What are title tags? A quick guide for Shopify merchants

In the world of SEO, we’re looking for any and all optimizations - big and small. One that may seem small is a page’s title tag. After all, compared to boosting site speed or crafting the perfect product description, writing a title tag may seem like quite a quick, easy thing to do. 

However that seemingly simple task can have big implications for your store’s SEO and could make the difference between a user clicking your link over a competitor’s. 

So what are title tags, and how do they influence users? We’re going to take a look at both questions, along with some tips for writing the perfect title tag. 

What is a title tag?

Put simply, a title tag is a piece of HTML that specifies the title of a webpage. Search engines like Google will use this to display the title of the page as part of the search snippet in search engine results pages (SERPs). In practice, it will appear like this:

Skims title tag example

Much like if you were on a news site, the title tag acts as a sort of headline giving a summary of what the webpage is about. It will give the user looking at the results page a concise description of the results displayed, helping them to select the best fit for their query. It isn’t just SERPs that these tags will appear in, however. They will also appear in a link preview when you post on social media, for example. 

Why are title tags important for SEO?

First impressions count for a lot in ecommerce, and the title that appears on a SERP for a new potential customer is going to have an impact on your store’s discoverability. A list of blue links with some SERP features equalizes brands for these search users. So while your site experience and products may be very different to your competitors, in search it’s going to be that headline title tag that makes an impression. A poorly constructed title tag won’t attract users, and this will cause the page’s ranking to suffer as it won’t be seen as useful for that keyword.

Speaking of search engines, the title tag helps to tell crawlers more about your page and to better understand it. This understanding is crucial for ranking, so the better your title tag the better a crawler can decipher the content of your page. This is especially important if your product name doesn’t fully describe what it is. For example, Homesick’s candles are named for different cities, seasons, and so on, meaning the actual scent of the candle isn’t in the name of the candle. Therefore, to allow both search engines and users to make more sense of the candle, they put the scent in the title tag. This means if a user unfamiliar with their brand searches for “mistletoe and pine candle”, it’ll be more likely to actually appear and attract a new customer.

Homesick example

It’s easy to see why something seemingly as small a detail as a title tag is actually quite important for SEO. So let’s now look at how to make sure your title tags stand out.

4 tips for writing a great title tag for ecommerce merchants

#1 - Keep it short and consistent 

Unlike your product page or even the meta description, the title tag gives you a very short space to work with. Title tags are often 60-80 characters at most before a search engine will truncate it, i.e. shorten it so it fits their character count. If you’re a Shopify merchant, the title tag field will only allow you to enter 70 characters, as well as providing a preview of what that title will look like in search results.

Example of Shopify SEO preview

You may find that you need to enter less than 70 characters, as how the title appears isn’t so much determined by the number of characters as how much space each character takes up. For instance, the letter “w” takes up more space than the letter “i”. This is why that preview is so valuable! Focus on what matters most, think about those news headlines we mentioned earlier and use the space to catch the attention of your target audience. 

Keep your title tags consistent, as well as succinct. Use the same formatting across all your store’s pages, to make it even easier for search engines and users to understand. For example if you format product pages like “product name - product type - brand name” this should be the same even for blogs, e.g. “blog title - brand name”. 

#2 - Include a primary keyword

Keywords are one of the pillars of SEO and content marketing, and this extends to title tags also. As we’ve just discussed, you don’t have a lot of space to add keywords like you do with a product description. 

That means you need to be selective about what you add into the title tag. Pick one primary keyword or long-tail keyword that you want to target and include that into the title tag in a natural way. This means it should make sense in the context of the title tag as a headline, otherwise you’ll risk keyword stuffing - quite the feat in something as short as a title tag.

Especially if we’re talking about product pages, each product will have some kind of unique keyword it may be targeting. In the previous example of Homesick, it might be the scent of the candle, or the city it represents. 

In the above example from Ooni, they’ve included “wood pellet pizza oven”, rather than just “Ooni pizza oven”. This inclusion of a long-tail keyword makes the most of the SEO real estate the title tag offers.

#3 - Think about the user’s needs

It’s very easy in SEO to focus too much on what’s good for search engines. After all, you want those search engines to take notice of your content and rank it higher on results pages. However, it’s the people using the search engine that you want to attract, so you need to put them first. Ultimately, whatever is best for the user will reflect positively on your store’s SEO.

Consider what the user will want from a title tag. Think back to headlines and news - the headline tells you what to expect from the story. The same should apply to your title tag. It should convey what the product is, and that it’s a product page. If they click on the link and it leads to a blog but the tag reads more like a product page, that’s confusing. Especially if they have purchase intent

Users want a descriptive, succinct title that tells them what the product name is, what kind of product it is, and the brand it comes from. It might be worthwhile including something else that may attract the user if the page isn't a product page and you have more space to work with. For example, adding "free shipping" or "free returns and fast delivery". Give them that, entice them onto your page, and Google will surely take notice and rank it higher.

#4 - Add your brand name

One last quick tip - include your brand name in the title tag for the majority of pages. This helps with brand recognition and awareness, as well as boosting your branded SEO keywords. It also helps to target intent more clearly, as it’s more obvious to both users and search engines that it’s a page from an ecommerce brand.

Yummy Bazaar SERP example

There’s no set placement for adding a brand name, but generally it’ll be at the very start or the very end of the title tag. Whichever you choose, keep it consistent across every title tag in your store. 

Bonus - Use a tool to automatically format and bulk edit title tags

As with many other aspects of your store, there’s an app that can make managing title tags that much easier. If you have a large catalog or you simply want to simplify the process, one of SEO Manager’s many features involves automating meta information including title tags. 

You can even create a template, setting up exactly how you want the meta title to appear alongside a preview. Automating SEO can take these small but important tasks off your plate, leaving you more time to focus on product descriptions and page optimization. 

In SEO, you want to make the most of every opportunity to climb search rankings and stand out to your potential customers. Title tags are the first impressions of the SEO world, and getting them right can be the difference between increased traffic and slipping down the SERP. By giving it the attention it needs, you can shine the spotlight firmly on your products and brand.