Best Practices for Page Titles and Short Descriptions

Aim for titles that are unique, specific, and easy to understand.

Page Titles

Page titles should be unique, specific, and easy to understand. Try to use plain language that your audience might enter in to a search engine in order to look for your page. Know that a user might see the page title first, before visiting an organization or a service page, so it’s important that page titles are able to stand on their own without added context.

For this reason, vague or broad titles should be avoided. Instead of using a page title like “Forms” or “Resources” that could mean many different things, try being as exact as possible.

  • What forms or resources?

  • How might someone use them?

This will help your audience find your page more easily, set expectations right away, and will cut down on the number of people who land on your page by mistake. These efforts can reduce the amount of negative feedback your page receives.

While it’s important to be specific in your page titles, take care not to make them too long. Google search results pages cut off page titles at 70 characters.

A Google search results page with a title that’s longer than 70 characters.

Titles that are longer than 70 characters will be flagged in the Page title field in the CMS.

You can publish a page with a title that is longer than 70 characters, but if you do, make sure key information is in the beginning of the title. That way, people will know what the page is about even if they don’t see the entire title on a Google search results page.

If your unique title is long, you can always rewrite it to be shorter or more general when using it in link text on other content types.

When creating a new page, you may want to search the “All Content” tab for pages that are already using your desired title. It’s possible that another organization has already created the page you need. In these cases, it’s almost always better to simply link to the existing page rather than creating a near-identical duplicate page. Pages can be linked to more than one organization or service.

Short Descriptions

The short description is your opportunity to add meaningful, high-level details and context that didn’t fit in your page title. Since the short description will show up in most search engine results, you can use it to include key words or phrases on your page that will increase its search engine optimization. Ideally, your page title, short description, and overview will work together to paint a full picture of what a user will be able to do or learn on your page, and why the page is important, without being repetitive.

A page's short description will often appear in search engine results.

While short descriptions are a great opportunity to add clarity to your page, it is important to keep them to one or two sentences at most. Longer descriptions will add to page length and increase the amount of time it will take for a user to scroll to find your page content, especially on mobile devices.

You can always test what your page looks like on different devices before publishing by either shrinking your browser window, or by loading the draft page on a smart phone or tablet.

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