Page titles are a fairly simple aspect of SEO but can make all the difference to your ranking efforts. Trouble is, there are multiple issues that may spring up around page titles that stop you from repeating the SEO benefits. On this page, we’re going to look at three harmful, yet common, page title errors and how to fix them. These include:
- Duplicate Title Tags
- Missing Page Titles
- Too Much Title Tag Text
Duplicate Title Tags
Title tags are designed to be concise and brief summaries of a page’s content; a symptom of not using them effectively is duplicated title tags. I often see these ranging from pagination duplication, generic pages which have had no manual input (terms and conditions, contact or about pages) or the site has underlying issues with how it handles these tags. The key issue with duplicate title tags is (and this does sound very common sense) that it’s hard to differentiate the pages – it relies on search engines to look beyond the title tags and work out their own descriptive terms. In my experience, I also see a lot of businesses that have duplicated or missing meta descriptions accompanying these. Duplicate title tags can also mask missing page titles if your CMS automatically injects your site name for example (as-is with WordPress).
How do you identify duplicated title tags?
The easiest way to identify them is to crawl your website with software providers like SEMRush, ahrefs, Screaming Frog or SiteBulb (others do exist). Many of these providers allow users to sign up for a free trial too, giving you easy access to identifying the issues on your site without having to invest in expensive software. Most of the providers will bring out duplicate title tags into an isolated section of their data, often allowing you to export a CSV to work through page by page.
What is the easiest way to fix duplicated title tags?
Always remember, if you have two similar pages with exactly duplicated title tags, you only have to fix one in order to resolve two problems. Try to create distinctive discrepancies between the two pages of course but it’s very common to see 100 duplicated titles and to work through all 100 pages, whereas in reality, you need to validate that 50 pages are correct and change the other 50. You also need to ask the question, if page titles are the same and content is very similar, is there a need for multiple pages or can we consolidate?
Can duplicate page titles cause ranking issues?
Yes, it can cause conflicts called cannibalisation whereby two pages with similar content can compete against each other. There are more factors than just the page title but in reality, it’s likely the two pages are similar in nature. Often is the case that many webmasters or business owners don’t know the duplicate page exists, it can be created in error or as a test page too. In contrast, fixing this issue can also help rank for more diversified terms if you include them in the point of separation – so segmenting two pages to go after unique terms after identifying the issue and fixing it can be beneficial.
- Page titles are powerful when it comes to SEO, the good news is once you fix these issues you don’t really have to revisit them (unless the nature of the pages change of course).
- When making changes to create a unique page title, ensure that the content doesn’t overlap – so adding an s onto one word does not qualify for unique page titles – instead, rewrite the full page title with a different order of words for the page requiring the fix.
- Ensure you try and stay within 150-160 characters including spaces.
- This is rare but does happen; ensuring the page title you update it with doesn’t conflict with another page – you can often validate this by re-running the crawl once you’ve fixed the first round of errors.
- If you have a page that has duplicate page titles and duplicate meta descriptions – it could pay to do a more in-depth review to see if there are any core issues with your site around duplicate content in general.
If the crawler of your choice has flagged up errors around meta descriptions, this could be a good opportunity to fix both as they are often situated very close to each other in the HTML or CMS, errors would include duplicate meta descriptions.
Missing Page Titles for SEO
Page titles are a fantastic opportunity to showcase what a particular page is about, when you fail to add a page title you are really missing out on some potential visibility. A page title is found in the <Header> part of a site, under a title tag called, you guessed it, <title>. The trick with writing page titles is to be descriptive of what the user will see when they visit your site and it pays to be concise.
How do you find pages with missing titles?
The easiest way would be to carry out a website crawl, using third-party software such as Screaming Frog, SiteBulb, SEMRush or ahrefs. Most auditing tools will show missing page titles as a standalone fault with your website, allowing you to work through them page by page. You can often utilise the previously mentioned tools under a free trial, so you can theoretically combat some key issues without paying for the software or the support of a freelancer like myself.
How do you write page titles for SEO?
Be as descriptive, concise and brief as possible – you have between 150-160 characters, including spaces. If you’re struggling because there is a lot of information on the page, just try to summarise it or perhaps consider breaking the page up into 2 or 3 pages. If you don’t understand keyword research fully, don’t worry, by virtue of describing what’s on the page you will potentially overlap closely with what users are searching for (not always, mind you!). Google does a fantastic job of looking beyond the page title too for wider page context – it’s important to not keyword stuff or try and be sneaky.
Should you use your brand name in the page title tags?
