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How to SEO page titles (h1 tags)

Very effective SEO activity

Very effective SEO activity

This activity carries a strong weighting in Search Engine Optimization. It may need to be carried out alongside other tasks in order to be fully effective. Read the text carefully for further details on how to SEO page titles (h1 tags) for maximum impact

The page title should not be confused with the page title tag. They are two different aspects of the page although they should be identical or nearly identical and most automated platforms like WordPress do this by default.

The page title is text visible to a visitor and is displayed in a way that makes it obvious that "this is what the page is about" through larger text above the main content.

On this page the page title is "How to SEO page titles (h1 tags)" which you can see above this text formatted in large red text using a different font to the main content. There is no doubt to a visitor that the content of this page should be about "How to SEO page titles or h1 tags".

But just because a piece of text looks like a title doesn't mean it has been correctly marked up in the code to be search engine friendly.

To tell search engines that this is the page title it needs to be wrapped in <h1> and </h1>. (note this is case insensitive so it can also be <H1> and </H1>).

Treat your website as a book and each page as a chapter. As such each page should contain only one title.

How can you see a current page title?

Using Firefox open the page, right hand click in a blank area and select View Page Source. Press Ctrl and F at the same time to open a search box and search for <h1. Note I've missed the last > on purpose as the h1 tag often includes other code. What you should find is something like this

<h1>My lovely page title</h1>

or this

<h1 id="something" >My lovely page title</h1>

or this

<h1 class="something" >My lovely page title</h1>

Common issues surrounding the h1 tag are:

  • You have no h1 tag - you're making it more difficult for search engines to understand your content so don't be surprised if you don't rank.
  • You have multiple h1 tags - you're telling the search engines that the page is about lots of different things, diluting the focus which will undermine search engine confidence on where to rank you.

In both cases you will need to change the website code to resolve the issue.

Optimizing the page title

Search engines place a great deal of weight on the contents of the page title so long as it is backed up by other signals from the page. In other words if your page is about New York but your page title is 'Everything you need to know about Kansas' then expect it to be ignored. You won't rank for Kansas just because it is in your title.

There is no length limit for a page title but as it should match, or nearly match, your page title tag we're talking about keeping it below 89 characters.

Just make sure that it:

  1. Contains the keyword or keywords that you are trying to optimize for
  2. Is written in a way that users would find accurate or they will be heading for the back button fast and that will negatively affect your rankings.

So if you are targeting the keyword phrase 'about New York' then:

  • Poor title - "About New York"
  • Good title - "Everything you need to know about New York in one place"

Never let a page title be a lost opportunity. I see, for example, many websites where various pages contain next to useless titles. One common example is the contact page which just has the title "Contact".

Make sure these pages also include your keywords - e.g. "Contact Bob's plumbers - London's best plumbing service".

Setting your title tag

Most platforms like WordPress will automatically use the page or blog post title. Shopping platforms often use the name you give to a product but there are plenty of platforms that ask you to specify your title.

If your website is bespoke you will need to contact the programmers who created it should you experience issues such as missing or multiple titles.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimisation and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

Find me on Google+ or get a quote if you need help.

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