How to Write Title Tags for SEO | Backlinko & Ahrefs Case Study

A bad title tag means less clicks to your article when Google is trying to assess whether or not to rank it at the top of page one. Less clicks means that you’re going to move further down the priority list as Google tries to assess whether or not your content fullfill search intent.

So in today’s article, we’re going to dig into first, what are title tags, and then we’re going to take a look at the strategies that two of the best SEO blogs of Ahrefs and Backlinko use in order to optimize their title tag.

What are Title Tags?

First, let’s go over what a title tag is. Title tags are HTML elements that give descriptors as to what the page is all about. If you’ve bought a hard cover book lately and you read the back cover for what the book is all about in that synopsis section, that’s essentially what a title tag is but as an even fewer words. The best title tags are typically 50 to 60 characters. And the reason why is because Google only gives you so much space before they’ll start to cut off your title tag.

If you want to see what a test title tag might look like, you can use Moz’s title tag preview tool, and then input your desired title and see what it might look like in Google.

Backlinko

Now that we know what title tags are. Let’s take a look at what some of the best SEO blogs are doing in order to stand out from their competition when it comes to title tags. When I hop into my computer here, I’m going to go ahead and hop into a Google search, and from here, what I’m going to look for is something like site:backlinko.com. And then I’m also going to add in entitle colon. And what this is going to do is it’s going to tell Google, I want you to look for the title phrases in here for whatever it is I’m going to add to my search.

When it comes to what to add to your search, I like to think about the evergreen pieces of content that somebody might create on their blog. So this includes things like who, what, where, when, why, and how content. So let’s go ahead and take a look first at how content and what Backlinko is doing there.

As I work my way through the results, the first thing I’m noticing is that Backlinko often prioritizes the long-tail phrase of the, how to content they’re trying to fulfill. So for example, they’re covering things like how to write a blog post, or how to promote your blog and so on. And they’re also doing things like including the year into their titles. So these are the, some of the things that we’re picking up on as we go through these results.

If we look at one of the examples here, How to Promote Your Blog: 21 New Strategies, the first part of this title tag is fulfilling search intent and then the second part of the title tag is specifically giving the reader or the search user a clear reason as to why they should click into this post. Because there are 21 different strategies and they’re also new strategies.

As we work our way down the page, we also see the other result for what are back links and how to build them in 2021. The reason why this is really helpful is because it will dress the intent of what somebody might be searching for when they’re wondering what backlinks are, but it also starts to solve their actual problem. It starts to tell them exactly what they should do with backlinks and give specificity to the particular year in question.

Another title tag and wanting to draw your attention to is this one on How Many People Use Facebook in 2021 – Backlinko. The reason why I wanted to draw your attention to this one is because you’ll notice how it uses that format of fulfilling search intent, but it also goes ahead and includes the year as well as the domain name into the title tag.

The reason why Backlinko does this is because in the case where you have some extra characters in your title tags, you can find it valuable to include your own domain name so you can build up the authority of your domain name with relationship to the topics that you’re talking about.

So in other words, Backlinko wants some sort of relevancy to be drawn in to Google, to signal to Google, “Hey, we talk about how many people are on social media. How many people are on Facebook, on our blog.” So that’s the importance of using those extra characters that you might have when it comes to optimizing your title tags.

Ahrefs

Now that we know that Backlinko has some great title tags, let’s take a look at what one of their close competitors Ahrefs is also doing  in title tags. For this to make it a little bit more fun, I’m going to try to find posts that are very similar to the three examples we just went over with Backlinko.

1. For the first one, I’m going to dig into Google again and then search for something around promoting blogs. So I’m going to do ahrefs.com and then maybe I’ll do something in the title, like, how to promote blog. Do that you’ll notice that they do have a post that is related to promoting your blog. The reason why is because all of these SEO sites are trying to target the same core search intent, which is why there is going to be a lot of overlapping traffic with them.

But in this case, what I want you to notice is how Ahrefs is prioritizing the search intent once more in the very beginning, how to promote your blog and then what they have in the second part is seven fundamental strategies. So in the second part, they are, again, trying to give a reason as to why you would click in. And oftentimes what I’ve found in the past through research is that odd numbers actually perform better than even numbers. So I’m sure that this has gone into their calculus when thinking about what to put their title tag as.

