Your 'title' tag contents is one of the most important pieces of your website's code so its vital you spend time getting it right.
Its often confused with the main visible title of a page but in fact it is to be found somewhere completely different. As an Internet user you will only be vaguely aware of it because:
Its been a long time since I've seen one that doesn't but just in case:
If you fail to find a title tag and your using a theme on a platform like WordPress its either a very ancient theme or a very bad one - change it. For bespoke created websites you'll need techie help to get them installed.
Your title tag should:
In other words the url, title tag and 'h1' tag should all be reinforcing each other and sending a clear message to search engines on what your page is about. They'll want more confirmation via other content which we'll cover later but this trio should be seen as key.
Lets take an example of a flower shop based in Happy Town. They have a website but didn't bother to sort out their title tags so the contents for their home page was simply "Home Page". It wasn't important because they were number one in the search for "Flowers Happy Town" simply because no one else had a website. When someone carried out a search for "flowers happy town" this is what they saw in the search results.
Now there were several other flower shops and two more got a website so then search results looked like this
The blue underlined text reflects the contents of the title tag - which may or may not be in the visible content itself (although it should be!).
Well it's pretty clear where people are going to click, and which website they are going to ignore, even though our original page is still number one. Search engines are going to pick up on that negative user behaviour, and the website that was at number one will be moved down the rankings.
Now I've been a bit harsh on our Happy Town flower shop that never sorted out their title tags. Some search engines like Google will change the title tag text in the search results if they think its more relevant to the search - otherwise they look like a bit of a crap search engine and they don't want that.
If you see the blue text in the search results does not match your title tag don't start grumbling at Google, start thinking how you could improve your title tag so it is more relevant to the page's content.
I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization 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.