SEO

How to Use Link TITLE Attribute Correctly

Using link TITLE attributes has become more popular since the rise of such widely used scripts as WordPress which by default duplicates the post title link in its TITLE attribute. Still, despite being the common behavior, this method of using TITLE attribute is both not right and annoying.

The title is not meant to be a duplication of the anchor text (related post: Image Alt Text Vs. Image Title). It’s supposed to provide additional / advisory information (expand on the meaning of the link). The anchor text is supposed to “name” the link, while the title text provides information about where the link will send the user. (especially with “click here” and “more” anchor text). Look:

<a href=”/ann-smarty/” title=”Author’s biography”>Ann Smarty</a>

OR

<a href=”/ann-smarty/” title=”More posts by Ann Smarty”>Ann Smarty</a>

Let’s first learn why we need to use TITLE attribute at all:

Link TITLE attribute for SEO: title attribute carries no weight on search engines (per my experience and based on other SEO’s opinion).

A couple of years ago, Googlers confirmed they did not use TITLE attribute in the algorithm because it was used too seldom. This has changes since then but I still failed to spot any evidence that link TITLE attribute somehow influenced the rankings (you can run a simple test: include any non-existent word – that doesn’t exist in Google index – as a link title, wait for the link to be indexed, and in some time check if either the linking or linked page got ranked for that word). Anyway, if your experience is different from mine, please share.

Link TITLE attribute for usability: in most browsers it will pop up when you hover over the link.

Thus there is no need to duplicate the anchor text in a title tag. If the title tag can’t provide more information, then don’t use it:

Do not add link titles to all links: if it is obvious from the link anchor and its surrounding context where the link will lead, then a link title will reduce usability by being one more thing users have to look at.

Exception: title attribute can copy the link text when not the full link text might be displayed (due to design limitations for example):

title usability How to Use Link TITLE Attribute Correctly

Link TITLE attribute for accessibility:

…visual browsers frequently display the title as a “tool tip” (a short message that appears when the pointing device pauses over an object). Audio user agents may speak the title information in a similar context. For example, setting the attribute on a link allows user agents (visual and non-visual) to tell users about the nature of the linked resource.

One should bear in mind that very often screen readers won’t read the title attribute, so if you put anything too vital in there, many users won’t hear it:

If the supplementary information provided through the title attribute is something the user should know before following the link, such as a warning, then it should be provided in the link text rather than in the title attribute.

For example, for acronyms you should both include a title attribute and provide a plain text expansion the first time it is used on the page.

Conclusions on TITLE attribute usage:

  • use it for your users, not search engines (this approach always pays back);
  • don’t duplicate it with link text (this hurts usability: for example some blind users will hear the same text twice);
  • don’t put too much weight on the title attributes as not all screenreaders may render it (make sure either surrounding text or anchor text explains the link at least the first time you use it).
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Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project, MyBlogGuest.com.
f8d69258525dec38624a29eb3d570d8c 64 How to Use Link TITLE Attribute Correctly

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31 thoughts on “How to Use Link TITLE Attribute Correctly

  1. So the bottom line is, don’t make your title attributes as keywords anchor; have it as descriptive for users.(rather than search engine)

  2. Thanks for the info. I thought I had found a new way to go better in searches by using more the title attribute.
    It looks like I was wrong again. Usually my theories are wrong :D

  3. Many wordpress themes has the predefined tiitle attribute as link name. We need to customize it!

    Touchy line – “some blind users will hear the same text twice”

  4. Thanks for demystifying the myth of using the same title and anchor text.
    But I think using different keyphrases for anchor text and title can improve the ranking of a website in search engines. If nobody has a proof in its favor then nobody has a proof against it also.

  5. Perfect timing to find this article. I was giving my blog an SEO facelift and searching specifically for whether or not search engines place value on the title attribute.

    Good to know that they do not – at least for the moment. Another victory for users.

  6. I still use the title tags a bit ‘keyword spammy’ like, but it makes sense when you highlite the link / image link with the mouse.

  7. Nice common sense approach. Bottom line is that you probably should design as much for users as possible. I like to use the title to warn of a PDF or big file because reading it inline always breaks my train of thought.

    I can see some limited applications in areas where highly technical data is also at the link, say in a footnote, but for intrasite linking and most garden variety links, the process just adds time and may actually strike your visitor as a little too slick.

  8. Gott sei dank bin ich auf Ihren Artikel gestossen! Ich habe mir alles übersetzt und werde mich in den nächsten Wochen an die Arbeit machen, alle meine Links mit Titel-Tags zu versehen. Danke sehr!

  9. ok. so link titles wont help much form the seo point of view. might not emphasize on this from now on.
    thanks for sharing.

  10. Hmm, i would suggest that the title attribute would have some effect in regards to SEO, since some keywords / -phrases are listed there, it adds the keyword density. So google won’t lay special attention to it, I still asume it does read it, be it as normal text (this is unconfirmed though). can somebody comment on that?

  11. “(you can run a simple test: include any non-existent word – that doesn’t exist in Google index – as a link title, wait for the link to be indexed, and in some time check if either the linking or linked page got ranked for that word)”

    Hi Ann

    Did you run this test yourself? What were your findings?

  12. Nice one! Now if only they would last longer or persist. Title tooltips in todays browsers are virtually unusable if you have anything that takes longer than 3 seconds to read. They disappear! A dumb feature. Why would they not make these persist?

    Cheers!

  13. …oh and by the way…it’s rather funny how your own website entirely contradicts what you’re saying. Your home page does exatly this…replicates the anchors contents in the title attributes. See your home page to the left where the items scroll for an example of what I mean.

    At least try and practice what you preach.

    Regards.

  14. And don’t even other using a title tag in anchor where an image, and the image has a title. The image title will override the anchor title.

  15. Nice article, I was not sure what the purpose was for link title tags. Your article made alot of sense. I have decided to use title tags for my navigation menu atop my website. Now the generic terms such as “Blog, Glossary, FAQ” can have some descriptions for users “Foreclosure Blog,Foreclosure Glossary,etc” in the title tag.

    Has anyone tested to see if an oddball keyword in the link title tag shows up in the serps ?

    Thanks for the post…

  16. Thanks for the explanation. The term “title attribute” had me a bit confused, as “attribute” implies something else in another context, but I guess if they called it the “title title”, that would be even more confusing, and redundant!

  17. Thanks for the explanation. The term “title attribute” had me a bit confused, as “attribute” implies something else in another context, but I guess if they called it the “title title”, that would be even more confusing, and redundant!

  18. Great! Just when i was about to start using title attribute i find out reasons not to use it.
    Does anyone know how this can be applied for BCC code? – I Have so many “Click Here” links to describe

  19. Thank you for the information Ann. I had no idea what the ‘title attribute’ was used for until I read this. I took note of what you stated about the SEO functionality. SO, I guess at this point its just a super short description of what the reader can expect to read on the page. Thanks once again. Sumant

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