5 Common SEO Mistakes with Web Page Titles

Aug 20 2010 by Modestos Siotos | 73 Comments

5 Common SEO Mistakes with Web Page Titles

Page titles are one of the most powerful on-site search engine ranking factors that you have control over but website owners often neglect them.

Whether your intention is to improve your search engine visibility or make your website more meaningful and interoperable, you should avoid these five common pitfalls when coming up with page titles.

What Are Web Page Titles?

A web page title is the value you assign the <title> tag that’s typically found on top of an HTML/XHTML document inside the <head> tag.

Most web browsers will display the web page title at the top of the browser window and/or in the browser tab.

For example, the following code:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" dir="ltr" lang="en-US"> 
<head> 
<title>10 SEO Tips to Remember When Building Your Site</title>
</head>

Shows up like this in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Internet Explorer:

And then, this is how Google displays the <title> value (after a search query of "seo tips remember"):

Google displays the <title> value

Now that we are all synced up on what exactly web page titles are, let’s discuss popular mistakes that I see with web page titles.

1. Not Having a Title

There is a tremendous number of websites that don’t have a title tag or that use a default title like "Untitled Document". Just try a search in Google for "untitled document" and you won’t believe the millions of results that matches your search.

Not Having a Title

Because search engines use your <title> tag to display in their search results, not having one — or having one that isn’t meaningful — makes it hard to find and index your pages.

Page titles give a web page some context. It tells a web robot like Google’s search spider what the web page is about.

2. Page Titles That Are Too Short or Too Long

Even though this is not a massive issue, short page titles will limit the potential of a page to rank for several keywords. Google, for example, can display up to 70 characters in their search engine results page (SERP) — why not take advantage of that?

But don’t overdo it. Keep in mind that the more keywords there are in the title, the more diluted they become. Having too many keywords in the page title, although visible by Google, can lead to the common issue of keyword cannibalization (which we will talk about next).

Terms that appear first in the title are the ones that will be given more importance. For example, if a web page talks about how to repair a broken hard drive on a Dell XPS laptop and the main keywords are "repair", "Dell", and "XPS", a title like:

<title>DIY: How to Repair a Broken Hard Drive on a Dell XPS Laptop</title>

Can be revised to:

<title>Repair a Dell XPS Laptop's Broken Hard Drive<title>

Notice how the key terms are closer to the beginning in the second example, and that it is shorter than the first example. Not only is it better for search engine ranking, but it’s also easier to read and comprehend.

Devise great titles that give your web pages meanings, and remember that web users want information quickly — don’t make them have to think about what your page titles are by writing informative page titles that are neither too short and lacking information or too long and hard to read.

3. Keyword Cannibalization

This is a situation when pages titles are stuffed with too many keywords. Keyword-stuffing is an unscrupulous tactic that a few SEO consultants use to improve their clients’ search engine rankings. Though I am an SEO consultant myself, I don’t recommend blatantly loading your pages with keywords because not only does it affect your search engine ranking’s effectiveness, but is also the reason that we sometimes see non-relevant web pages ranking highly for a specific keyword.

Because your web pages are (or should be) distinct and should have unique content, the same should be the case with page titles. Repeating the same keywords in various pages regardless of whether or not they are relevant to that particular page is not going to help, mainly for two reasons:

  1. Irrelevant web pages may be picked up by the search engines, but will have high bounce rates as it doesn’t convert effectively due to the fact that the page isn’t what the searcher is looking for
  2. It violates Google’s mantra of "Don’t be evil"

4. Using the Company/Site Name in All Web Pages

As previously said, Google displays up to 70 characters of a given page title in their SERPs. It does see longer ones, though, and despite what many SEO professionals preach, it isn’t a huge problem to have page titles that are greater than 70 characters in a page title.

Nevertheless, you need to think of what should and shouldn’t appear in the title. Many website owners tend to include their business name in the title, some of which can be very lengthy. What is even worse is that they want their name to appear first in every single web page.

Including your company name (unless it’s a search term that will likely be used), is unnecessary, and is consistent with some of the mistakes I’ve discussed earlier.

For example, study this title:

<title>ACME Exporting/Importing Company, LLC: Export Surfboards to Hawaii<title>

With the page title including the company’s name, it is using 37 more characters (with spaces)!

