Creating the Right Title for a Web Page

Choosing the right title is a crucial factor in helping people find and understand the content you create on the website. This applies to all content on the Libraries’ website including:

  • basic pages
  • subject posts
  • subject concentrations
  • news and events
  • PDF files

The title is used in several ways, particularly for generating the URL and for determining how your content will appear in search results (both within the Libraries’ website and in external search engines like Google).

Page URL:

Drupal automatically uses your page title to create the URL, omitting any punctuation included in the title and inserting hyphens between words. For example:

You will notice that if the page title is very long, the URL is also very long. For frequently-cited pages (for example, if the URL will be used as part of a publicity campaign, or if it is likely to be given over the phone), we recommend using a short page title, so the URL will be short as well. If that’s not possible, DRS can create an alternative URL upon request. For example, the Herman B Wells Library has the URL http://libraries.indiana.edu/wells.

If multiple items have the same title, Drupal will automatically append numbers so that the URL is unique. For example, we currently have the following on our site:

If you create a new item (page, concentration, etc.) and notice that Drupal has appended a number to your URL, you should reconsider your title!

When a URL is changed, Drupal automatically creates a redirect so that if a user has a link or bookmark to the old URL, they will be sent directly to the new one. In the Wells example above, the URL http://libraries.indiana.edu/herman-b-wells-library will still work. So don’t hesitate to edit your page title.

(NOTE: If you change your title and then change it back to the original, you will create an “infinite loop” in which the site redirects to the old title, then back to the new one, which redirects to the old one, and so on. If you are logged into the site, you will see an error message to this effect. Users who are not logged in will get an “access denied” error. If this happens, contact DRS – libweb@indiana.edu – and we can fix it.)

If you have an item for which the auto-generated URL has a number at the end, and you’ve determined that there is no longer another page with the same title – if the other page(s) have been deleted – DRS can edit the URL to remove the number upon request. A redirect will be created so that anyone who has the numbered URL linked or bookmarked won’t be left behind.

Search Results:

Title is a critical element in helping your users understand their search results and find the content that will be most helpful to them. This is especially important for subject concentrations, which do not include any descriptive summary within search results:

screenshot of website search results for "history"

“European History” gives the user a clue as to whether this link will be useful to them or not; the ones just titled “History” are a mystery until one actually clicks on them. Similarly, a concentration title of “Food” would suggest that this might be where you can find information about food availability in the libraries; “Food Studies” is much more descriptive. (Although search results are labeled with their content type, e.g. “Basic Page” or “Concentration,” these may go unnoticed or may not be meaningful to some users.)

Your title should give some context for your content. When users find your page via search, they do not have the additional context of your subject guide or division landing page to help them understand what they are looking at – they won’t know what department, unit, or subject your content refers to, so they may think it pertains to the Libraries as a whole. What does your content specifically pertain to? What is the page about? Who is it intended for?

“How to Find Science E-books” – NOT “E-books”

“Upcoming Events in the Wells Library” – NOT “Library Events”

“Contact the Discovery & Research Services Dept” – NOT “Contact Us”

Note: Titles that are too long may be truncated in search results, so keep your titles reasonably concise and put the most important keywords early in the title if possible. A maximum of 65 characters is a good goal. Subject concentration titles should be shorter – aim for four or five words at most if possible.

Additional Reading:

“Introducing Your Content: Page Titles and Headings” – Rick Allen http://meetcontent.com/blog/introducing-content-page-titles-headings/

This is an excellent, thorough overview of things to think about when creating page titles, with a higher ed focus and some helpful examples.

 

Author- Anne Haines

Web Content Specialist in the Discovery & User Experience Department, IU Libraries. I've spoken at events including edUi, Confab Central, Confab Higher Ed, IOLUG, ILF, the IU Libraries' Digital Library Brown Bag series, and the Libraries' In-House Institute. You can find me hanging out at the intersection of content strategy and librarianship, singing a doo-wop song under the streetlight. Follow me on Twitter: @annehaines