The Difference Between Meta Title HTML Title Tag

Meta Title Tag vs <Title> Attribute: What's the Difference?

If you're an SEO beginner, little questions like this can be surprisingly disruptive while you're building confidence in your knowledge. You should be able to answere these questions easily:
  • Does the meta title tag have any SEO value?
  • Will page title tags improve my site's ranking?
The short answer to both is no, but one can make or break your site (and the other doesn't really exist).

Should I use <title> or <meta name="title">?

The value of the latter is debatable, but the <title> tag is essential. It provides important information to the user, which helps with SERP conversion and improves the UX by letting them know they've found what they're looking for.

To understand which to use and why, you should understand how they're actually functioning. There's an important distinction between the two attributes. The <meta name="title"> attribute names the meta data, not the HTML document - that's what the HTML <title> does. That's the actual page title according to w3c, which is what Google uses when determining what to display in SERPs. The meta title has no SEO value at this time.

It's important to use the <title> tag on every page of your website. It should be chosen carefully.

A lot of people ask: do I need keywords in my page title? As usual with SEO, it depends on the situation, but there's straightforward logic to it. Your title doesn't have to include keywords, but it should if it's possible to do so and keep it sounding natural. Your title isn't a direct ranking signal, so it's really the CTR you're looking for - and, in the end, it's all about connecting what you're offering to the people who want it. Choosing a solid page title is the essential first step to accomplishing that.

What are page titles and why do they matter?

Page titles convey important information to your visitor about where they are on the web. Google wants us to make the web experience a safe, comforting and accessible one. By using proper page titles, webmasters are able to give their websites a name that appears at the top of the tab or browser window:
page title shown as HTML title tag
The full page title appears when you hover over it.
Your title will also appear in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) as the clickable part of your entry:
page titles in SERPs
SEOs take the basic naming concept one step further by carefully selecting page titles to appear as enticing and relevant to the query as possible. This is critically important. Being the first result for "poodle outfits" means nothing if the user has to click on a title like "Ben's Poodle Hate Page" to find your website (I don't really hate poodles - but I am neutral). Nobody will visit your page, and your ranking won't last. (How the hell did you get it, anyway?)

Bottom line: SERPs give users a choice to make. Page titles are an opportunity to make it easy for them. "Pick my site! Click here!" may be clever, but it isn't what your user is looking for.

So what's happening here?

Google is picking up the <title> tag of your page. It's that simple. The HTML title attribute is supported by w3c conventions, which Google pays close attention to. It's generally a safe bet to fall back on w3c guidelines if you're unsure about something. The goals of w3c and Google are the same; they both want a web experience that is standardized just enough to both support unique content and prevent unpleasant experiences (e.g. spam).

There is also a meta title attribute, often confused with the HTML title mentioned above. You should be familiar with the concept of meta data, even if you're just starting - there's another attribute for descriptions, which are actually useful because they appear in the SERPs. Meta title tags are not so useful. They won't be picked up by Google, and there's really no reason to include them.

To put it simply:

Use the <title> tag. Make it relevant to the content on the page and fewer than 70 characters if possible. Don't bother with <meta name="title" content="[page title]">. Thanks for trusting me on this.
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