Search engine ranking might be better if it was simply:

<title>Export Surfboards to Hawaii</title>

It would make sense displaying your company name in the homepage, contact page, and about page but avoid them in content pages.

5. Duplicate Web Page Titles

Another common mistake is having duplicate page titles. This makes it difficult to determine which page is which when they are all displayed in search engine results pages.

As previously said, all of your web pages should be unique — so by logic, all of your web page titles should also be unparalleled.

Related Content

About the Author

Modestos Siotos is a UK-based SEO consultant who regularly blogs on Connect, a UK digital marketing blog. If you’d like to connect with him follow him on Twitter.

73 Comments

Sankar Datti

August 20th, 2010

These are basic tips. But important points in SEO.

Dan

August 20th, 2010

Page titles, so simple, yet so complex!

Thanks for this, reminded me of a few things I needed reminding of!

Wod

August 20th, 2010

Duplicate Web Page Titles – what’s the recommended approach for an e-commerce site with multiple pages of products in a single subcategory?

Rob Wood

August 20th, 2010

I think it’s OK to have the company name in the title as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the key search terms for that page. So in other words, you could have it at the end of the title.

TheAL

August 20th, 2010

A small part of me has been deliberately avoiding a lot of this SEO craze due to the oddball connotations with things like “guru” and “nitpicking” and so on. But now, especially with a lot of engines revamping their algorithms and crawlers to take page speed and cleanliness into account for rankings, it’s pretty dead serious. I’m currently in the midst of giving my site an SEO makeover.

Gregg Dickson

August 20th, 2010

For page titles I always follow the rule to just write a really good informative title and the first 70 characters should read okay on their own but having it a little longer is fine.
G

Klaus Junginger

August 20th, 2010

Great content. SEO is like a monk´s dayly routine. SMall things over and over. and when the time comes, you´re a master.

Keep it up

Klaus

reactorr SEO

August 20th, 2010

I would recommend 65 characters, including spaces. While Google looks at up to 3 times that in titles, its the first 65 that are considered to be of the most value for ranking. Play with the allintitle query to see.

Another factor to consider when optimizing titles is how it can affect your CTR when displayed in search results, not just rank. A keyword stuff page doesn’t always work as well as a descriptive one containing keywords.

And like good seo copywriting, proximity and prominence are a consideration.

Aaron

August 20th, 2010

Good article. Don’t forget the Meta Title will come in handy when sharing on Facebook! http://bit.ly/6AtTCm

Curiosity

August 20th, 2010

Regarding number 4:

If the site’s name is “[Subject] site – [Unique site name]“, would [Subject] biography, [Subject] audio downloads, [Subject]-related links etc be a better solution than just Biography, Audio Downloads, Related Links?

Matthew Wehrly

August 20th, 2010

@wod. I would reorganize the order your title tag displays…for example: product category – page # – store name.

For product pages I use: product name – category/sub category – store name

if needed you can do: product option – product name – category/sub category…just my two cents.

Great post!

JG

August 20th, 2010

yeah I normally keep the site name/company name at the END of the title, that way if it gets truncated that’s ok because most of the title should still be visible…

Sunny Singh

August 20th, 2010

Good tips. I still prefer adding the site name to the end though. Not sure if this is entirely good for SEO or not, but it keeps page titles consistent and search results less scam looking. This is probably self preference.

Stefan Rynkowski

August 21st, 2010

Jep basic stuff but very very important. Nice read :)!

Jacob Gube

August 21st, 2010

@Matthew Wehrly: You beat me to it, was going to suggest something similar.

And just to add, as long as the URL of the products are different as well, that would increase the likelihood that it won’t be considered duplicate pages.

macmodi

August 21st, 2010

The brand name or the site’s name is not really neccessary. That will appear in the meta description and the URL too. It may make some sense to have it in the homepage but in terms of SEO it doesn’t have any benefit at all. You just sacrifice an x amount of characters that could be used for a few more keywords.

sajeer starline

August 21st, 2010

Wow…nice articles..thnks for the post…it will help the beginners a lot..

