On-Page SEO: The Title Tag

The Title tag is the single most important on-page factor in terms of ranking: without your search phrase in the title it is difficult to get ranked – not impossible, you can overwhelm it with page rank and link reputation, but Title is an important factor – though, you know, not an all or nothing proposition either. The strength of match between the search phrase and the title works on a scale more or less as shown here, from strongest match to weakest match.

  • Exact Phrase
  • Partial Phrase
  • Interrupted Phrase
  • Keywords


Exact. The best case is where the searcher’s phrase appears precisely in the title, there can be words before and after the phrase, but no additional words interrupting the phrase, and no words missing from the phrase.

Partial. Not quite so strong as a title is where words are missing at the beginning or ending of the phrase, or even within the phrase, but where there are no additional words added. All other things being equal, this title will rank not quite as well as the exact match, but will rank better than the next two.

Interrupted. An interrupted phrase involves all or most of the search phrase but with additional words inserted between the search words; this breaks up the phrase and has the real potential to misinterpret the searcher’s meaning, so this title is far less strong than the first two above.

Finally, any words that match in any order are considered somewhat responsive to the User’s query, so they provide a ranking boost, but such titles are not very powerful and may easily be overcome by other factors.

In all of this, there’s the limited length available to get our message across. There is not a precise character limit, as that is not how Google handles words, but suffice to say that the first measure is the number of words which is around 10 to 12 words. Then, an additional character limit is applied to militate against, for example, having 6 really long words, for example, taking up too much space: the net result is a slightly ragged margin of title tags.

For ranking, this isn’t too much of an issue, since we can almost always get 8 to 10 words fully displayed and who needs to rank for more than an 8-word phrase?

As we get in to click-through optimisation, however, this can get to be something of an issue.

Some On-Page LinkLuv
On-Page SEO: Hello World!
On-Page SEO – Keyphrase Positioning – Display Order v. Markup Order
On-Page SEO – Keyphrase Positioning – First Fit v. Best Fit
On-Page SEO – Head and Body – A Foot in Both Camps
On-Page SEO – Head and Body – Both Feet in Both Camps
Related: On-Page SEO – How Many Characters in a Page Title for Google SEO?

John Hargaden is CEO of wevolution digital, your full-service digital marketing partner focussed on growing your business online. Case Studies.