Most people who use GOV.UK start with a search engine. Use the same vocabulary as your audience so they can find your content. This begins with your page title and summary.
If people cannot find your page or understand the content, they will not be able to act on it or know it’s for them.
Make your title unique
Titles on GOV.UK must be unique and informative so that users know which page they are on.
Duplicate titles can confuse users - for example if they have more than one page open. This is particularly true for those with visual, cognitive or mobility impairments.
If you use the same title as another page on GOV.UK, you may be breaking the law.
In Whitehall Publisher, a message appears at the top of your content after you save it if the title is already being used: ‘This title is already used on GOV.UK. Please create a unique title’.
In Content Publisher, you should check whether the title is already in use before you publish your content for the first time. You can tell if this is the case by checking if the url it creates has a number at the end (for example ‘/news-story-1’).
In Manuals Publisher, you will not get a warning that the title is already being used. You’ll need to search for the title you want to use to check it’s not already in use.
Check your title makes sense
Your title should make sense:
- by itself – for example ‘Regulations’ does not say much, but ‘Regulations for environmental waste’ does
- in search results
- in collections
Titles do not have to reflect the official publication title. Make them user focused, clear and descriptive so that users can distinguish if it’s the right content for them.
Find out what the public calls your content by using search tools to look up keywords. Your scheme, organisation or process’s official or internal name may not be what the public calls it.
- Check searches on GOV.UK for any related content. This can tell you what people are struggling to find.
- Once you know the most popular keywords you can prioritise them in the title, summary, introduction and subheadings
Good title example: Bereavement Allowance (previously widow’s pension)
Good summary example: Bereavement Allowance (previously widow’s pension) is a weekly benefit for widows, widowers or surviving civil partners - rates, eligibility, claim form.
Keep your title short, where possible
Your title should be 65 characters or less (including spaces).
You can use more than 65 characters if it’s essential for making the title clear or unique, but do not do this routinely because:
- Google cuts off the rest of the title after 65 characters
- longer titles are harder to understand
Make your titles clear and descriptive
The title should provide full context so that users can easily see if they’ve found what they’re looking for.
By being general about a topic, you leave the user asking ‘what is this in relation to?’
Bad title example: Hazardous waste - new process
Give the user context around the topic and what this content will tell them:
Good title example: How to dispose of hazardous waste in your area
Avoid saying the same thing twice (tautologies)
Repeating yourself in the title uses up valuable characters that could be used to give more information.
Bad title example: Using and submitting your business expenses
Good title example: Submitting your business expenses
Using ‘ing’ in titles
Use the active verb (‘Submit’) if you use the page to do the thing.
Good form title example: Submit your business expenses
Use the present participle (‘Submitting’) if the page is about doing the thing, but you do it elsewhere.
Good guidance title example: Submitting your business expenses
Do not include the format type in the title
Do not include the name of the format type, such as ‘guidance’ or ‘consultation’, because it appears automatically at the top of a publication. This will free up space to tell the user what the content is about.
Bad title example: Consultation on furniture fire safety regulations
It’s better to use the title to explain exactly what the consultation is for.
Good title example: Amendments to furniture fire safety regulations
Bad title example: Potato guidance
It’s better to explain what the document is about, not its format:
Good title example: How to grow potatoes
Some content types have a specific style, such as:
Remove the date unless it makes the title unique
Put the date in the title if the page is part of a series that has the same title.
For example, a list of annual reports:
Title: Government annual report 2020
Title: Government annual report 2019
Title: Government annual report 2018
It’s helpful to include the date range if you publish multiple versions of the same information for different periods of time.
Do not include your department name unless it makes the title unique
Only add your department or agency name to the title if the content is about your department – for example annual reports or corporate information.
Title example: Highways Agency environmental strategy
On its own, ‘Environmental strategy’ could apply to any department or agency. In this case, it’s better to add the department name to differentiate it.