The brand term is more prominent in the page title than the URL, by size and colour – if you think having your brand in front of customers is going to sway them, I’d certainly consider it. In the context of this particular site, I will often include my name in the Page Title as it can differentiate it from marketing agencies, as a freelancer often comes at a cheaper rate and provides a different service. Don’t worry too much about trying to rank for your brand in the page title, if it’s exact to your domain, your domain will do the heavy lifting usually in this regard.
Additional notes when it comes to Page titles
- Normally when you are updating page titles, it can pay dividends to check the meta description. They are often uploaded in the same place and will prevent doubling up on work. If you operate within a CMS or if you have a bespoke built site, they often sit with each other and can be easily verified. Some errors you may encounter that can be easily fixed when working on page titles are Missing Meta Descriptions and Duplicated Meta Descriptions.
- If you are struggling to fit in a descriptive term then I’d normally sacrifice the brand terms to fit it in.
- If the page is too large to summarise, this can be a good indicator that you should split the page into more than one page – having two focused pages could potentially give you a better chance of ranking for each term.
- If you spot the meta keywords tag whilst updating page titles and meta descriptions, I’d recommend removing it. The meta keywords tag is of no use to anyone these days, won’t impact your rankings with Google at all and adds unnecessary code on your site too.
It pays to write effective page titles that are within the right character limit and also reflective of the page – otherwise you could run into issues such as too little or too much text held within the page title tag..
Too much title tag text for SEO
When it comes to functions on a website that can have the biggest impact on SEO, title tags are certainly up there in the top 5. The title tag works really well to offer a descriptive line of the page, occasionally when webmasters or site owners don’t understand or put the upfront effort required in getting it right, you can find title tags reach the character limit – getting truncated in the search results page.
There are some ways around fixing this issue, rewriting it is a good option, as well as dropping the branding off the end, if used, to squeeze in a suitable title tag. Sometimes the page can reflect a topic which is naturally wordy or a high-character topic. You shouldn’t try and squeeze keywords into the title tag, especially if it doesn’t describe what the page is about – but you should align it with what people are looking and searching for specifically. There are also additional problems you can run into when creating tags, these can range from search engines bypassing your manual title for writing their own (based on the site content) or perhaps issues around duplication of page titles.
How do I identify if my site has too much text in the title tag?
Given how much of an impact the page title can have on ranking, every SEO crawler should be carrying a rigorous assessment of title tags, relaying back information on common errors. So I’d be relatively confident with running a SEMRush, Sitebulb, Screamingfrog and ahrefs crawl on my site to identify these errors. Pages can be added frequently on a site (with or without intent) so I’d encourage regular crawling of these pages too. You will likely be given a list of URLs to work through – it’s really important to take the time to get these title tags right.
How do I fix title tags with too much text in?
If you are close to the limit you can normally get away with minor tweaks, perhaps use & instead of and – marginal gains like this can often present the page title without truncation. If you try and substitute words, try and maintain good search volume keywords – although they will be associated I’d try and keep the pages as relevant as possible. I’d also remove the brand term on the ad-hoc title tag change, which will have minimal impact on the overall performance of the page title. I’ve also seen webmasters and site owners try to use pages for too many themes/topics, diversifying your pages to be specifically themed can also make page title creation much easier and shorter.
How do I prevent creating pages with too long title tags?
It sounds simple, but try to condense pages to serve specific pages, if you’re creating a diverse page covering multiple topics and themes it can be really difficult to condense that into the 50-60 characters you have. This can also serve as a problem for visitors who are trying to find something specific, having to trawl through a lot of content. So start by creating condensed pages relevant to one topic or so – then spend the time writing effective and condensed page titles, ensuring you fit within the character limit. There may also be occasions whereby your site creates pages, such as tag directories, where the title tag can be too long or too short; running a frequent SEO crawl on your site will also reaffirm your site is utilising tags effectively.
Additional notes on long title tags
- Just because you have a title which matches the character limit, doesn’t mean it’s effective – consider the wording and keywords used too.
- SEMRush, Screaming Frog and Sitebulb all have effective detection methods when it comes to title tags.
- Missing title tags can be an issue as well as too long, or short titles – these can be highlighted but are not necessarily a problem.
- Always consider that the title tag is something your potential visitors will see first, so write it to be read and not stuffed with keywords.
- You may occasionally see Google, or other search engines, completely bypass what you have written in your page title and create their own – this is a symptom your copy may not be as relevant as it could or as effective.
- Almost every CMS will allow you to write page titles on a page by page basis, I love using WordPress as all the core areas, from tagging directories to product pages have this functionality, depending on which plugins you use.