Are Keywords in the title tag a Google Ranking Factor?

By Jonathan Griffin. Published: 15 May 2017 16:00

Is having a keywords in the title tag a ranking factor? Detailed discussion, including sources, its impact, and other factors to consider.

Summary

On-page SEO Is a Ranking Factor

Below is a summary of our findings on whether Keywords in the title tag is a ranking factor. Please read the whole article for in-depth analysis.

Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor.
John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst (Jan 26, 2016).

John Mueller clarified his earlier (Jan 15, 2016) statement in an English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout said that:

"Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are definitely used as a ranking factor but it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time."


Using a keyword in the Title Tag is a ranking factor, but it is not a major one.
John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst (Jan 15, 2016)

John Mueller in an English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout said that:

"We do use it for ranking, but it's not the most critical part of a page. So it's not worthwhile filling it with keywords to kind of hope that it works that way. In general, we try to recognize when a title tag is stuffed with keywords because that's also a bad user experience for users in the search results. If they're looking to understand what these pages are about and they just see a jumble of keywords, then that doesn't really help."


In Brief:

  • Keywords in the Title Tag is a ranking factor.
  • It may not be worth restructuring your website to implement.

What do we mean by Keywords in the title tag?

The title tag, otherwise known as the "title element," defines the title of the page, and is often used in search engines results to display the preview snippet. It is important both for SEO, click to click-through rate, or CTR, and also to related matters, such as social sharing. The title element should be a concise, accurate description of the page's content.

An example of the title tag's code is below:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>

<head>
  <title>HTML Title Element goes here.</title>
</head>

<body>
  <p>The main content of your page goes here.</p>
</body>

</html>

This code may display in Google as follows:

Keywords in title tag in search results.

Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor.John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst (Jan 26, 2016).

Unfortunately, this statement caused a bit of a stir in the SEO community, with many people claiming it wasn't a ranking factor. As such, Mueller clarified his statement in a subsequent Hangout on Jan. 26, 2016:

I said, titles aren’t the most critical ranking factors anymore and suddenly everyone got excited and said, oh my god, titles aren’t ...

Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are definitely used as a ranking factor but it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time.

So that is something where if you are focusing only on titles in SEO, if your SEO agency work is essentially going to people’s websites and say we will strip out all titles and rewrite them to include all the relevant keywords and you will rank ten places higher, that is not going to happen.

You can view the relevant part of the hangout below:

English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout

Join us for a *Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout* :) Add your questions to this event page, this session is open to anything webmaster related like crawling, indexing, mobile sites, inter...

Using a keyword in the Title Tag is a ranking factor, but it is not a major one.John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst (Jan 15, 2016)

Yes, using a keyword in the Title Tag is a ranking factor, but it is not a major one.

John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, in an English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout on the Jan. 15, 2016 said the following:

We do use it for ranking, but it's not the most critical part of a page. So it's not worthwhile filling it with keywords to kind of hope that it works that way. In general, we try to recognize when a title tag is stuffed with keywords because that's also a bad user experience for users in the search results. If they're looking to understand what these pages are about and they just see a jumble of keywords, then that doesn't really help.

Implementation Best Practices

A brief summary of best practices are as follows:

  • Keep your title tag length under 600 pixels, which is around 70 characters
  • Keep it short, descriptive and relevant to the page content
  • Separate Words with either a Hyphen "-" or a Pipe "|"
  • Avoid keyword stuffing
  • Don't duplicate titles over multiple pages
  • Put important keywords first
  • Maximise Your Click-Through-Rate
  • Leverage branding

For a full detailed discussion of the Title Tag, including best practices, click here.

Other benefits

There are a few other benefits of using keyword or keywords in your URL:

  • Increase click-through rate — Having keywords or a descriptive title can help the user know what kind of content they might find on that page, thus making it more likely they will click on it.



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