If your sites are like most, they have a whole bunch of extra "things" in their title tags: things like your brand name or repetitive text across multiple pages.
Should you automatically include these elements in your titles?
To be fair, most websites do.
Alternatively, could it actually help your SEO to actually include less information in your titles? (Or at least under certain circumstances?)
We know from a handful of studies that titles of a certain length tend to perform better. A now famous study by Etsy engineers showed how shorter titles outperform longer ones. SEOs speculate that this could be because shorter titles can have more focused relevance (by focusing on core keywords), get higher click-through rates, or some other reason we can't imagine.
When selecting the part of a title to be shortened, the brand name and text on the boiler plate are obvious. But how do you determine if this is something to consider for your own SEO?
Here is an example of a brand's site name at the end of each title:
We have all seen such sites. Most of us do this on our own websites. The question is, does it actually help or hurt to have our brand / site name at the end of every title.
But first we need to consider other types of boiler plates as well.
What is boilerplate? Boilerplate simply means standardized, ambiguous text parts that are used over and over again. This often includes categories, product categories, author tags, and taglines.
In this example, the text on each title includes "Tomatoes – Vegetable Seeds – Shop".
Sometimes the material of the heating plate can get quite long. The comic book review page Major Spoilers (great name!) Often has the same 65-digit boilerplate on many pages:
"Major Spoilers – Comic Reviews, News, Previews, and Podcasts"
With this length it is of course so long that Google cuts off every single title:
The problems that Boilerplate can cause in your SEO are threefold:
- Relevance: Unnecessary words can make your title less relevant to both search engines and users. For search engines, this could mean lower rankings. For users, this can result in fewer clicks.
- Uniqueness: Titles that use the same repeating text and differ from each other by only a word or two are not very unique. While this isn't necessarily a problem, it goes against most SEO best practices where uniqueness is key.
- Length: Boilerplate means you have less space to display other words in your title, and Google often cuts these off when they exceed a certain length.
Experiment 1: Remove a category from the title
We decided to do a few boilerplate experiments here at Moz to see if we could improve our ranking and traffic by removing some of the repetitive parts of our titles.
We started with our Whiteboard Friday blog posts. Every time Moz publishes a new Whiteboard Friday, we traditionally include "Whiteboard Friday" in the title.
What would happen if we removed this from the titles?
Using an A / B split testing method where we introduced the test for 50% of the tracks and used the other 50% as a control, we saw an amazing 20% increase in this experiment.
This graph shows the cumulative impact of the test on organic traffic. The central blue line is the best estimate of the performance of the variant pages with the change applied compared to what we would have expected without changes. The blue shaded area represents our 95% confidence interval: there is a 95% chance that the actual result will be somewhere in this range. If this range is completely above or below the horizontal axis, it represents a statistically significant test.
To be honest, the results surprised us. Whiteboard Friday is a popular brand (so we thought), but removing that boilerplate from our titles resulted in a significant increase in traffic to these pages.
At this point we got cocky …
Experiment 2: Remove a mark from the title
If removing the category name from Whiteboard Friday posts resulted in such a significant increase, what if we removed our brand name from all titles?
For this A / B experiment, we did just that – removed the word "Moz" from 50% of our tracks and measured the results.
Crazy right? If removing "Whiteboard Friday" made it work, would we see the same increase if we removed "Moz"?
Unfortunately, Google had other plans:
While this A / B test never reached full statistical significance, we actually saw a 4% decrease in traffic by removing our brand from our title tags.
Why didn't this test produce the same gains? To be honest, I've removed the brand name from other websites' titles and seen up to 20% more.
It turns out that removing the brand / boilerplate for your SEO depends on a few key factors that you can assess in advance.
How to tell if heating plate removal is successful
Over 10 years of experience and literally millions of title tags, I've found that there are basically four factors that influence whether or not removing boilerplate from your titles can be beneficial:
- Brand Strength: Popular brand names in titles almost always do better than unknown brands, even if people aren't looking for your brand specifically. For example, Amazon's brand awareness is likely to go a long way in including "Amazon" in every title, even if people aren't looking for Amazon specifically. However, less recognizable brands don't always get the same boost and can result in fewer visits due to relevance, length and clickability (see below).
- Relevance: Are your boilerplate / brand keywords relevant to your users' searches? For example, if your website is about TV repair, titles that read "Brad & # 39; s TV Repair" are much more relevant than titles that say "Brads." (We'll look for a way to determine the brand strength and relevance of your boilerplate in the next section.)
- Length: In general, a long boilerplate can do more damage than short boilerplate / brand words. A long boiler plate can affect the relevance of your titles. So if you include "Buy Brad's TVs, TV repairs, high definition maintenance, audio and video equipment for sale in Houston, Texas and the surrounding area," you may want to rethink your hotplate.
- Clickability: Sometimes boilerplate can make your titles more clickable even if they are not particularly relevant. Words like "Sale", "Solved", "Free", "2020", "New" and many others can increase your click-through rates (CTR). Sometimes you can't tell until testing it, but in many cases even adding clickable items to your hotplate can result in significant gains.
Simple technique for determining your brand strength and boilerplate relevance
This simple technique also shows why removing "Whiteboard Friday" resulted in a surge in traffic while removing "Moz" from titles did not.
Here's what you want to do: For each boilerplate, determine the number of URLs on your website that are rating / receiving traffic for those keywords.
We use the Google Search Console for this.
Just enter your boilerplate / brand as a query filter (you may have to break it up into blocks for a longer boilerplate) and see how many urls get traffic for queries that contain this keyword.
If we filter on keywords that contain our brand name "moz", we find thousands of ranking urls.
People look for things like:
- Moz DA Checker
- Moz Pro
- Moz SEO
- Moz Blog
- Etc. etc.
With our brand name being part of so many inquiries and driving thousands of pages to visit, "Moz" is a very strong brand and we'd probably be smart to include it as part of our title tags.
"Moz" is also very short with only 3 characters, which doesn't hurt either.
So what if we try the same technique with "Whiteboard Friday" – the boilerplate that resulted in a 20% increase when we removed it? We see a completely different result:
In this case, almost all of the traffic for the "Whiteboard Friday" search term is split across just one or two pages.
For most Whiteboard Friday posts, the term is just irrelevant. It's not what people are looking for and the brand isn't strong enough to add an extra boost.
With a length of 17 characters, this boilerplate has given each of our titles a considerable length and possibly reduced the relevance for the ranking of the articles.
Final Thoughts + Bonus Free Title Tag Webinar
These tips can't definitely tell you whether or not to include boilerplate or branding in your title tags, but they should give you a pretty good idea of when to test things out.
Remember: Always test and evaluate before making any permanent SEO change. At least know the impact of the changes you've made.
Please do not have the impression that you should always remove boilerplate from your titles. In some cases, actually adding a boilerplate can result in elevation, especially if the boilerplate:
- Recognizable: for example a strong brand
- Relevant: The right keywords
- Clickable: Encourages a high click-through rate
- In a nutshell: not too long
If you've found value in the tips and want to learn even more ways to optimize your title tags, we've made a free webinar for you: SEO Master Class: Advanced Title Tag Optimization (for Each Site).
If you have 40 minutes to spare, it's definitely worth a watch.
Watch the free webinar
Good luck with your SEO!