Patrick Samphire

August 21st, 2010

I’m with the others who disagree slightly with rule 4. It may be better for SEO, but it can easily be worse for users and search results. Say, for example, I’m searching for a particular product. When the list of google results appears, it is very useful to see: ‘Product | Amazon’ or ‘Product | Ebay’. Of, as another example, if I was looking to study a BSc in Physics, it’s useful to see the titles as ‘Physics BSc | Oxford University’ or ‘Physics BSc | Manchester University’.

Including only the title of the page (the product or course in these examples) would leave a fairly undifferentiated list in google, which would be much harder for the user to scan.

Mentor

August 21st, 2010

I have set Site Title as my site name. Since I am using all in in one seo its in search results

Mark @ Alchemy United

August 21st, 2010

Nice refresher. Tight and to the point.

The truth is that SEO friendly titles start first as human friendly. Ultimately, Google, etc. is trying to automate what human would do if there weren’t so many $#@$%^ pages :) This is why Google say, “Design first for your users”. GGoogle is only trying to get their robots (i.e., bots) to be human anyway – not the other way around.

Spicer Matthews

August 21st, 2010

Great write up. I learned a bunch. I am going to put on my list ASAP to update my titles.

Kaushik

August 22nd, 2010

The solution for No#4 is to reverse the position of the page title and site name. That is, [page title] – [site name]. Putting your site’s name in the title allows you to promote your brand. This is what most blogs usually do.

job ballard

August 22nd, 2010

i always say, design for humans and search engines will look up to you. nice article, thanks.

ParsDL

August 22nd, 2010

Good article. Don’t forget the Meta Title

Vivoo creative

August 22nd, 2010

Great post, thanks very much for the tips :-)

WD, L

August 22nd, 2010

Thanks for the tips, i need to look at my page titles again..

macmodi

August 22nd, 2010

Designing for humans doesn’t guarantee traffic. How will people find a site that doesn’t rank? Designing with SEO in mind will make it more likely that humans will find the site too.

A human friendly title that appears in the 2nd page of Google will never be found compared to those appearing in the top three places.

How many people really care about a company’s brand name of the page title makes it clear that they will find what they’re after. The longer the brand name, the more keywords you miss out and sacrifice.

Dey Alexander

August 22nd, 2010

I’m with those who commented on #4. I think it’s important to include the company/organisation name in most cases. Not for SEO reasons, but for usability/accessibility reasons – so users can identify whose content this is. It may be the clincher to get a clickthrough from the SERP to your site, and also plays a role in re-finding content in browser bookmarks, history etc.

putragaluh

August 22nd, 2010

nice post, thanks for share

ardianzzz

August 22nd, 2010

I like this! twothumbs! :)

Theo

August 23rd, 2010

Nice post, as the page title is very important. Thanks for the reminder!

Top Seo

August 23rd, 2010

I completly desagree with company or site name in web page titles, exception for a brand name well known like Ebay or Amazon.
That is only a waste of space, but if choosed is better to put the site name in the end.

Wdp

August 23rd, 2010

straight forward tips.

Matt

August 23rd, 2010

So true. It’s so easy, utilise these simple SEO tips, they make such a difference.

wptidbits

August 23rd, 2010

Thanks for sharing these simple yet excellent tips. I’ll see if i am doing these 5 mistakes.

ddeja

August 23rd, 2010

Thanks, for the suggestions. As Wdp sayd “straight forward tips.”.

Cheers.

Casey

August 23rd, 2010

Always nice to be reminded of the basics. We often get overwhelmed with a bunch of out-of-the-box thinking, which is good, but nice to remember how we got here.

Craig

August 23rd, 2010

This covers it nicely, simple but very important tips

Jesse

August 23rd, 2010

Great basics of seo for all of us to know.

iguoguo

August 24th, 2010

Very usefull for me
Thank you

Lisa

August 24th, 2010

We have optimised a few sites that had cannibalization of the title, and we acheived immediate results for our clients All great tips. LT

Asus

August 25th, 2010

Tnx for reminding me…..

Tomas

August 25th, 2010

Thank you for useful article, I think the point about page titles is very smart, but I wasn’t think about that earlier. Thanks.

Amanda

August 26th, 2010

Great tips for SEO, nice reminder.

Peach

August 29th, 2010

As simple as these are, it’s still important that these practices should be used on most site to get the best result out of SEO. Great tips.

