If you’re hunting for a full-proof way to create SEO website page titles for Google, you won’t find one.
It depends on your website, your website page content, domain name, your overall content themes, domain authority (i.e. links to your website) and more.
Fortunately, I can give you some wisdom and practical best practices to keep in mind as you prep your page titles.
1. Throw out the 55-60 character limit you heard about.
Purge from your memory. It’s based on changing search engine results pages (SERPs). Only so many characters will appear within the design of SERPs. If you exceed the “limit,” you’ll be placed in the ellipse penalty box. Say what? Oh, you know it well. You see it most every time you Google something. If the page title “excessive” characters, Google will “drop” some words and add an ellipse.
Your precious words won’t win anyone over. They’ll be buried in Google’s den. You can tell I don’t care. If you’re ranking No. 3 instead of No. 23, who cares if you’ve been rewarded with an ellipse.
Some marketers can’t stand the sight – their words were created for a reason. Can you rank if keyword phrases if you stick to the 55-60 limit? Absolutely. And you can rank well if you use 74.
Guess what Google says about the page title character limit? NOTHING. Keywords within page titles — even the words that aren’t displayed — can affect your rankings. Google does have a limit on search queries – 32 words. I wouldn’t recommend going that far with a page title.
Anyway, if your page title has 66, 73 or 81 characters, you’re not getting a failing grade with SEO.
Here’s some good news: Google often dynamically adds company names to page titles if they’re “missing” from the get-go. Pretty cool, right? And Google doesn’t even hack your website to do it.
2. Remember, short and long website page titles both work for Google rankings.
I can’t tell you when either one is a sure bet in terms of best practices. See how you rank and adjust. I make part of my living changing clients’ page titles. I shorten long ones and pad short ones. Sometimes I change a single word. A couple of years ago, I took a four-word page title and made it two words. The page got 5,000 extra visitors over the next year – all because the Google ranking jumped from No. 6 to No. 3.
If you go too short, you might end up with a keyword phrase that’s too competitive. For example, you might want to be No. 1 for “Gardening Tips.” It’s not going to happen. Maybe you can try “gardening tips for beginners.”
Sometimes it helps to season a page title with an extra word or two. The words play off of each other and resonate with the page header (like a headline) and the main content.
For example, let’s pretend your page title is “Buy Replacement Windows?” and you’re not ranking. What if you serve the Cleveland, Ohio area? Try “Window Replacement Installation in Cleveland Ohio.” Many keyword phrases include the city name at the end preceded by the word “in.” Sure, you want that plural “windows” you had in mind. You might need a separate page for the plural. You don’t always get credit for a twofer (singular inside the plural).
3. Get the keywords near the beginning.
It’s not a must, but it sure seems to help. Depending on how you phrase things, it’s not always easy. “Your Source for Hydraulic Pump Products from the Top Suppliers” sounds great, but it took forever for for me to get to “Hydraulic Pump Products.” From Google’s perspective, it’s as if you want to rank No. 1 for “Your Source.”
Google can tell if a website sells hydraulic pumps, so the delay isn’t going to rule out a good ranking. But it’s best to start with the important keywords. I use different tricks, including a colon and a question mark. The colon is super addictive because it’s so easy. I call it a herald. The punctuation basically serves as an announcement for what’s to come. Let’s look at some options:
Hydraulic Pump Products: Access the Top Suppliers
Need Hydraulic Pump Products? Access the Top Suppliers
Get Hydraulic Pump Products from the Top Suppliers
Most small business website page titles lack keywords (60%), according to my 2020 study, “Small Businesses Aren’t Mining SEO Gold,” which looked at 200 websites. I gave websites credit if it looked like the marketers at least tried even if the page titles had extra words or the wrong words at the beginning.
4. Drop the company name.
Let’s say your business is called Specialty Creations XYZ Infinity, Inc. By the way, I’ve always liked your special discounts.
My tip: you don’t want your page title to be:
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts | Specialty Creations XYZ Infinity, Inc.
Believe me, you’re going to be No. 1 for “Specialty Creations XYZ Infinity, Inc.” all day long. If you include the business name, you’re dragging down everything else. Your business name is dead weight and detracts from your keyword opportunities. With that extra room – and your eagerness to test the character “boundaries,” you might end up with:
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts for Him
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts for Her
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts for Him and Her
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts for Men
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts for Women
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts for Men and Woman
But probably not:
Unusual 60th Birthday Gifts for Kids
In some cases, you might want to include your business name, especially if it’s short and well-known. It could appear in some search queries. Even then, don’t add it to every page. It’s often going to compete with other keywords in the precious page title space.
5. Be cool and current with formatting website page titles.
In the old days, marketers would load up website page titles like this one:
Unusual Gifts, Birthday Gifts, Cheap Gifts, Gift Ideas
Not a good look.
You can go with that vertical pipe thing I used with your company name – a lot of people still do that:
Unusual Gift ideas for Men | Best Electronics and Cool Gadgets
It’s probably best to go with a headline style:
Looking for Unusual Gift Ideas for Men? Get Discount Electronic and Cool Gadgets
Many marketers stress that you need catchy page titles that captivate people searching on Google and other search engines. That’s great – if you rank. Maybe check Clever at the door, get your ranking and then bring Clever into your party and see whether he ruins it or Google is on board with his wit and personality.
Now that you know all of that, it’s worth noting some other best practices and trends or possibilities with page titles.
Backlinko, for example, studied 5 million Google search results and shared these page title findings in 2019:
– Title tags with a question have a 14.1% higher click-thru rate (CTR) vs. pages that don’t use one.
– Title tags between 15 to 40 characters have the highest CTR. “According to our data, pages with a title tag length between 15 and 40 characters have an 8.6% higher CTR compared to those that are outside of that range.”
Here are few other things to keep in mind with website page titles:
- Make sure they’re unique; Google doesn’t like to see the same page title used more than once.
- Avoid repeating the same keyword phrase.
- Don’t get spammy like: “Food, cooking, meals, calories, recipes, dinner” or worse, “Food, best foods, eating the right food.”
- Use keyword phrases you’re actually targeting (that you have a chance to rank for).
- Work in words that help form questions like “how” and “what.”
- Keep searcher intent in mind based on the buyer’s journey (use words like “reviews” and “best” and “free shipping.”