How to Write Meta Titles for SEO

Meta title tags are an important part of on-page SEO.

You’re probably wondering what exactly a meta title is, why it’s important, and how it helps SEO. You’re also probably wondering how to write a high-quality meta title that will increase your rankings and organic traffic.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a meta title tag?

A meta title tag is an HTML attribute that specifies the title of a page. They are shown on search engine results pages (SERPs) as the headline that people click on for a given result to take them to the page. 

It looks like this:

<head>

<title>Meta Title Goes Here</title>

</head>

Here’s an example of a few meta title tags in SERPs: 

meta title examples

A meta title also appears in the browser tab:

The description under the meta title is called the meta description.

Why is a meta title important? 

Meta titles are the boldest and clearest element in a page’s search result and therefore dictate much of the initial success of a page (i.e., the click-through rate and SERPs ranking).

A great meta title tells both search engines and humans what your page is about AND compels people to click on your page.

Without writing an optimized meta title, your content won’t receive the attention it deserves, and it will likely fail to perform well over the long term.

Are meta titles a ranking factor?

Yes, they are one the most dominant and defining on-page SEO elements. 

In general, the closer to the beginning of the title tag your keyword is, the more likely it will be to rank well for that keyword. That doesn’t mean you can’t rank with it placed further down the title or with a title that doesn’t include your exact keyword, but in general, this is the overwhelming correlation on Google. 

How to write a great meta title

To write a great meta title, you must first perform the necessary keyword research to determine the focus keyword you’re going to use.

Once you define your focus keyword and its search intent, you can use the following checklist to ensure your meta titles are optimized.

Before you start, it’s also a great idea to perform a SERPs analysis in the country you’re targeting to identify patterns of top-performing pages and blog posts.

Try to spot commonalities between the highest-ranking pages. For example, do the top three results include a year (e.g “2021”) in their meta title, while lower-ranking pages don’t? If so, users are looking for the most up-to-date information about this topic, and so it’s probably in your best interest to include “2021” as well.

8-point meta title tag checklist

1. Place your focus keyword near the beginning

Use your focus keyword as close to the beginning of the meta title without sounding unnatural. Don’t add it to the start if you can’t make it work. 

2. Naturally include secondary keywords

Use a secondary keyword with the same search intent in your title if possible.  For example, “SEO copywriting” is the focus keyword, and “how to write seo copy” is a secondary keyword.

“SEO Copywriting: How to Write SEO Copy” became the meta title because they both flow well together. Try to do the same, if you can. 

3. Write around 50 to 60 characters 

Your title tag should be 50 to 60 characters, including spaces. Keep your brand name in mind too when considering this length. It’s okay to go a little above or below this if you have to, but try to stay within this range. 

4. Include your brand name

In general, it’s good practice to include your brand at the end of your meta title unless the brand name is a highly relevant part of the page’s topic. This should automatically happen unless you manually change it.

Use a short hyphen (-) or vertical line (|) before your brand name rather than a long em dash (—) to save pixel-width space. 

5. Don’t keyword stuff

Do not stuff your meta title with keywords. This will not improve your results and will decrease your chances of ranking due to compromised user experience. Write for humans first.

6. Write your H1 tag differently

Consider writing your H1 tag differently. You can use slightly different keywords with similar search intent or make it longer to improve user experience if necessary. If not, just keep it the same. 

7. Write a unique meta title

Give each page a unique meta title. It’s okay to use a similar meta title structure for a large number of service or product pages as long as there’s a distinct factor differentiating each page, such as a location.

8. Write for search intent

Don’t worry too much about including your exact focus keyword if you can’t. The most important thing is to write naturally to the search intent of users. Try to understand what they’re looking for, and write a title that would appeal to their goal. Ask yourself whether you would click on it over other results if you were them.

How to add a meta title tag

You can add your meta title tag to your page in your HTML.

It should look something like this: 

<head>

<title>Add Meta Title Tag Here</title>

</head>

It’s easier to just add it within your content management system (CMS). Most CMS such as Shopify, Webflow, Wix, and Squarespace have this built-in as a feature. 

If you’re posting on WordPress (which you might be, given it powers over 40% of the web), then you’ll have to install a plugin to easily add a meta title tag without fiddling with HTML code. 

Some great WordPress SEO plugins include: 

Once you install a plugin, scroll down on your page to find something like this:

If you don’t enter anything, it will automatically generate the meta title based on your title, which is usually fine.

By default, your brand name should automatically be included after your meta title. 

Next to your meta title, it will give you a character range that’s either “far too short,” “too short,” “good,” ”too long,” or ”far too long,” or other terms depending on the plugin you’re using.

You will want to keep it in the good range unless it compromises the user experience.

Does Google always show your meta title tag?

Yes, sometimes Google shows a different website title. This isn’t always a bad thing, especially if your content is still performing well. But if it isn’t, then here are some reasons Google may be showing an alternate tag.

1. Your title is keyword-stuffed

While stuffing keywords in a meta title used to work, it doesn’t anymore. It provides a poor user experience, and Google knows you’re trying to manipulate the system. 

2. Incorrect search intent

If your title doesn’t match users’ search intent, they aren’t going to click on it, and Google won’t rank the page high for that term. To fix this, align the meta title with the search intent of the keyword(s) you’re targeting. 

3. Alternate title tags

If you’ve added an original meta title tag for social media, Google may pull this and use it instead. Again, this isn’t necessarily bad if your content is climbing the ranks for your targeted keywords.

The bottom line

Meta titles are a crucial part of on-page SEO and user experience. It’s well worth your time to ensure every page you publish has an optimized meta title tag.

Hopefully, this guide helped you understand what a meta title is, why it’s important, and how to write one that’s optimized for search engines and people.

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