Optimizing the HTML Title Tag
The HTML title tag is something that is not typically seen when viewing a web page in the browser. Nonetheless, its importance in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) and user navigation cannot be understated. The World Wide Web Consortium calls it the “most important element of a quality web page.” Why?
- Search engines give very strong weight to the words found in the title tag, at least if those words are representative of the content.
- The title tag is the first thing displayed (and linked) for each search result returned.
- The title tag is what is used when you bookmark a page.
- The title tag is what appears in the tab for a page in your browser window.
- The title tag is what is used in your browsing history (e.g., if you click and hold the BACK button in your browser).
- Do not exceed 70 characters (including spaces). Otherwise your title can be truncated (in misleading ways) in the search results.
Note: When entering the HTML Title Tag field, bear in mind, that “ – Miami University” will automatically be appended. This saves you from typing this in for each of your pages but means that you only have 51 characters left for the front part of your title tag.
- Type the most specific information first (on the left), because the right-hand part of the title tag gets truncated on tabbed windows or history listings.
- Provide sufficient information to provide necessary context only.
- Remove words that add little meaning such as articles and prepositions.
- Recommended format: Page Title | Dept Abbreviation or Office Name | Division
- Example: Visit Us | History | CAS
Near the top of the hierarchy, creating the title tags is fairly straightforward. The Department of Biology home page, for example, could be Department of Biology – College of Arts & Science. Recall that “Miami University” will be automatically added. Although it is not the formal designation, one could make an argument for Biology Department – College of Arts & Science; this puts the highest information carrying word on the far left.When deeper in the hierarchy, one needs to be a little more careful in crafting good title tags. Let’s take the biology “about” page: About the Department of Biology. One could even go with About Biology. If we have enough characters we could still keep College of Arts & Science or shorten it to Arts & Science if necessary. But does an external user really need to know that biology is within CAS? Probably not. Besides once they go to any of the biology web pages, it will be clear that the department is in CAS.
Rick Ingersoll; January 27, 2014