WordPress is commonly heralded for its out-of-the-box search engine optimization, but one weakness is in its title tag structure.
Title tags are used by search engines to rank pages, and they’re also what users see on search engine results pages. Bad title tags can drastically impact whether your content gets found. This post will cover how to write good title tags and how to easily implement them on your WordPress-powered site with a great plugin, All in One SEO Pack.
Creating optimized title tags
Only up to 70 characters of a title tag will appear in SERPs and a limited number of characters will actually be crawled by bots, so it’s important to choose the keywords in your title tags wisely.
First you’ll want to generate a list of the top 20 keywords or phrases you’d like your site or blog in general to be indexed under. Then head on over to Google Trends and compare and contrast the popularity of those keywords. This will give you insight into which relevant keywords might yield better rankings.
Rules to follow when it comes to title tags:
- Remember that searchers will see them and quickly judge whether your site is relevant to what they want, so your title tags must make sense. Don’t look like a spam site.
- Use separators like the pipe ( | ), arrows (< or >) or a semicolon. The semicolon consumes the least space in a title tag without looking awkward because it doesn’t require a space between the preceding word and it, only a space before the next word. (For example, Title Tags: Important to your search results only uses one space compared to two with a pipe, Title Tags | Important to your search results).
- A recommended structure is that your homepage title tag should emphasize your brand and the most relevant keywords to the content your site has.
- A recommended structure is your post title tags should start with the title of your post followed by your brand and relevant keywords.
- The recommended structure for your category title tags is that they start with the category name, followed by your brand and relevant keywords.
- Use ampersands and cut out articles like “the” and “a” whenever possible.
- If you’re targeting a geographic audience, don’t forget to use keywords relating to location.
Probably the most important thing to remember is that the first 70 characters should emphasize the most important keywords while still making sense in the search results. But that doesn’t mean your title tags have to be less than 70 characters; in fact, they can be quite a bit longer and perform better. After getting the most important keywords and branding out there in the first 70 characters, feel free to continue carefully placing relevant keywords into your title tags. Search engines will still use these to rank your site even though they don’t show up in results. Searchers will only see an ellipsis in the SERPs to indicate that your title tags are truncated. Don’t worry: They’re used to seeing that, and it probably won’t make a difference just as long as those first 70 or fewer characters are well used.
Using All in One SEO Pack to optimize title tags
Semper Fi Web Design makes a great SEO plugin and the free version allows you to easily edit title tags for optimization. After installing the plugin, a trip to the settings page allows you to customize the homepage, category, post, tag, search, archive and page title tags.
Below is an example from this blog of what it looks like. These title tags follow the principles discussed above.
Switch things up a bit
Remember that the title tags should be relevant to what is on the page. For your static pages, you should customize the beginning of the title tag depending on the page’s content. For example, your blog’s About page should probably have your name in it in addition to your brand and most important blog topics. All in One SEO Pack creates a box in the WordPress post and page admin area that allows you to type in custom title tags prefixes that will be followed by your typical structure for pages and posts.
Custom title tags without a plugin
For those of you who run as few plugins as possible on your installation and can easily change your theme templates to conditionally display an appropriate tag, Jeff Starr of Perishable Press wrote a good post with some advice on custom title tags without a plugin, though his example script doesn’t necessarily match best practices when it comes to the content and ordering of title tags.