The Art of the Perfect Title Tag

Erica Hakonson B2B Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization 2 Comments

Working with a variety of B2B businesses, this question is bound to arise when we discuss their online B2B Marketing Strategy as it pertains to SEO (search engine optimization)…”what is the perfect title tag?” As I steal a line from one of my favorite business professors, Professor Ian McCarthy, “It Depends!”.

Let’s back up for a second. I don’t want to assume you, yes you, my esteemed reader necessarily is aware of the nuisances of what a title tag is. Too often I live in the depths of the Search Marketing Ecosphere, rarely coming up for air to speak actual English, as opposed to acronyms and obscure online marketing vocabulary (e.g. SEM, PPC, Meta Data, H tags, etc.). Pardon my oversight.

What the Heck is a ‘Title Tag’?

So, what is a title tag and why does it matter to you? Good question my comrade. A title tag is the “headline” or first statement that appears in a search engine result. When I entered the query “B2B Marketing Strategy” in Google or Bing or Firefox – pick your flavor of browser, it doesn’t matter — one of the results that the search engine returned was the example below.
B2B marketing title tag
In this example, the title tag would be “B2B Marketing Strategy & B2B Marketing from Experts with Scar Tissue”. This is the first line most people will read when evaluating whether your displayed results in the search engine is relevant or irrelevant for the person’s search query, whether this be a paid search results or an unpaid, organic search result (these shall be defined and explained in a later blog post…I’ve added to our blogging list).

Why “It Depends!”

This isn’t my irritating, evasive way of refusing to answer this simple question, “what is the perfect title tag really?”. Unfortunately, it really does depend. It depends on a number of variables:

  • The page you are describing (e.g. Homepage vs Services vs Blog vs About)
  • The audience you are speaking to (i.e. your end customer / target personas)
  • The geography you are targeting (i.e. local vs international vs multi-lingual)
  • The list goes on and on…

Having said that, there are a number of best practices / tested-tips you can follow when constructing your titles tag that have proven to be effective for us and for our happy clients over time.

1. First, Speak Directly to Your Customers

Sadly, yes I must say this — write your title tags to speak directly to your customers, prospects, target personas, suspects…whatever you want to call them or classify them. One of the most common mistakes I see businesses make is to write their title tags solely for search engines, to cater to the algorithms not the actual people you want to reach. Doh!

Don’t just stick a keyword and your brand name in your title tag, write the title as if people will actually read it…because people will and actually do read them. Your prospective customers will be reviewing your title tags and meta descriptions to evaluate whether you are providing the information, services, solutions, etc. they are looking for. Just remember, while search engines review each title tag for relevancy, actual people are reading these title tags to answer questions and find solutions. For goodness sake, write title tags as if people are reading them. A brief synopsis of this point…WRITE TO YOUR AUDIENCE FIRST.

2. Keyword Research is Laborsome & Worth Your Time

If you are like many of our clients, you avoid keyword research like you avoid your dentist (my apologies to all the dentists in my family). You know it is time consuming, endless and not the most entertaining way use your creative marketing juice, but the truth is…it matters. Keyword research is the only way you confidently know, without a doubt, whether there is a market for what you targeting (i.e. prospects are searching for what you are selling / promoting).

I cannot stress this point enough. Keyword research is essential to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy and practice. There are various tools you can use for keyword search, both FREE and paid tools, such as:

The list goes on and on…find one you like and use it.

Regardless of the keyword research tool you select, what is most important is you evaluate whether there is demand (i.e. people searching for online) for the keywords you are targeting. Once you have proven there is demand – use the keywords. Put them in your title tag, naturally, don’t force it.

