Title rules: Give information a great title to boost your document management

Titles. The Macaulay Culkin of documents: left home alone. Almost no one fills them in while they can be so important:
– Provide more context to content
– Shown in search results

While reading an internal whitepaper at a client, I found a chapter detailing why titles are so important. I never really minded them. And so did you (if you are honest). That’s why, I am writing this piece here to defend titles.

How people scan a page when they search/read

Some excerpts from the NNGroup:

  • Showing summaries of many articles is more likely to draw in users than providing full articles, which can quickly exhaust reader interest.
  • Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half. A conventional layout is thus more likely to make sites profitable
  • Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold.
  • It’s better to use ’23’ than ‘twenty-three’ to catch users’ eyes when they scan Web pages for facts, according to eyetracking data.
  • Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.


Eyetracking research at NNGroup
Eyetracking research at NNGroup

These findings are probably not new to you. You don’t like to scroll yourself. You are so used with Google providing the best links first. Well guess what: so are your users.
So how can we provide the best results for our users? Let’s start with a good title.

Rules to craft a great title

Every webpage / document / item must have a unique title (throughout the organisation). If there is only to be one piece of metadata written, it absolutely must be the title.
No exceptions.

When writing the title, use the following rules:
1. Every webpage / document must have a unique title.
2. The title should be no more than 65 characters in length, which is approximately 8-10 words. There are three reasons for this:
a. Titles that are longer than ten words become much more difficult to scan.
b. Long titles generally reflect poor writing standards
c. Most search engines limit the result titles to around 60 characters
3. Every title tag has two core elements:
a. The heading for the webpage/ document.
b. The context of that webpage/ document. In other words, where that webpage fits in the overall classification.
4. The title must begin with what is unique about the page and then deliver the contextual information, and not the other way around—which is a very common mistake.
Example: For a page describing the latest financial data across the company the title should be
Financial performance, quarter 4 and year-end report: Group News & Communications

Group News & Communications: Financial performance, quarter 4 and year-end report
5.Omit punctuation marks and asterisks
6.Don’t worry about creating a grammatically correct sentence
7. Use & (ampersand) instead of “and” for better readability (Best practice used by Amazon and Wal-mart)

Document names

Now, if you are ready to start writing better titles, make sure you also deal with good document names to enhance the end user experience!

About: Marijn

Marijn Somers (MVP) has over 14 years experience in the SharePoint world, starting out with SP2007. Over the years the focus has grown to Office 365, with a focus on collaboration and document management. He is a business consultant at Balestra and Principal Content Provider for "Mijn 365 Coach" that offers dutch employee video training. His main work tracks are around user adoption, training and coaching and governance. He is also not afraid to dig deeper in the technicalities with PowerShell, adaptive cards or custom formatting in lists and libraries. You can listen to him on the biweekly "Office 365 Distilled" podcast.