Crafting Good Document Titles

Document titles have to cover a lot – from the features and/or products covered, to optimizing search relevancy, and if in a downloadable format – helping the user find that document on their desktop three months from now.

Issues to Consider in Titles

Primary issues to consider when crafting your doc title:

  • Quick scannability – On a busy website with many documents, you need titles that show some level of uniqueness such that customers can scan down the long list and find which of those documents they need.
  • Limited length – Studies show readers remember 5-8 words. Anything longer than that and they’ve forgotten key elements. Keep doctitles short.
  • Avoid search truncation – Google truncates search results after 65 characters. Search your existing titles on google and see what they look like before redesigning the title.
    Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
    Image via CrunchBase

Recommendations for Document Titles

  • Start titles with the most important trigger words.  This will vary by product/project. If you have 10 related documents on a website, and they all start with the same phrase “Grandma’s Secret Recipe – Noodle soup”, Grandma’s Secret Recipe – Hot Dog Surprise”, it’s harder for your readers to scan for the recipe they want.  Start instead with the recipe name… keep it simple.
  • Keep titles short – “Grandma’s Secret Recipe Passed Down From Generation to Generation for Hot Dog Suprise” is very long and gets trucated on Google searches.
  • Review your existing  titles on your website and google searches and make the best decision for your documents. There is likely not ONE set of rules we can apply across all our varied documents. Look at what you have today and figure out what makes each document or link unique, what is your reader deciding on to choose one document over the other?  Make that the start of your document title.
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About Sandra Durham

Information architect and content strategist.
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2 Responses to Crafting Good Document Titles

  1. Pingback: Words on a page » Blog Archive » A few links for the end of the week - A blog about writing, in its various forms

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