Here is good example of a nature keyword placement in a title tag for “accounting software”:
accounting software title tag example

3. Yes, Length Matters…for Title Tags

Another common question that comes up when I am discussing the importance and art of composing the perfect title tag with prospects is whether shorter is better. Search engines do tap you out at 70 characters per title tag, but clients want to know whether there is an optimal length? Well the friendly folks over at Moz.com have deciphered that if you keep your title tags to 55 character or less, 95% of the time the entire tag will display in all search engine results.
Title tags with a length beyond 55 characters unwittingly expose themselves to cutting off their perfectly crafted title tags. Lucky for you, you are reading this blog so you have been properly cautioned. You are most welcome my friend!

4. What About Punctuation?

Do I punctuation the sh@% out of my title tags? Do piping, commas, periods and special characters impact click-through rates? The long and the short of it is yes, but of course, “it depends”.

Here is the scoop on punctuation for title tags:

  • Piping is a good “line to draw” between keyword phrase and brand, but it also disconnects the brand from the keyword phrase.
  • Hyphens are good to use when you are trying to separate multiple keywords in a single title tag, but generally it is best practice to concentrate on only one keyword per webpage, hence per title tag.
  • Generally, many other special characters will not show in search engine results, so don’t try to get too creative.
  • However, numbers and percentages are powerful and compelling for click-through rates when used properly.
  • This does not pertain to paid advertising. Punctuation can boost click-through rates for paid advertising (again, another topic for another blog. Adding to our blog list again.)

5. Is It Self Love or Ego

Finally, clients often ask…should I brand my title tags. A common practice using piping to draw the line between the brand and the subject / product / service. I am not personally a fan of this finite distinction, but in some cases it is appropriate. Branding your title tags is a good idea, but remember you optimally have 55 characters to display, so you may not be able to fit it into this minimist space. As you can imagine, “Maven Collective Marketing” at a solid 26 characters so it rarely makes the cut.

This was potentially an oversight on my part when selecting a brand name and domain, but I choose to think it was somehow a brilliant scheme to artfully craft more thoughtful and customer centric title tags on my part. Am I perhaps bias.

Optimizing Your Title Tags

Take what you can from what I hope you have found to be an insightful post on title tags and put it into play today! The one question I tell our clients to ask themselves, especially when it comes to your homepage is, “Is this keyword /term /terms the most important phrase you want to be found for by your prospects / customers?” If the answer is no, change it now!

When you do change your title tags, track it. You should always be tracking and testing changes. Iteration and agility is the name of the game. If it performs worse, you can always change it back. The best way to do this is keep an annotation logo of what title tag you changed, the date you changed it, and what you changed it from. If during the test period you perform worse, you can then look at your annotation to roll it back to the previous title tag. Fail forward or backward, whatever works. Just keep testing and failing and testing, that is how you craft a perfect title tag.

Other Resources for Perfecting Your Title Tags

Here are a few other brilliant and insightful articles on Perfecting the Art of the Perfect Title Tag for your reading pleasure:

You are now officially ready to artistically craft the perfect title tag for your business, your service, your geographic location and your target persona. If you have perfected the perfect title tag template that can work in any situation, I’d love to here about it. Feel free to leave your comments below.

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Erica Hakonson

Principal & B2B Marketing Maven at Maven Collective Marketing
Erica Hakonson, Founder of Maven Collective Marketing, has likely spent more time pondering, testing and contemplating your web searches than you will ever be comfortable knowing about. For over 13 years, she has been working in B2B marketing with companies like the Microsoft Corporation, Safeco Insurance, Intranet Connections and many more to disrupt the norm, connecting people-to-people rather than business-to-business.

A graduate of the Management of Technology MBA program from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and a former Board of Director for the SFU Alumni board, Erica finds balance through academic challenges as well.

As a self-diagnosed digital marketing junky, she spends most of her days studying search engine algorithm updates, A/B testing her own confirmation biases and building digital marketing strategies for various B2B clients.

When unplugged from the Digital World, Erica spends her time brewing beer, ultramarathon running and exploring the vast north of the 49th parallel with her husband, kids and vizsla.
Erica Hakonson
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