The Importance of HTML Titles for SEO
By Brad Stitgen
The purpose of the HTML title is to provide a label describing exactly what a specific webpage is about. This label is typically displayed at the top of the browser or as the description used for the individual website tabs, as is the case for Google’s Chrome browser. The other place you will see HTML titles being used is when it comes time to save a link as a bookmark. The browser uses the HTML title as the default bookmark description.
To be honest, the HTML titles are probably ignored by most web surfers. Google’s Chrome browser tabs commonly cut off a good portion of the title and with other browsers, the actual webpage is what commands the user’s attention, not the browser itself. In the case of link descriptions, the text is likely to be changed by the user to better describe the actual webpage.
Given this, why should we care about HTML titles?
In a word… SEO! While there are numerous theories and speculations on what makes a website rank well in the search engines. Add to this the constant changes and updates to the criteria by the search engines to judge websites and it becomes clear that SEO is not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination. That said, the one thing nearly all SEO experts agree on is that the search engines put a lot of credence in the value of good well defined and relevant title tags. It’s for this reason that good, descriptive HTML titles that accurately describe the content on each page of a website are a must for good SEO.
How are HTML titles defined?
In the days of old when creating a website meant getting your hands dirty by learning HTML and hand coding your website page by page, one of the first things one learned was the title tag. For those not familiar with HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language, HTML is simply a way to “label” or “tag” text, images, video, etc. used to create a webpage. As far as HTML goes, the title tag is one of the simplest HTML tags.
An example of an HTML title tag for this page could be…
<title>The Importance of HTML Titles for SEO<title>
…with <title> marking the beginning of the title and <title> marking the end.
Nowadays, with the use of content management systems such as WordPress being used to construct and manage websites, it can be a little less obvious what needs to be done when using a base WordPress installation. For this reason, I recommend using either a plug-in or a framework to add this functionality to WordPress. In the past I used the All in One SEO Pack plug-in with good results. These days I rely on the SEO features built into the Genesis Framework. This eliminates the need for a separate plug-in for the task.
By either using a WordPress framework or an SEO plug-in you will be able to easily custom tailor effective and unique titles for each page of your websites. This gives your site an edge in the often highly competitive race to the top of the search engine listings. Good Luck!