Mythbusting: Keyword Placement in the Title Tag


Andrew Steven
April 1, 2019


How do you write a great title tag? If you take a look at the full explanation of title tags from the MOZ SEO Learning center [2019 SEO], you will find that one of the recommendations for writing a good title tag is to put important keywords first. Based on MOZ’s testing and experience, the author suggests that keywords placed closer to the beginning of the title may positively affect ranking.

Since meta title tag is one of the major factors in helping search engines understand what a page is about, we decided to scientifically prove whether the position of the keyword affects rankings by placing the target keyword in various places in the meta title. You might be astonished by what we discovered, so make sure to stick around till the end of the blog post!

We set up the test like this..

 Myth: Putting the target keyword first in your meta title gives you an SEO advantage

The goal was to find whether the position of the keyword in the meta title gives an SEO edge. We set up three identical pages with the test keyword placed in the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the title tag. In order to ensure the consistency of the results, we repeated the test using an additional keyword. 

                                                                                           June 6th

                                                                                           June 15th

                                                                                           June 27th

Still no movement of the test page.

Here is what we discovered

After running two tests with different target keywords, we discovered that keywords in the middle/end of the title tag always beat keywords at the beginning. More specifically, the placement of the keyword at the end won in both tests.

Keyword 1

Rank #1: Keyword at the end

Rank #2: Keyword in the middle

Rank #3: Keyword at the beginning

Keyword 2

Rank #1: Keyword at the end

Rank #2: Keyword at the beginning

Rank #3: Keyword in the middle

Final Takeaway

The myth of positioning the keyword first in your meta title for an SEO edge is busted: there is no SEO benefit to a particular keyword placement in the title tag. It's also possible, though unlikely, that putting the keyword at the beginning might be a negative factor. 

The test results showed that the keyword placed at the end of the meta title ranked first. In our opinion, the main takeaway is that the position of the keyword in the title tag doesn’t really matter. However, it’s critically important to generally have your target keyword appear somewhere within the meta title tag.

About the author 

Andrew Steven

Andrew has been building and managing SEO teams since 2008 where he led the largest SEO firm in Australia. Since meeting Kyle and partnering to form High Voltage SEO Andrew has been Kyle Roof’s man behind the scenes and together with Maria Dubretic have since co-founded the SEO tool PageOptimizer Pro. Andrew wishes he could stop dreaming about digital marketing in his sleep and would love to hear from anyone who has a cure for this.

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