Dolphiq

September 1st, 2010

Nice article on something everybody (or at least SEO pro’s) knows, but soon tend to neglect. Especially the part about title length where you shuffle around the keywords to get closer to each other. Cheers…

francoslicer

September 1st, 2010

really nice article.these are basic tips for SEO who are working with SEO.these are very helpful to newbies.i need to see my site once again.i would like to make some improvements.
thanks for your sharing information.

Kai

September 2nd, 2010

Thank you for the tips.

Kai

Amanda Smit

September 3rd, 2010

Excellent tips, sometimes overlooked but crucial.

Tim Kaiser

September 13th, 2010

Excellent read and handy info! Thanks.

Farouk

December 21st, 2010

that was very useful to me as i display site’s name on all pages
thank you:)

arad

February 8th, 2011

So if my title is like: “kw1 kw2 kw3 kw4 kw5″ and my site ranks ok for searching “kw1 kw2″ I will improve my rankings for the previous search phrase removing the last 3 keywords for the title (having the title “kw1 kw2″)? Thank you.

Paul

February 24th, 2011

Does anyone know how many keywords we should try and place in the title and also how often an exact and partial match should appear?? Any help would be appreciated

steve

February 24th, 2011

Thanks for the quick reminder, I keep going against one of these and I now see how that can lead to decreased click-thrus.

birdy32

March 1st, 2011

next article please.//
i need to learn much from you..
hope the next,. will publish soon

Atul

March 22nd, 2011

u said that Google displays 70 chars of title.
But i think the chars are 60, not 70
Please clear

ATUL

Prince Zermic

May 22nd, 2011

As with every other type of SEO copywriting, writing titles requires walking a fine line between giving keywords prominence and maintaining user readability. Keywords are useless if the page title is nonsensical and nondescriptive; likewise, beautifully written titles are worthless if they fail to rank highly in search results.

bkmss

June 6th, 2011

Good info! Need some clarification on an issue. Can the page title and article title differ without penalty. Sometimes an article title flows/looks better if it is written one way while rendered in a website page, but it is not the best for SEO. Any input appreciated.

Chandra

July 1st, 2011

Your article was really helpful and I like 5th point.

Pedro Antunes

July 7th, 2011

This info is going to be very useful, thanks.

Jude Harrison

August 10th, 2011

Titles are really important to get right – but I think WordPress generates them automatically so the issue of not bothering with them is solved.

Interesting to read your thoughts on optimising Web Page Titles for SEO though.

Thanks,

Jude

Leslie

August 23rd, 2011

Modi,
What if my brand name is something like Holiday Inn Martinsburg WV? The wordpess site I’m creating is not associated with the brand website but it is a blog for the hotel. Do I need to have the site name follow the keywords on each static page and blog post like “Primary Keyword-Secondary Keyword | site name” ?

It always makes it longer than 70 characters when I include the long brand name. People do search for the “Holiday Inn Martinsburg WV” site name though. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.

Mod

September 11th, 2011

Wow, thanks man. I’ve been putting my website name in all of my pages, as the first word! From what I’ve been reading, I need to change that! Thanks for your help.

Simon Rowell

October 3rd, 2011

Good points, well communicated. Thanks.

RIch

October 17th, 2011

Thank You for this great article. I am in the midst of rewriting the page titles for my site. I had members from another forum give me an overview for my site… I pretty much need to rename the titles, it does contain my company name which i plan to remove.

Steve C.

October 27th, 2011

Great article! Over a year old and still very relevant and important!

mike

November 9th, 2011

So do you need the name of a business in the page title?

yomitya

November 14th, 2011

Grate post man, recently I found a grate tool which gives you a lot more auditing information and not only :) http://spydermate.com

Rian Ariona

November 17th, 2011

Thanks for this great SEO tips :)

Graham

September 16th, 2013

Thanks for the heads up! Working hard on ranking at the moment and this will come in use!

itos

December 5th, 2013

I think it depends if your site name includes a keyword that it’s often used by your audience then it’s a good idea to include it. And also include and the end of the post name. So the url will be: Post + Site Name

Ifte Khairul Alam

December 7th, 2013

I think the title of the website would be domain related. And then the contents title also should relate with the main title. Thank you for sharing with image description.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to the comments on this article.