How Title Tag Changes Ignited 36% Organic (Google) Traffic Growth For This SEO Client — A Search Engine Optimization Case Study
Search engine optimization experts all know that changing title tags on pages has a positive effect on driving more Google traffic. But, I’ve yet to find any good research or case studies that specifically validate this claim or explain how much this change affects rankings and click results. No articles specifically demonstrate this widely-claimed and agreed-upon outcome.
So, we’re gonna dive into a series of examples where changing the title tag causes a specific positive effect, so that we can expand the edge of the internet with information it does not yet have (or is at least hard to find).
In this article, I’m sharing reporting for an SEO title tag change client project that resulted in steady and then exponential growth from unexpected subsequent opportunities.
I'll start at the high level of the project, and then I'll dive into some of the specific pages that blew up, in a good way.
Here's an outline of where we're going. Feel free to click on the title to jump right to the section you want to see now.
Table of Contents
- First: What is a Title Tag?
- Overall Traffic Trends: Title Tag Change Project
- The Long Tail: Little Changes Add Up
- Broad Effect After More Title Changes Rolled Out
- Sometimes It Takes Two: Twice Made Title Tag Changes Increases Reach
- Shotgun Blast or Sniper Rifle?
- What Best Practices Can We Learn From This Project?
A. Interested in a Title Tag Change Audit For Your Content Library?
If you are unsure how to evaluate your content library and identify the title changes that will drive the results and collect the data you need, reach out, and let's explore working together.
B. Or, Do It Yourself With Montoya's SEO School (Online Course)
In my online and on-demand SEO training program, I dive into each facet of SEO, including title tag changes, in bite-size videos along with notes and checklists for streamlining your SEO process. This program will help you do SEO that makes an impact you can see.
For those new to the topic, a title tag is a line of text that is inside a set of HTML tags labeled “title”. This title is the text visible in the tab of your browser and is often the phrase search engines use for naming the results that are displayed.
In Joomla, the title is something you can edit easily in the article options tab. In WordPress, you'll need an extension to edit this tag, like Yoast.
Now that you know what is a title tag, the rest of this post is dedicated to helping answer the following question: Does changing the page title affect SEO? And if it does affect search engine rankings, how much?
What you’ll discover in this post is why SEO specialists, like myself, tend to start SEO projects where we're working with existing content libraries, with a title tag audit and optimization project.
The results speak for themselves.
For this client, we started optimizing title tags in August 2022. In the graph above, you can see the gradual rise towards the end of the year.
While the changes were primarily title tag changes, five blog posts were merged with URL changes alongside the title tag changes. All but one merge was two blogs made into one and one instance of three blogs merged into one. Most of the project was title tag changes, but I wanted to caveat these results with this merging project.
On December 22nd, 2022 we rolled out title tag changes across another 144 pages. We updated 29 title tags on January 11th, 2023, 7 on February 17th, 2023, and 12 on March 22nd, 2023.
By unexpectedly optimizing specific content around several page topics, we had a huge uptick in February (because February, in American society, was dedicated to the topic) which blew away the growth we had in our first several months. While it dipped back down as the month ended and fewer people were searching for that content, there was still a large number of visitors sustained from Google.
When we compare the organic traffic from August 1, 2023, to the year prior, we saw a 36% growth. 10,837 users compared to 7,993 users.
A large part of the reason this client had such fast and significant growth was because of how rich their content was already. If their existing content was of poor quality, the growth we have seen would have been much smaller, or not at all. So, it's important to note that title tags can make a difference, but how much is determined by the content richness.
It's also important to note that the title tags used before the update were simply a copy of the headline. So, not only did we change these title tags, but we also made the title tag unique from the headline. These two factors are important to consider when working on your SEO projects.
Page Example #1
We had an article that included images throughout and 1,500 words. It's a rich article with seasonal relevance. This page was published in June 2020. From my experience, it takes 4-10 months for a page to settle into its spot on Google.
Below, we'll walk through the organic traffic from each year.
2020 Unique Pageviews
2021 Unique Pageviews
2023 Google Clicks and Impressions
Page Example #2
Let’s look at another article with stellar improvement. This article example includes images throughout and the text is about 1,100 words long.
On December 22nd, 2022 we made the changes to this blog post that was originally published on June 18th, 2020. Let's see what traffic looked like in the years prior.
What about small gains?
Because title tag changes are relatively easy and fast to make, often the gains can be found in a handful of visitors across hundreds of pages. These gains are good and also seeds for potentially more gains in the future.
In the page from the graph above, we updated the page title tag on February 17th, 2023 and you can see a steady growth in both impressions and clicks throughout the rest of the year. The climb has not yet plateaued so this climb could continue in 2024.
