In theory, it should be a foregone conclusion that Google does. When a page of your website appears in Google search results, the title will be the first and most prominently displayed part of the listing. So, title tags are bound to be a Google ranking factor… right?
The simple answer — as borne out over time — is that, yes, Google does take the title tag into account when trying to decide where to list that page on SERPs (search engine results pages). However, the extent of the ranking factor’s power is not entirely clear.
What is a title tag?
To actually see the title tag, rather than just the title contained within it, you will need to dive into the webpage’s HTML code. There, within the HTML document’s <head> section, you should see some text inserted between ‘<title>’ and ‘</title>’.
Yes, you are now officially looking at the title tag. Given how prominently the title of a webpage appears in SERPs as well as the tab of a browser displaying the page, you could be quick to assume that title tags are strongly weighted as a ranking factor.
Indeed, there have been persistent claims that this is the case. However, to better assess whether this actually is the case, let’s answer another question…
What does Google say about title tags?
Google recommends that you give each of your site’s pages a unique, accurate, but also brief title if you want to help Google with understanding the website’s content and so making sure that it is ranked correctly.
However, the depth with which Google provides recommendations on how to write webpage titles implies that they are a much more influential ranking signal than they really are.
According to Google executive John Mueller, while the title tag is used for ranking, “it’s not the most critical part of a page”. He adds that, as a result, “it’s not worthwhile filling it with keywords to kind of hope that it works that way” at fuelling the page’s SEO.
In a later, separate discussion, Mueller dubbed webpage titles “important”, clarifying: “They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are definitely used as a ranking factor”.
However, he went on to explain that “it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time”.
Should you prioritise modifying your website’s title tags?
Exact statistics about the SEO effectiveness of title tags is hard to come by. However, evidence suggests that the power of title tags on Google’s rankings is somewhere in the region of mild to moderate.
While a title tag can succinctly convey to Google what the page is about, Google will also look closely at other factors, like the main content, to judge what ranking the page should be handed.
If you are unsure what exactly any given title tag of your website ought to comprise, our SEO copywriters can provide you with expert guidance on this issue.