Writing Search Engine Optimized Website Page Titles
If you’re looking to improve your SEO, there are many places to start: a SEMrush site scan, using and optimizing Yoast SEO (for WordPress sites), or doing competitive keyword research. But one of the most effective and quickest ways to start is by optimizing your page titles and URLs (permalinks).
Before we dive into how to get to the best page titles, let’s clarify exactly what we’re talking about. There are two “titles” showing on every page. The first is the page/post title that shows on the actual page. This title should have the H1 tags around it. You can find this H1 Title in the admin section of WordPress at the top of the page/post:
The second page title we’re talking about is in the Tab at the top of your browser:
This Tab Title can be set separately from the main title of the page. Both titles contribute to SEO and should be similar, though they don’t have to be the same. For most users, they’ll read the H1 Title to see if they want to read the page, and the Tab Title is only to find the tab again if they clicked off of it.
Optimizing Your Site Architecture
Good information architecture enables people to find and do what they came for.
– Jeffrey Zeldman
If your site consists of 4-5 pages, site architecture is pretty simple. But as your site grows – or if you’re re-vamping a large site – good site architecture can be extremely helpful to achieving your SEO goals.
Start by making sure your content is organized for people. Well-organized information for people will be well-organized information for Google. The first step is to avoid a “flat site structure”, where your site’s pages are all found directly under the homepage:
Instead, you want to group your pages underneath a parent page. Each section should be grouped by idea. This setup is called “Themed Pyramids”. For each main keyword or phrase you want to rank for, there should be a main page (larger PAGE below). Each additional page below should be related to that main keyword or phrase by focusing on a long-tail key phrase. For example, for a non-profit, your main page might be “Give” and underneath could be “Give to Specific Project #1”, “Give to Specific Project #2”, and “Planned Giving”.
This organizational structure probably looks fairly similar to most people. After all, we use it in everyday life to organize everything from kitchens to closets to “To Do” lists.
How to Write Page Titles and Permalinks (URLS)
Now that your structure is set up, your page titles and permalinks can flow easily from your site architecture. Ideally, each page’s Tab Title should be between 50-60 characters long (including spaces). You should include the actual title of the page and the main keyword you’re focusing on.
For example, for this blog post, the H1 Title is: Writing Search Engine Optimized Website Page Titles. This already has my keywords: Search Engine Optimized and Page Titles. I could take this H1 title and move it to the Tab Title by scrolling below my post in the Admin area of WordPress and filling out the Yoast SEO Tab Title Block (in blue below):
But while blog posts can seem simple, other pages might not seem as easy. For example, what about a Contact Page on your site.
Your H1 Title might be Contact Us. But contact us doesn’t have any keywords in it for your search results. Instead, you could set the Tab Title to be Contact Us | Business Name | 123-123-1234 or Contact Business Name at 123-123-1234. This allows you to highlight this page for your business name and if people are typing “contact”. You can choose to utilize the Vertical Bar Pipe (below the Delete button on the right) in your Tab Titles or not. Whichever structure you use, keep it the same throughout your site.
So Contact Us seems like an easy page. But what if you have a H1 Title of “Sustainability”. How do you extend this title to 50-60 characters and add specific keywords to it?
Let’s imagine the page is about businesses contributing to the a city’s “green” initiatives. Instead of leaving the Tab Title at Sustainability, you could title it Sustainability: Businesses contribute to “City Name” Going Green. This gives you several keywords including “business”, “green”, “city name”, and our title “sustainability”. Often the best way to get to a good Tab Title is by summarizing what the page is actually about.
Sitenote: While your H1 Title might be short (Sustainability from our example above), it is better for SEO to also include the keywords in your H1 Title. Consider re-naming the page or adjusting the page’s H1 tag to a more expansive title, even if you keep the site menu’s link for that page the same.
Keyword Research & Optimizing Site H1 and Tab Titles
Most likely you’ll already have an idea of what keywords to focus on for your website, but even then, keyword research is the ideal way to go. Start by researching (using SEMrush or another tool) what alternative keywords people are using to search for these ideas. You’re looking for keywords that are searched often, but have a low competitiveness score.
While this article can’t cover the extensive field of keyword research, the goal of the research is to make sure that the text you’re using in the titles, descriptions, and content on the page consists of keywords that people use to search for a page with your content. Most commonly, you’ll find a synonym that is searched for more frequently that you should either change the title to match or at the least include in your page’s content.
Page H1 and Tab Titles don’t have to be complicated. Make sure you utilize the 50-60 character limit, include the primary keywords for that page, and do a quick search for synonyms in a keyword research tool, and you’ll be set up for success!