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Talking with some other people recently, it came up an interesting topic. The core question at hand is:

What's the real importance and weight of the <title> tag in a web site?

For instance, what are the consequences if a site has the same <title> tag on all the pages, reporting only the site name? Or better (or worse) no title tag at all?

Will that be a little/medium/huge SEO problem? How will the pages appear on search engines? Will fixing it in a later stage be problematic since pages have already been indexed? How does it compromise the overall usability/accessibility/experience? Is that a "feature" that can be omitted, or it can't even be considered a "feature" but a core element?

I have quite my opinion on this topic, but I'd really love to hear what other experts (you) think about it.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jun 29 '11 at 16:30

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10 Answers 10

up vote 20 down vote accepted

What are the consequences if a site has the same <title> tag on all the pages, reporting only the site name?

You run the risk of having your pages flagged as duplicate content. The title of a web page is very important for SEO and if all of your pages have the same title you dramatically increase the chances they will be considered duplicate content. You would have to make sure your pages' content is very different prevent this from happening.

Or better (or worse) no title tag at all?

Worse. You definitely want a <title> for all of your pages. It's probably the biggest on-page ranking factor for SEO. When a user bookmark's your page it is the default text for that bookmark. It's what is shown in the title bar and/or tabs of your pages. Basically not having one is bad for SEO and usability.

Will that be a little/medium/huge SEO problem?

Yes!!!

How will the pages appear on search engines?

Hard to say as I have never seen an untitled page in the search results but that's probably because they all rank too poorly to be found. But I suspect Google would put either a snippet found on the page or something along those lines.

Will fixing it in a later stage be problematic since pages have already been indexed?

No. But it may not happen quickly. It could weeks or months for you to see the changes reflected in Google's search results. And all that time your rankings and click-thrus will suffer for it.

How does it compromise the overall usability/accessibility/experience?

No page title means it is more difficult for users to know what page they are on and what the main purpose of that page.

Is that a "feature" that can be omitted, or it can't even be considered a "feature" but a core element?

The <title> tag is a core element.

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1  
Great answer, competent and answering all the points. –  Matteo Mosca Jun 29 '11 at 19:10
    
Observe how the title tag is used here, on stackoverflow.com and on other stackexchange.com sites. The inclusion of a popular tag at the beginning of the title is not an arbitrary decision. –  Doug Harris Jun 29 '11 at 21:12
    
Don't get me wrong - I already knew this stuff by myself, but I wanted to have the answer of recognised experts, confirming what I already knew. –  Matteo Mosca Jun 29 '11 at 21:14

Your title tag should be different on each page for at least two reasons:

  1. This is the text shown when you bookmark a page. If it is all the same and the user bookmarks several pages, then they see the same text in each bookmark.
  2. Google uses the title to know how the page is distinct from the others on your site. See Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (pdf).
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A title is one of most practical ways for a screen reader user to know which page they are on. Not having a title would cause major confusion for a screen reader user and it would be annoying if the screen reader kept repeating the entire URL. So, from an accessibility standpoint, the title should be in there.

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From a user experience point of view I think supplying specific titles is better because it shows more specifically what the user is seeing. This is also helpful to the user when bookmarking a page as a well formed title saves the user from having to amend the title of their bookmark. Personally I prefer to use site title - page title.

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The title tag is not optional. A correct HTML document must have a title tag.

The title tag has quite high significance for SEO. If it contains an short and descriptive title that reflects the content of the page, your pages will definitely rate better in search engines.

Your page should ideally have one h1 tag also, with a text similar to the title. That will help clarifying to the search engine what the page is about.

You can alter the titles later, and search enginges will re-index your pages. It can however take days or weeks before they notice. Also, you will get a slightly better rating if your page has been up for a longer time, so it helps to fix those things early.

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+1 for noting the tag is not optional. –  Bacon Bits Jun 29 '11 at 19:45

I think it is mandatory to have a good title on every page, for both SEO and usability.

SEO:

I think search engines look at the title tag from left to right in importance. And they only take a couple of words in account. Not sure if this is still the case though.

Usabilty:

It is nice to see what tabs you have opened in your browser. It is nice to see what bookmarks you have. I recommend the form page title - site title

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@PeeHaa: Why would you have the title components that way around? That's contrary to common sense, I think. In my tab bar, I want to see site title first, to give the page title its proper context... and I read left-to-right. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 29 '11 at 22:42
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When there are many tabs open, the space for each title will shrink. Several tabs that say "Site title - ..." can take longer to distinguish. –  Bavi_H Jul 1 '11 at 1:01
    
Safari is clever about this: it recognizes common prefixes among tab titles and hides them, so you get the unique parts! If only all browsers did that... –  Kevin Reid Jul 2 '11 at 21:29

Among other things, the title is used to set the title when users bookmark pages. A clear title makes searching bookmarks much easier. If the company name is in the title, it works better for me if it is a suffix rather than a prefix. (It may be useful to known the source, but knowing the content is more important.) Page title is important, site title make be of interest. My preference is Page title, but Page title - Site title as is used here works for me.

From an SEO perspective, I believe keywords appearing in the title and content get rated higher.

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Many reasons:

  • SEO - crawlers look at title tag for various things
  • Accessible - Screen readers can read off it
  • Proper Bookmarking
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<title> is, obviously, used for the title in the browser's title bar. This is also what is saved in the browser's history and bookmarks sections. As such, having distinct titles can have a significant impact on user experience.

<title> also has semantic value for search engines. Well chosen titles can give a strong indication of the essential about-ness of a page (I'm ignoring attempts to game the SE here). Using good values for <title>, <h1>, etc. tags makes your site fundamentally more "understandable" to the search engine because they indicate author intent about what is important and what is less important.

The Semantic Web that Tim Berners-Lee has been championing for quite some time is all about adding machine-understandable information to web pages, and this is the simplest form of that type of information.

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<title></title> tags are used to show user that, it is Home page or etc... like "Home::xyz.com" in title bar. It is also useful for web owner because, it helps him to find his/her site on search engine (e.g. Google,Yahoo etc) first on rank.

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