Introduction to page titles in SEO

Learn everything you need to know about Page titles, how they affect SEO and how to craft the best page titles.

What is a page title?

The page title is the largest part of what you see in Google when you do a search. 

Here’s a few examples of page titles, as you’d see them in Google:

Are page titles important to SEO?

Yes. Page titles are one of the most important aspects of SEO because, if they don’t match the intent of the person searching in Google, the person won’t click on your listing.

This reduces the Click Through Rate – CTR – from Google, which hurts your ranking for that search term. 

What about duplicate or competing page titles?

You should generally aim not to have pages on your site which tackle the same subject. If you avoid this, there shouldn’t be a reason to have a page title which is duplicated. 

However, if you do, there’s no real serious SEO problem, as Google will often just bounce between showing one page or the other, or it might show them both.

Stats about SEO page titles: “Are page titles the most important on page element for SEO?”

Will changing a page title hurt your SEO?

Yes!!!! It can do. 

If the new page title means something different, Google can decide to re-rank that page and lose all of the history and trust you have built up with Google on that search term.

So, proceed with caution!

Adding little elements to a page title is typically OK though. For example, if your page title was “Recruitment agency in Manchester” and you changed it to “Recruitment agency in Manchester near Chinatown”, it’s unlikely this would affect your rankings.

However, it’s something you should be cautious about. Always check first whether you have rankings which are useful to your business using a tool like Semrush (get a double length free trial of SEMrush via this link) before making significant changes.

What’s the best structure for an SEO page title?

As a single effective SEO page title format, I recommend this:

<Clear message about page content><More detailed info> | <Business name>

An example might be something like “Accountancy firm in Brighton – specialists in pubs | PubCount”

What are the rules for page titles?

There are few rules you should be aware of for SEO page titles. You can choose pretty much whatever you want.

However, I would be cautious about using phrases like “best”, since they are subjective and don’t always lead to good trust from Google or users.

How long should a page title be?

One important rule though is the length of the page title. Typically 50 to 60 character is the maximum you should use. There are tools which help you to preview what a page title will look like in Google. Here’s one from Moz.

Will the length of a page title affect SEO? No, the length won’t directly affect SEO, but not including all of the information that Google and visitors want to see can negatively affect your CTR, so make sure you include enough to make it clear what your page is about.

Is there an ideal length for a page title? Not really .. it should contain everything that a user or Google might want to be sure of what they are going to see on the page.

What about pipes, colons, dashes and semi-colons?

All of these can be used. In fact, the format above already uses them.

You can use any of these interchangably, as suits the page title or information you’re trying to get across.

Google is a topic confidence engine

Google wants to be confident that it will show the right pages to the right users.

Your page titles help it to understand what is on your page and therefore which search queries to show your content against.

Be clear and honest with what your page contains and Google and users will reward you.

Tips for SEO friendly page titles

Keyword research

The most important element for an SEO friendly page title is to match it to a search intent or phrase that already exists. 90% of the content written never received any traffic from Google, and poor page titles are the reason for much of this.

So, you should also do some keyword research in an SEO tool like Semrush (get a double length free trial of SEMrush via this link) or Ahrefs, or even Google, to make sure that there is someone searching for the content you’re about to write.

Matching intent

Your customers care about the money they may spend with the business, and they want to know that you can really solve a problem for them.

Matching intent is where you go beyond the exact words they’re searching for and meet the desire behind it. You can learn more about intent here

For example, if you’re a dog walker, you know that people love their pets, so you may make a point that you’re a dog lover below. While the user didn’t search for “dog walker who loves pets”, there was an unspoken intent.

Don’t keyword stuff!

Google knows what things mean to a very high degree today. The days of needing to have multiple ways of saying the same thing in your page title, or even on your page are gone.

In fact, Stripe homepage only has 1% of the phrases they rank for in their page title, 2% of them on their homepage, and not many more across their entire site.

Effective page title examples

Here are a few example page titles to get you started. As an easy first step, I would recommend searching for the terms you want to rank for, and seeing what page titles your competitors are using.

Location or specialism in page title?

As a business, you may need to decide if you should target your location or your specialism in your page title.

If most of your business is local, I’d include the location. If your business is nation or worldwide, I would include your specialism instead. 

Home and landing page page title examples

“Accountancy firm in Brighton – specialists in pubs | <Business name>”

“Social media SAAS software | <Business name>”

“Content writer – specialist in PR & marketing industry | <Business name>” 

“Photographer in Brighton – available for weddings worldwide | <Business name>”

About us page title examples

“Learn about the journey of <Business name>”

“Learn more about <Business name>”

Blog and news page title examples

People like actionable steps in blog pages – something which can solve their problem. So a few examples might be:

“How to put a door up correctly in half the time | <Business name>”

“5 tips for filling in your tax return in 2021 | <Business name>”

“Create better SEO pages – 6 actionable steps | <Business name>”