10 SEO and Marketing-Friendly Title Tag Formulas

Ian Lurie

You want keywords in the title tag. Your marketing VP wants the brand. You know he’s wrong, because search engines are structured thinkers. He knows you’re wrong, because the title tag shows up in the search snippet and branding matters:
Now what?
Here are 10 title tag formulas that balance SEO and marketing and hopefully avoid wrestling matches in the boardroom:

  1. [product name] – [company name]. If you’re selling products and you know your customers search for the product names, put the product name first, then the company name. Unless the product name is 125 characters long, in which case you have a whole other problem.
  2. [article title] – [company name]. Worst case, put the article title first, then the company name.
  3. [company name] – [product name / article title]. If the marketing VP just won’t back down, fine. Put the company name first, and remind them that you’re going to slam a drawer on their fingers when, 4 weeks from now, they come in to your office asking why the rankings haven’t improved.
  4. [custom title] – [company name]. If you really have a nifty content management system, you can edit your title tag separate from your page or article title. Put that custom title first, then your company name.
  5. [keyword] – [company name]. If you’re a one-product or one-service company, put the keyphrase that’s relevant to that page, then the company name, like this: Buggy Bumpers: Ian’s Buggy Emporium. Use a different phrase on each page! Repeating the same word again and again is a bad idea.
  6. [keyword] – [product name] – [company name]. If your product name, company name and target phrase are all short, you can string them all together like this: Buggy Repair – Tune Ups – Ian’s Buggy Emporium. I try to keep my title tags under 60 characters.
  7. [really cool sales phrase]. Remember, your title tag is what shows up in the search snippet. Come up with a great selling phrase like ‘Buggy repairs while you wait’. You work in the keywords and might talk the VP of marketing into leaving your title tag alone.
  8. [company name]. Give them what they want, watch the rankings implode, and after you’re fired you can laugh at them from afar. I don’t recommend this.
  9. [category] – [page or product name] – [company name]. This will almost certainly be too long, and get truncated in the search results. But if you have categories that are also search phrases, this is a nice, automated way to generate title tags throughout an entire store or collection of pages.
  10. [ ]. You can always leave nothing in there at all. See number 8.

I used dashes to separate elements of the title tag. You can use dashes, colons or even pipe symbols (‘|’). As long as you separate the phrases, you’re fine.
And remember to keep your title tags under 60-70 characters. Less is even better if you can get away with it.

I wrote an ebook about SEO Copywriting: The Unscary, Real World Guide to SEO Copywriting. You can pick up a copy here.

A few other posts worth checking
Search Engines are Structured Thinkers
Choosing an SEO-Ready Content Management System

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Priceless, seems funny for us SEO’s, but in reality it is a big problem, and can take a lot of education and headlocks to get your “marketing guru’s” to back down!
    Whilst the web is a great branding tool, ultimately search engines should be used to direct traffic first, and then use your site to pass on the brandable love!

  2. Great post. It really is amazing how the ordering of the title tag affects search rankings. I’ve just re-jigged one of my page titles – moving a keyword forward and whereas I wasn’t ranking at all really before (page 4 or 5), that page is now third on page 1 Google. The keyword in question: SEO 🙂

  3. Spot on with this, and I can confirm that Point #1 works 100%. We played around with a number of these combinations, and tested different pages with different options, and it seemed like #1 worked the best. Likewise, points #8 and #10 are the avoidable – unless you’ve got a few other job offers lined up (preferably with a Marketing Manager that has a clue about SEO). Thanks for this resource, bookmarked and dugg!

  4. Very informative and helpful post here, Ian. I found with my company that it was helpful to do [CITY] [PRODUCT] [COMPANY NAME] and it has worked wonders. But it will obviously not do much for a national company. It works great if your audience is searching for a particular product in a certain city like ours.

  5. I´ve been missing the best title: Only [Keyword]!
    Why would everyone dilute the power of the title tag with the company name?
    Anyway good post!

  6. Pretty good post. I can’t say I’ve been witness to this problem on such a scale…I tend just to battle with myself over whether to try and get the brand name out there. My SEO perspective and experience overcomes the nagging brand management urges in the end though!

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