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Optimizing Your Meta Titles: Best Practices for SEO

What is a meta title?

When you search for something on Google, you see something like this:

Google search results displaying examples of meta titles

The elements which we highlighted in red are all meta titles.

As a note, "meta titles" are actually "titles", but because they can be easily confused with page titles, the term "meta titles" defines them more precisely, even if it's not 100% correct.

Meta titles appear in all sorts of places, for example, in the browser tab bar:

Screenshot of browser tab bar

Or when you share a link on Facebook:

Screenshot showing an example of a meta title on Facebook

Because they are used in many places, Google currently tends to give them significant importance. This leads site owners and advertisers to be very mindful of how meta titles are created and used.

In the backend of a website build, a meta title looks like this:


<title>The desired meta title</title>


Screenshot of the website backend displaying the meta title

Why are meta titles important?

According to a Google rep, John Mueller:

"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."

What is more important?

According to the same source, "The actual content on the page."

Nevertheless, meta titles are generally considered amongst the most important elements on a page, so make sure they are properly created.

At times, Google may decide to write meta titles for you (in case you didn't write them) or even rewrite your existing meta titles (if they decide they have a better option).

When this is the case, the original meta title is still used for rankings.

What should you do with a meta title?

  • First, the meta title should be helpful for both humans and bots (search engines like Google, for example). When creating the meta title, make it relevant and useful to people but also search engine-friendly.
  • The length of a meta title should be between 55 and 65 characters (with spaces). As a rule of thumb, keeping it lower than 60 characters (with exceptions) is a good general principle.
  • Before creating the meta title, use tools for finding keywords, such as Google Trends. If you run Google Ads, a more powerful tool is Google's Keyword Planner. Research the market a bit, and also look on the search engine results pages - search for keywords related to a page and see how others created their meta titles (direct or indirect competition). Consider researching things like forums and blogs, to have an idea of what specific terms in your industry people use when referring to a topic on a page.
  • At the beginning of the meta title, the first part describes what the page is about. Try to use words that people would use when searching for the topic, but make sure the terms are easy to understand and don't create confusion.
  • At the end of the meta title, add the brand name. You can use something like "Slicedbread Agency" (brand name) or use the main URL of the website ( Examples: "Sample category page - Slicedbread Agency" or "Sample product page -".
  • You might have noticed in the examples above that we used a separator, " - ", between the first and last part of the page title. Feel free to use separators such as " - ", " | ", ": ". Notice how we added some spaces between elements, also. So, don't write: "product", but "product page -" (with two spaces).
  • The homepage should receive special treatment. Tthe brand name should be at the beginning of the meta title and should contain some keywords. Example: "Slicedbread | Los Angeles Digital Marketing Agency". Avoid adding words like "Homepage" in the meta title; they are generally irrelevant.
  • If, in your research, you discover that you can add some additional keywords in the meta title, do so, as long as you don't just list a group of keywords and as long as the keywords you want to add, naturally fit the meta title. 
  • When you create the meta title, the most important elements should be at the beginning. For example, for a product page template, use a boilerplate like "Product Name - Some Keywords - Brand name." For the homepage, start with the brand name.
  • Also, when writing the meta title, consider adding some words from the page content. So, if you write a blog post about health products, consider adding in the meta title some possible health benefits of those products.
  • If you still want to add some things and you have some space left until 60 characters, consider adding something to make people click on the page - something attractive. It can be a call to action ("Read our blog," "Find out more," etc.), or it can be an advantage of your business ("Free shipping over $50", "Shipping in 2 days," etc.).
  • Try to be specific - if a page is on a specific topic (a category, a product page, a particular blog post), don't add keywords related to other pages. The words you use on a meta title should be relevant to the page.
  • Regarding emoticons/emojis - they are not forbidden, but generally, we don't recommend them. If you do choose to use them, don't add emojis to all the titles on your website. The best approach is to do some minor testing and then extend on this if you find it useful.
  • For important pages/templates on your website, do some A/B testing. Consider writing the brand name at the beginning of a test, or removing the brand name, adding some catchy things like years and other numbers, different keywords or call-to-actions, and using questions.

What should you avoid doing in a meta title?

  • Avoid special characters like "&", quotes or diacritics, whenever possible. Try to use basic characters - digits, letters, and only a few punctuation signs (like commas, periods, semicolons, question marks, and the separators we suggested above).
  • Don't write the same, identical meta title for different pages. Try to make them different. For example, if we're talking about a category and product referring to the same item, add some keywords to differentiate between the two pages. If you have a category page that has multiple pages, use things like "Page 2" to distinguish between one page and the other.
  • Having a very boring meta title. This should adjust to the overall brand entity, but try to make the meta title nice to read and make it interesting and cool.
  • Don't do keyword cannibalization - avoid optimizing multiple pages for the exact keywords. Different pages should generally focus on different keywords.
  • Avoid having no page titles at all. At a minimum, use the page name and brand name (so, for example, "White dress -"). We recommend against having no meta title at all.
  • Too short meta titles - you should avoid meta titles like "Dresses -" It's not necessarily bad, but consider adding relevant things to the meta title while staying within the character limit.
  • Keyword stuffing - we don't recommend adding a list of keywords, just for SEO purposes. It's a delicate balance between not optimizing at all (no keywords) and optimizing too much (too many keywords). Try to find a balance.
  • Avoid duplicating meta titles with meta descriptions - of course, they serve different purposes, and even their length should differ (less than 60 characters for meta titles and 120–160 characters for meta descriptions).
  • Using ALL CAPS or many exclamation points - try not to yell at your users.
  • Avoid repeating keywords. You should not repeat keywords whenever possible.

When will your meta title be ignored by Google?

At times, you might find that Google has ignored what you wrote in a meta title and chose a different text. If you notice your intended meta title being changed often, use the above suggestions as a checklist and see if you can adjust your meta titles.

How do you set meta titles in Shopify and on WordPress?

You can find here a guide for Shopify, and here are some guides for WordPress - guide 1, guide 2, guide 3.

Who can help with meta titles?

You can always ask Slicedbread Agency to help with SEO services.

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