 5 step process to optimize pages, including title tag optimization.

The super simple 5 step process to on-site optimization is as follows:

1. Complete proper keyword research

If you haven’t yet, do keyword research

Note: Keyword research is an extremely important part of this process and needs to be done correctly to ensure a successful SEO campaign. So many people try to just start optimizing pages for keywords they think they want to rank for. This is not the best route to take when trying to optimize pages for SEO.

2. Creating keyword mappings

We’re going to create a keyword mapping spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will outline all our keyword organization and targeting.

Let’s use a dentist in Charlotte NC as an example. By the way, if you happen to be a dental practice owner, we have a complete tell all guide to dental practice SEO here. At this point, proper keyword research has been complete and we’ve got URL’s listed with various relevant keywords mapped up to them. The spreadsheet should look something like this:

charlotte dentist keyword mapping

Add columns with URL, Keyword 1, Keyword 2, Keyword 3. Add your website URL’s to the spreadsheet in the URL column. Now, it’s time to start mapping. Map up to 3 total keywords to each URL in the keyword columns on the spreadsheet. It’s important to try to map up keywords to the most relevant page on the site for that keyword. In many cases, URL’s will either need to change to target keywords better, or entirely new pages will need to be created to target these keywords.

That’s okay!

If that’s the case, simply create new future URL’s that need to have pages published in order to target specific keywords. Don’t forget about content when creating any new pages on the site. Someone needs to be able to write content pages that vary in length (anywhere from 500 words – 2,000 words+). FYI, this post is currently 1,251 words at the time of writing. The search engines love content and it’s important to make sure proper amounts and quality of content are being created.

3. Optimize title tags

At the end of the keyword columns, add a column for title tag. Now that all relevant keywords are mapped up, we can create a title tag that targets these keywords perfectly. Here’s what the spreadsheet should look like at this point:

charlotte dentist title tags

The title tag is highlighted in Yellow. If the website is running WordPress, this is the title tag that will be implemented in Yoast or All in One SEO. This is what appears between the <title></title> tag on the page. The above screenshot also has “Vol” columns to list the keyword volume for each of these keywords. It takes a bit more time to put together, but it’s nice to have if the extra work is put in to include this data.

4. Create unique, eye catching meta descriptions

Why do they have to be so unique and eye catching? Meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor, but they show up right below the website listing in search results. Because of this, we want to create a relevant description for each page that has an eye catching call to action that encourages users to click in this website listing over all the others in the search results.

This is an important time to note that click through rate from search results is an important thing to think about. This is a factor to think about when designing both meta descriptions and title tags. More on this in the pro tips section at the end.

5. Create H1 tags for each page

H1 tags are essentially like a second title tag. The main keywords should be included here as well but in a slightly different way. Don’t be afraid to include synonyms and similar keywords in the H1. Search engines know how to treat synonyms today and prefer that more variety is included in a page rather than just repeating an exact phrase over and over again.

“Optimize for the thing, not the string.” You can thank this SEO for that clever little phrase to remember the fact that in 2017 and beyond, SEO’s must optimize for the all inclusive “thing” and related keywords / synonyms, not just 1 single exact phrase. 

At this point, there should be a few more columns added to the spreadsheet as seen below:

meta descriptions and h1 headings for on page SEO


BONUS: Pro tips section

Don’t forget about click through rate

Write titles and descriptions that encourage users to click on the site listing. This will hopefully increase click through rate which allows you to 1.) get more traffic with the same ranking 2.) Show Google that users are clicking on your listing which is a positive indicator. We know Google is tracking things like click through rate. The info is in Webmaster tools under “search analytics” See below:

click through rate in webmaster tools

Focus on user experience

Along the same lines of focusing on CTR above, also focus on user experience. Google has data on all kinds of information such as bounce rate, session duration, etc… They even know if someone clicks on a website listing and then goes back to search results within a few seconds. Years ago, they even tested adding a block button if a user clicked on a website listing and immediately went back to the results:

dwell time seo block button

Thank you to Dr. Peter J. Meyers with his post over at Moz for the screenshot above. Yes, I know it’s an old post, but the point remains the same: Google does have access to this type of information and they know when users behave in certain ways. Google’s rank brain and machine learning based algorithms are starting to take these user metrics like this in to account.

SEO’s have done various types of single variable tests with click through rate and users not returning to the search results. This is often times called “terminating the search” and one of the factors focused on is called “dwell time”. What all of this basically means is that web pages need to be designed and created to fulfill the user’s needs. The last thing a website owner wants is a user to go back to Google search results after landing on their site. Landing pages must be designed to do exactly what the user who is searching needs. At the end of the day, this is just Google using a new layer of data to validate that users are getting what they want from the search results. If they are not, expect that rankings could be lowered accordingly.

Want more advanced on page SEO ideas? Check out our post here on Advanced On Page SEO Ideas.

Need to hire an SEO agency that can help you with on-site optimization? Contact us here.