Are Title Tags Still Relevant for SEO?


Page titles, or title tags, are still an SEO ranking factor (source). The ranking factor strength ranges from mild to moderate. According to First Page Sage, keywords in the title tags still score as one of the most important on-page elements. Title tags are still relevant for SEO, although they are not as prominent as they used to be.  

Since 2021, when Google started replacing title tags with headlines in the search results, many people have wondered whether title tags still matter.

I aim to give you a high-level understanding of title tags, discuss why Google now swaps out the titles with your headings, and provide best practices for title tag optimization moving forward. 

What is a Title Tag? 

A title tag is an HTML code that tells Google what your page is about. Think of title tags like book titles. They’re one of the first things you see and give you a general idea of the content’s topic. 

Below, you can see the title tags circled in red. For The Media Captain, our homepage title tag is “Columbus Marketing Agency | Ohio’s Top 1% Digital Agency.” Title tags should be a minimum of 30 characters and a maximum of 60 characters.

Importance of Compelling Title Tags 

A title tag should be compelling and enticing, and the copy should be good. Clickthrough rate is a ranking factor for Google, so you want people to click on your web page, meaning your title tag should differentiate you from competitors. As you create your title tags, think about compelling copy that would make customers want to click on your website rather than competitors. 

For the query, “How to auto invest in index funds,” The Motley Fool, ranking #1, does a great job with an enticing title tag of “Automate Your Investing in 5 Steps.”

Below are some competitors that rank below The Motley Fool, which have more generic title tags. It’s no coincidence that more people would click on The Motley Fools article. 

Google Replacing Title Tags with Headings

In 2021, Google started replacing title tags in the search results with other relevant verbiage from a web page. Most titles come from headings like H1, H2, and H3. According to Search Engine Journal, Google now changes more than 61% of title tags.

Why Google Started Replacing Titles 

In my opinion, Google started replacing titles because SEOs and webmasters started over-optimizing title tags with keywords, which, for many years, worked well. What happened, however, is that all of the title tag content started to be extremely similar. Google wanted more uniqueness in the SERPs, hence this switch.

Related Blog: Examples of Keyword Stuffing on Google

Example of Title Tag Getting Replaced in SERP 

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about when I say Google is swapping out the title tags in the search results. I wrote a blog on “30 Google Business Profile Stats and Facts“. You’ll see below what the title is showing on Google.

If you look at the back end of the WordPress blog, the title tag inputted was “30 Google Business Profile Stats and Facts that Local SEOs Must Know”. As you can see, Google is not pulling in the title tag I originally wrote. Instead, it’s pulling in the headline, the H1, from the blog. When I say that Google doesn’t always pull in the title tag, I mean that they often pull in other relevant information from the web page instead.

Importance of Optimizing Headings (H1, H2, H3) 

It should be noted that H1, H2, H3, and H4 headings often replace title tags in search results. Optimizing headings is a great opportunity and something you should focus on with your SEO efforts. We often see heading optimization impact SEO rankings more than simply optimizing the title tag. 

Related Blog: How To Properly Optimize Headings to Improve SEO

Closing Out

  • Title tags are still relevant for SEO, so ensure you optimize these. 
  • Optimizing headings should become a key area of focus to improve your SEO. 
  • There are many pieces to the pie to succeed at SEO. Make sure you have a comprehensive strategy. Many people are disappointed when optimizing the title tag, which doesn’t move the needle. There’s more to enhancing your website than quick-hit changes. 

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