Crafting Perfect SEO Meta Title Tags for Your Blog Posts

The right tags for your post titles will bring seriously-yummy traffic.

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series and The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]

One of the most important elements of your blog post is your title. In fact, according to many search engine optimizers (SEOers), it is the most important element that you’ve got.

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with that completely since you actually need to write some great blog content so that your readers have something to do with themselves when they get there but I strongly affirm the significant importance of a well-thought out title and title tag.

So what’s the big deal? For starters you might not even think that it’s all that important since you’ve been publishing for a long time now and haven’t considered your titles very much at all and you’re getting good traffic both directly and organically through search engines.

Why start now?

Because you could be getting even more traffic if you spent even a few moments to build some strategy and execute on it – so much so that you might have to come back and thank me (you don’t have to of course!).

But what will it take? What do you need to do differently? It’s actually not that tough and I’ll show you a few things that can make you a SEO Title Tag Pro!

Title Tags are so important, for your users and search engines!

Wait, So… What’s a Title Tag?

Hah! Before you get started you should know what a Title Tag really is. Essentially it’s just the main text that describes the actual web page that a viewer is looking at.  Here’s how it’s generally defined:

  • The <title> tag defines the title of the document.
  • The title element is required in all HTML/XHTML documents.

It appears in these three places:

  1. Browser – In the title at the top of your browser!
  2. Search Results – This is what we’re going to be talking about the most in this article and is one of the most important.
  3. Other Sites – Some other sites will take your title tags and use them for their services, like Digg, Delicious, and StumbleUpon.

Got it? You’ve seen these all over the place and you’ve been using them without even knowing explicitly that they existed as you published all those blog posts.

Now, though, you have the opportunity to be armed with more than just awareness – get some strategy and do it right!

Ready? Here we go.

1. Length Matters

The first thing you should know is that there’s actually a “magic” number when it comes to the length of your title. Did you know that?

The number is 70 characters long and you want to make sure that you make your titles fit within this limit! This is a limit imposed by search engines to keep the title length down in search returns:

Exactly 70 characters long! Perfect!

Now that you know this you’ll want to be cognizant of it and you want to get as close to 70 characters as possible!

2. Include Brand, Blog Name in Title

Blog title in search result.

What you’ll also want to do is include your Blog Name or your blog’s branding in your title as well.

As you can see in the image on the right I have “TentBlogger” in every search result so that it’s reflective in the search returns to further establish my brand and credibility with people who are looking for my posts.

There are some that argue that this doesn’t necessarily add any value and in some cases I believe that to be true:

  • If you have a really long blog name or brand I’d probably opt not to have it showcased in your title.
  • If your blog name is your actual name then I’d probably not have it.
  • If your blog name is somewhat “nonsensical” or not strongly tied to your content focus then I’d probably not have it either.

But otherwise I’d keep it.

Now how does this happen in WordPress? This is all related to your WordPress Theme and how it interprets your title tags. You must do your research when it comes to finding the best WordPress Theme as it relates to SEO and the Standard Theme is the theme that I use and automatically adds this correctly in your title tags for your posts.

What you should look for is a theme that does:

  • Post Title | Blog Name
  • Post Title – Blog Name
  • Blog Name | Post Title
  • Blog Name – Post Title

As you can see I opt for the first two bullets as I want people to read the title first and then see the brand.

Does your WordPress Theme do this for you?

3. Keyword Research for Titles

There is definitely an art and a science to keywords and I’ll provide some very elementary strategies here related to Title Tags that’ll put you so far ahead of other bloggers that it’ll make you smile!

You see, the fact that you’re reading this post puts you in a very small percentage of bloggers (especially since this blog is still relatively small). But, if you actually make it through this post and start doing some of these things you will be leaps and bounds ahead of 99% of other bloggers!