Another thing I want you to notice is how they’ve also used the word strategies once more, which we saw Backlinko use as well. What this probably means is that both Backlinko and Ahrefs took an evaluation of what the search intent was and believed that people would want to click into strategies more so than anything else that they might put in the title tags.

Comparing the two though, I’d probably click into Backlinko’s title tag over Ahrefs title tag, mainly because Backlinko’s was more comprehensive than Ahrefs. And the best way to test this is to actually do a new Google search and look for this actual phrase and see who ranks higher. So let’s go ahead and take a look there.

To put this to the test I’m in an incognito window and I’m going to type in how to promote your blog. And what you’ll notice is that when I look for it, Backlinko is outranking Ahrefs. You can see how Backlinko is one above Ahrefs. They’re not at the very top, but you can see the reasons why that is. It’s probably because of the case in which it’s just way more compelling for me to click into the one that has a higher count than the other one, as well as potentially new strategies.

Well, you’ll also notice that the ones that are actually outranking Backlinko are the ones that actually are stating that they have even more strategies. So this is evergreen on evergreen content in which everybody’s trying to compete for this very popular phrase.

2. For our second example, we’re going to look for something in Ahrefs blog around backlinks, because that’s what we looked at with Backlinko. So again, I’m going to do site:ahrefs.com. I’m going to isolate for the blog, and then I’m going to look for what are backlinks. And what we’ll notice is that Ahrefs title tag for this is what is a backlink, how to get more backlinks. This again is pretty good. You’ll notice that it’s very similar to Backlinko and that they are addressing the definition of what backlinks are, and then starting to talk about how to solve the problem of getting more backlinks.

However, the difference here is that I want you to notice how Ahrefs didn’t actually put in the year for this particular guide and instead prioritize their domain Ahrefs in the title. If I were to guess Backlinko is going to win again, because they have that in 2021 reference in their title tag. But the only way to put this to the test is to actually dig into Google. So let’s go ahead and take a look.

As I hop back in here, I’m going to search for what our best. And lo and behold, the number one result is Backlinko’s what are backlinks and how to build them in 2021. Ahrefs is actually number three here. And you’ll notice that the year ones are being prioritized above Ahrefs’ content.

3. For the third example today, I wanted to dig into something else because I wasn’t able to find an analogous post for Backlinko post on how many people are on Facebook. But the one I wanted to draw to your attention today on Ahrefs is their post on how to learn SEO. So let’s take a look at this title tag. It’s how to learn SEO. And then in parentheses, they said, and stay sane.

The reason why I really wanted to draw this to your attention is because what Ahrefs is doing really effectively here is they’re pulling on the emotional side of the search intent. You can imagine that somebody looking to learn SEO is probably going to be feeling a little bit overwhelmed and they’re getting a little insane.

And so what Ahrefs is really covering here is that emotional pool as to why I would click this over some other site on the internet. This is something that you’re going to want to use in moderation with the posts that you think are going to be most motivating to actually click into. You don’t want to make every single one of your titles clickbaity, because then the effect actually wears off.

When we take our look back into an incognito window and search how to learn SEO, we’ll notice that actually Ahrefs is below the fold here. They are closer to the bottom of page one than they are at the very top. And if I were to guess, the reason why it’s probably because Moz is doing a great job of really highlighting that long tail of learn SEO.

And then they’re also covering the side of this is a free place to learn SEO for the year 2021. So this is a great example of how you can really think about the different intent because what Moz is doing differently than some of their competitors is notice how there’s really kind of stands out versus the other ones. They’ve used this dash really effectively to stand out from the pack they’re using brackets to make the year stand out.

And they’re probably getting more clicks because people are so used to getting pitched on some sort of pay program to learn SEO that Moz is clearly going after the people that are looking for free resources.

Big takeaways:

There are five things that I want you to remember from how to write your title tags for SEO:

  1. The first one is make sure you include the year whenever possible for the topic that you are writing on. We noticed how the top ranking post typically had some variation of 2021 in the actual title.
  2. The second thing to remember is to try to have odd numbers over even numbers when it comes to writing your title tag.
  3. The third thing to remember is to make sure that you’re using brackets or parentheses when you’re trying to draw attention to a particular thing in your title tag.
  4. The fourth thing to remember is to consider adding your domain into your title tag, to signal to Google that you have some authority and relevancy to the topic that you are writing about.
  5. The fifth thing to do is to make sure that you’re looking at what other people are doing so that you can actually identify how to stand out from the rest of the pack.

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