23 of those 69 clicks were in the last 3 months which is 7-8 visitors per month. If that persists over a year, that's 90 visitors. For certain content, that could be a game-changer, like if it’s directly correlated to lead generation.
And, it's also valuable when these small gains across a large swath of content. If we increase Google traffic across 100 pages by 5 visitors per month, that's 500 more visitors to your website. If 100 title tag changes took only 10-20 hours, that could be a terrific ROI.
From June to early August 2023, we saw a universal decline for two reasons. The big events driving a large number of traffic were ending and we also launched a new micro-site, migrating 25 blog posts and multiple landing pages to this microsite. Many of these posts were some of our top-performing pages.
We had to build back up our traffic from this new baseline. We did another 38 title tag changes in late June 2023, 83 title tag changes in late August, and 44 title tag changes in late October.
We see in the graph above a rise in September and then again in November. This site had such a rich content library that each round of title tag optimizations continued to drive up traffic.
For this next page, we made a title tag change in December 2022.
You can see that change drove a boost, but then it collapsed. It then regrew for a few months after collapsing again. Despite this mixed result, what this did give us was more data to capture the growth opportunity.
We used that information to inform a second title tag tweak. It's after that change that we see the biggest climb to new heights without a collapse at the far right of the graph. We see this dynamic play out on another page.
In December 2022, we changed the title on it. In August 2023, we made the change again.
To improve traction fast and profoundly, the question arises, should we go precise and just update certain page titles or should we do them all?
There are two primary benefits of title tag change projects. The first is the obvious desired one; more search traffic. The second is insightful data. With a new page, we can do keyword research to estimate and target keywords, but it’s the actual data that gives us precision and clarity of opportunity.
So, if we're going to update all title tags for the benefit and data, we'll want to make sure we prioritize them so that the most likely positive effect changes are done early and the least likely are done last. With this prioritization, we could simply start at the top priority and never roll out the changes as the priority level drops, if we want to limit the project scope.
In most cases, the data is worth updating title tags on all pages. If you only need the results and have a massive content library, a strategic and focused effort could be the better approach.
Want These Types of Results in Your Marketing?
Reach out and let's explore how title tag changes can grow your search traffic.
Or, Learn How To Do It Yourself With Montoya's SEO School (Online Course)
Learn how to optimize your website for the search engines by learning the fundamentals and specific ways to make an impact, today; title tag changes included.
It's important to remember that Google likes when pages are updated. This is an indication that the content is maintained: demonstrating a difference between content that is actively updated and that which is abandoned. That will be a factor in these changes.
- Some of the universal increases in reach and clicks you see above were a result of a handful of blog content merges.
Content Creation Lessons Learned
Rich and relevant content will garner more traffic organically over multiple years: Even without the title tag changes, these rich blog posts were growing already. Rich growing content is prime for explosive growth with the right title tags at the right time. From my prior research and experience, it takes 4-10 months for a page to rank high on Google. This case study illuminates that it can take as long as 17 months for a content piece to climb to the top ranks.
Title tag changes collect large amounts of data which can be leveraged to increase effectiveness and illuminate content creation opportunities
Title Tag Change Lessons Learned
Title tag changes help drive more Google traffic
Title tag changes can have a dramatic and quick effect
These changes can reveal seasonal opportunities and position us to take advantage of them
Sometimes a single title tag change will improve the page, but a second, or even more, will be required to capture that rising traffic fully
Because title tag changes are easy and fast, and their effect is quick and positive, changing a large volume of titles across a website will have a collectively dramatic and positive effect
Work With An SEO Acquisition Specialist
When you're ready to activate these SEO benefits, contact me and we can explore how best to approach title tag changes with your website.
Or, Master Search Engine Optimization With My Online Course
Regardless of whether you don't have the resources to work with me or you want to bring the project in-house, this SEO online course will walk you and your team through the various ways to optimize your site for Google starting with high-impact and low-effort activities.
In a world of ever-increasing use of ChatGPT and similar AI-tool written content, this type of blog post I've published here is the type of unique article that will set your content apart from others.
The more specific and data-oriented you can get, especially when little or nothing exists online, the more opportunity you have to rank high on Google when there is demand for the type of content.
Broadly speaking, all SEO experts say that title tag changes improve rankings, but I've yet to see the rule-of-thumb advice demonstrated. I call this gap the "edge of the internet" and in those cases, I've expanded that edge to include these insights. Where you do so yourself, you'll maximize your opportunities.
Social Media Sharing Graphics
Below, are some highlight graphics for sharing these insights on social media.
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