Pretty crazy how simple it is to stay way ahead of your competitors, right? So here are some things you’ll want to know about Keyword Research:

  1. Research keywords that is related to your content so that you can rank high in search engines.
  2. Try to use “exact match” keywords and keyword combinations for which you’re trying to target. For example, a post titled “Blogging Strategy You Need to Know” is a nice title but is not specific enough, especially when related to your content. This is better: “How Blogging Daily Increased My Blog Traffic by 120%!” See how targeted and more specific that is, especially if you’re trying to get a “direct match” for keywords Blogging Daily and Blog Traffic.
  3. “Front Load” your keywords. This means that you’ll put your keywords in the beginning of your post title as opposed to near the end. For example: “Things I Really Like to Do on the Weekend: Rock Climbing” is not as good as “Rock Climbing – One Thing I Like to Do on the Weekend!” See the difference? I put “Rock Climbing” in the front of my title instead of the back!
  4. Use a Keyword Research Tool!

Ready to get started on the last strategy?

4. Use Google Insights

If you’ve never used Google Insights then let me have the privileged opportunity to introduce you to your new best friend! Google Insights lets you do valuable keyword research so that you can get the best titles for your blog posts!

It’s quite simple to use and once you use it you might never publish a blog post before checking it again!

Here’s how it works: Just put in some keywords you’re interested in using in your title and check the results. For example, when researching for this blog title I put in “title tags” and came up with these results:

Looking for 'title tag's

And so this is what came out:

The circled are the ones that I've decided to target.

So that’s what I did! As you can see in the resulting title of this post!

I did a few more searches like “title tag” (not “title tags”) to see some other good combinations. The goal here is to optimize your titles to leverage what people are actually searching for!

Remember that you’re going to want to stay as relevant as possible. Sure, I could have added “HTML” in my title but I’m not really talking about HTML in my blog post so I’m not going to do it even if people are searching for that term a lot. The point here is that I’m not willing to sacrifice the integrity of my blog post and content (and also the trust of my readers) for just a title tag adjustment!

Using even this very basic tool can dramatically improve your organic search returns, your traffic patterns, and overall growth of your blog. And there are definitely “advanced” services and tools that can do even more but for most people this one’s just fine enough.

Who would have thought, right? It doesn’t take too long either! Finally, make sure not to overdo the keywords – I recommend using 2 or up to 2 pairs if you can fit it into the 70 character length requirement!

How does this look practically in your title? One of two ways (as dictated by #2):

  • Primary Keyword(s) – Secondary Keyword(s) – Brand Name
  • Brand Name – Primary Keyword(s) – Secondary Keyword(s)

I’m obviously using the first one.

5. Crafting Attractive Titles (Indirect SEO Strategy)

Finally, all of this is great but you want to make sure your titles are still visually and cognitively functional – in other words, you still have to make it readable!

You don’t want to just have titles that are all keywords and not actually sentences. Effective titles have one of these three key elements:

  1. Personal Goals, Desires, Emotions – There’s something about seeing a title that touches us squarely in the chest, heart, and mind. For example, I’m trying to lose weight so any post that has something related to that personal goal will have me click it nearly instantly. For example, if I saw a trusted tweet with a title like “How I Lost 10 Pounds in 10 Days” I’d probably click it! Great blog titles impact people’s emotions.
  2. Curiosity Killed the Cat – There’s something within us that just makes us curious about things that we hear about, even if we’re not emotionally tied to it or necessarily interested in that particular topic. For example, if I saw a blog post come through my RSS Reader that said “Wow, I Just Lost a Billion Dollars” I’d probably click it because I’m curious.
  3. Boiler Plate, News – Finally, any boilerplate topics or general news within my industry is going to get a click from me. Crafting an effective title isn’t too hard, but make it creative and effective!

And that’s how you create an effective title! Combine some style with your research and you’ve got a killer combination that’s going to get more clicks, get better results via SEO, and make everyone more happy in the long run!

Let me know if you have any questions!

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series and The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series. Image via Louie.]