How To Write Attention-Grabbing Page Titles That Support SEO
During a recent live SEO Q&A at SEOtraining.com, someone asked me: Does SEO mean the death of creative page titles? This is a great question – it seems like there are so many “rules” when it comes to writing page titles that it can stifle creativity.
Good news: There is a way to write attention-grabbing page titles that also support your SEO goals.
In this article:
- Keywords, page titles, and SEO
- SEO targets for title tags
- What about when Google rewrites title tags?
- How to write creative page titles that support SEO
- FAQ: Does SEO mean the death of creative page titles?
When creating a webpage, you want the keywords for the page to show up in strategic places. Those places include but are not limited to the title tag.
The most basic signal that information is relevant is when a webpage contains the same keywords as your search query. If those keywords appear on the page or in the headings or body of the text, the information is more likely to be relevant. – Google, How Search Works
The page title, or title tag, is one component of the meta tags that show up in the “head” section of a webpage on the HTML code side. The title tag serves as a headline for the web page in the search results – it’s what shows up as part of the snippet when you rank in Google.
Here is a screenshot of the head section on a webpage on BruceClay.com:
And here is a screenshot of the search results for that page in Google where you can see the page title is showing as “BruceClay – Search Marketing Agency: SEO Services …”
Our own research confirms this. We took a page ranking well and took the primary keyword out of the title. It lost its rankings. We added the keyword back into the page title, and the rankings came back. (I should also mention that we did the same with the keyword in the body text and had the same results.)
That said, the page title is an important part of SEO. Not only does Google use it to determine relevance, but searchers read it in the search results and decide if they want to click through.
So, yes, we have SEO targets when it comes to title tags. This is where some people get creative paralysis because there are a few things to remember.
For instance, some of the things we consider in SEO for the title tag include:
- Make sure the keyword you want to be found for shows up in the title tag, preferably towards the beginning.
- Use 6–12 words in general, and for custom advice based on the top-ranked pages, use our SEO WordPress plugin.
- Make the title tag sound natural and not forced.
- If your brand is established and trusted, consider putting the brand name in front of your keywords.
- Write in headline format and appeal to the reader, making sure to address their reason for searching.
- Make it unique for every page on the website to avoid duplicate content issues.
So in addition to writing an attention-grabbing title tag, you have all these little details to consider. SEO is a little bit of science and a little bit of art and nobody claims it is easy.
Nothing kills your creative spirit more than pouring your soul into attention-grabbing page titles, only to have Google change it in the search results.
It’s true, Google does do this. In fact, research coming from Zyppy (2022) shows that Google does this 61% of the time. And the reason Google does it, according to Zyppy, is because webpages have:
- Overly long titles and short titles
- Very short titles
- Used the same keyword more than once
- Used separators, such as dashes “-” or pipes “|”
- Had titles with [brackets] or (parentheses)
- Had identical “boilerplate” used across many titles
- Had missing or superfluous brand names
I believe too many websites do not pay attention to title tags and that is why Google rewrites them. Here, my advice is to follow best practices for title tags and there is a better chance that Google will retain your title.
However, it’s important to note that Google still uses the information in the title tag that you create to understand if your page is relevant. The rewrite is simply a rendering issue in the search results. Google’s John Mueller confirmed that, too.
There is some evidence that matching the page title with the headline can limit the amount of title rewrites by Google. Research from Zyppy found that “using H1 tags strategically could limit the amount of title rewriting Google might perform on your site.”
And that “matching your H1 to your title typically dropped the degree of rewriting across the board, often dramatically.”
For more, read:
Guess what? Creativity and SEO can exist in harmony.
So what to do?
- Start with a killer headline formula. Do a search for “headline formulas” and you’ll find ample results to get you going in the right direction. Semrush analyzed more than a million articles and found that list-focused headlines followed by how-to headlines got the most page views. Other types of headlines that garnered interest included questions and guides.
- Tweak it to include your primary keyword. In most cases, it shouldn’t be hard to include your primary keyword in the headline you are trying to create. It might be harder to get it towards the beginning of the title tag – sometimes you’ll accomplish it, sometimes you won’t.
- Refine it using SEO best practices. Take into consideration the SEO criteria for title tags, including the length of the title. As I mentioned earlier, you can get a range for how long your title tag should be based on the top-ranked websites by using our SEO plugin.
A note: It is common for there to be a separation of the creative writer who wrote the page and the SEO professional who has the final say on optimizing the page, including the page title.
And while SEOs are usually savvy marketers, not all of them may be as creative as a writer. So sometimes this title and heading tags end up, well, kind of SEO-y.
That is something to think about if you are looking to improve the creativity of your page titles. Can the creative team and the SEO team work together?
Our SEO experts can provide you with content development services that ensure your content — and your page titles — get you ranked in top search engine positions. Reach out to us for a free consultation.
Some have voiced concern regarding SEO’s effect on creative page titles – could we witness an end of creative, catchy titles being replaced with more keyword-driven options?
Page titles play an integral role in engaging users and conveying their essence. Users’ first experience when browsing search engine results is often the page title, meaning it has an irrevocable impression on visitors. Does SEO mean creative page titles no longer matter? No – just because including relevant keywords into page titles for SEO purposes is key doesn’t mean creativity must go by the wayside!
An effective SEO strategy must strike a balance between optimizing titles for search engine results and engaging users through compelling content. To find the optimal keywords, conduct in-depth research about your audience to understand their needs and the needs of their titles.
Use long-tail keywords as page titles to increase SEO without compromising creativity by targeting specific niche audiences with these phrases. Instead of choosing generic terms like “Best Cameras,” more engaging titles could include something such as: “Capture Memories With Our Top-Rated DSLR Cameras!”
Experiment with various title structures. Consider employing more engaging headlines than simple questions or bold statements to draw in users and encourage them to click. Include emotive or descriptive words into page titles so they are memorable and appealing.
Optimizing other website elements, such as headers and meta descriptions, can ease some of the pressure to place all keywords in the title. Achieve effective SEO without over-stuffing titles by strategically placing keywords throughout the content.
While SEO requires including relevant keywords in page titles, creative and engaging page titles can still exist within SEO’s parameters. Achieve this balance through keyword research, using long-tail keywords, and playing around with title structures — essential tasks for digital content publishers who aim to capture users’ attention in today’s online environment.