Title tag is the most important part of your web page, which is normally neglected by most webmasters and designers, in fact there are few SEOs who think optimizing “Title Tag” is worthless. Title tag plays very important role in page optimization and in this article you’ll learn how to optimize it.
What Is The Title Tag?
It’s an HTML tag use as a title or heading of the web page, it shows input text on the blue bar at the web page, it is declared at the beginning of the webpage under head tag.
Example: <title>Your Home Page Title</title>
Why Is The Title Tag Important?
Title tag is the most important tag, almost all search engines evaluate webpage with title tag and check the relevancy with other elements of the page as well, and search engines also present results of a search by displaying webpage titles as links in the first line of each query result.
Tips To Write Effective Page Title:
- Try to place your most important keyword phrase at the beginning of the tag
- Use your primary keyword phrase in the title tag at least once
- Avoid using the same words multiple times
- Use plural form of keyword phrase, specially which includes complete singular word in it (Example: manufacturers)
- Use sentence case for keyword phrase but keep preposition in lower case
- Keep your title tag’s limit under 70 to 90 characters, longer sentences won’t give any value but they can be hurdle in deep crawl of your web page
- Avoid using special characters such as ! @ # $ ^ & * ( }[ | ? /
- Avoid using stopping words such as or, and , with, for, by, etc
- Use unique title tag for each page, since each page has unique content
- Make your title interesting and “compelling” to the reader to convince them why they should click there
How I despise those awful, cheesy pages promoting the “secrets” of search engine optimization. How I loathe the slick salesman pictured in fuzzy, 1980′s-style photography promising you “the hidden tactics SEOs don’t wan’t you to know.” When most search folks think of the “ultimate secret” in SEO,” they probably think about one of these:
- Keywords in the Title Tag
- Spiderable Links & Content
- Anchor Text in Links
- Links from Quality Websites
Those are all good pieces of advice, and important to high rankings, but even the last one (links from quality websites) doesn’t convey the most important part of successful ranking campaigns. If there is one key to high search engine rankings, a single piece of advice that unlocks the door to the top of Google & Yahoo! it’s this: Your website must appeal to a link-savvy audience.
Simple? Sadly, no. The truth is that the very best website in the world that sells your product, offers your content or promotes your cause may not be good enough to make it to the top of the engines. Why? Because the world of search has an inherent bias to those sites with more links. It’s not enough to build links now through manual link requests or link buying, nor is it enough to bolster these link acquisitions with a flawlessly “optimized” website filled with keyword-targeted pages. These strategies, while effective in the short term, won’t guarantee you success in the long run. To have a shot at keeping the top positions for years to come, you need a strategy that naturally drives links to your site again and again. The “secret” is that the audience most sites appeal to is NOT the same audience that provides links, yet this group (the Linkerati) has the power to make or break a site’s rankings.
Let’s walk through a brief history of search engines to see how this happened:
No, Hotbot Monster, back in the early days, you really weren’t. Measuring repetition of keywords and keyword placement and density led to some pretty bad results and a lot of cloaking and spamming.
With the arrival of Google’s PageRank and Apostolos Gerasoulis’ Teoma (now called ExpertRank), the search engines got smarter, mapping the link patterns of the web and giving higher ranks to those sites & pages with more inbound links.
Over the last 8 years, the engines have been refining the way they measure links, taking into account context, relevance, trust and other metrics to help indicate which links are worth counting towards a particular ranking.
All of this algorithmic evolution means that sites wishing to rank at the top of the engines must have high quality, naturally given, topically relevant links. Since search rankings are so valuable, massive amounts of time and money pour into campaigns for the most competitive queries, making the struggle for placement increasingly difficult. This brings us to the fundamental issue that site creators struggle against – segmenting visitors accurately and appealing to the “Linkerati.”
Above are three groups of visitors, applicable to nearly every commercial or goal-oriented website in existence. While most sites do a reasonable job identifying and targeting the 2nd group (in blue) from the first (in green), this isn’t the case with the 3rd group (in red). Those red Llinkerati are essential to your site’s rankings – they are the great “secret” of long-term SEO success. In order to leverage their power, you must create compelling content that appeals to their desires. This really is no “secret” at all. In every interview and on every stage, you’ll hear representatives from Google, Yahoo!, MSN & Ask repeat this same mantra (albeit without the benefit of colorful diagrams). As an example:
“…the sort of people who have been doing “new” SEO, or whatever you want to call it, that’s social media optimization, link bait, things that are interesting to people and attract word of mouth and buzz, those sorts of sites naturally attract visitors, attract repeat visitors, attract back links, attract lots of discussion, those sorts of sites are going to benefit as the world goes forward.” – Matt Cutts in an interview with Gord Hotchkiss
Why are these Linkerati so powerful? What makes their opinions and influence so important to average website owners? Easy – the power to control the web’s link structure.
The web’s content may still be overwhelmingly commercial and organizational in scope, controlled by exceutives at companies, museum curators, government taxonomists, etc. But, the link landscape of the web, particularly those links that point externally from sites, are dominated by the Linkerati. If your competitors or even organizations like Wikipedia, About.com, niche bloggers or industry news publications become more popular with the Linkerati than you, how can you ever expect to compete for search engine rankings?
This is the great “secret” of SEO – that (at least) some content on your website must be targeted to the Linkerati – fulfilling their unquenchable thirst for new material to link to and share and spread virally. Although they may be a vastly different population than your customers, you need their respect and approval in order to continue to draw in targeted leads from the engines.
It’s been a while since I provided some straightforward, back to basics style advice and there can be little doubt that the title tag is worthy of attention for beginners and experts alike. And so I present…
How to Make the Best Title Tag Possible:
- Brand your traffic
Use the title of your site or brand at the beginning or end of every title tag to help searchers know where they’re going and to increase return visits. If you’re struggling to find justification for this component, think of all the ad studies showing that consumers are willing to pay more for a “brand name” product than an off-brand or store brand item of the same type – apply this logic to the SERPs and you’ll find that users will go further down the rankings to click on a “trusted” brand.
- Limit length to 65 characters (including spaces) or less
There’s no reason to cut off the last word and have it replaced with a “…” Note that the engines have fluctuated recently and Google, in particular, is now supporting up to 70 characters in some cases.
- Incorporate keyword phrases
This one may seem obvious, but it’s critical that whatever your keyword research shows as being the most valuable for capturing searches gets prominently included in your title tag. It doesn’t have to be the first words, but it should be the semantic and logical center of attention.
- Target longer phrases if they’re relevant
When choosing what keywords to include in a title tag, I often like to use as many as are completely relevant to the page at hand, while remaining accurate and descriptive. Thus, it can be much more valuable to have a title tag like “SkiDudes | Downhill Skiing Equipment & Accessories” rather than simply “SkiDudes | Skiing Equipment” – including those additional terms that are both relevant to the page and receive significant search traffic can bolster your page’s value. However, if you have a separate landing page for “Skiing accessories” than for “equipment,” then you shouldn’t include one term in the other’s title – you’ll be cannibalizing your rankings by forcing the engines to choose which page on your site is more relevant.
- Use a divider
When splitting up the brand from the descriptive, I like to use the “|” symbol (aka the pipe bar). Others choose the arrow “>” or hyphen “-” and both work well. At times, however, I’ve found it useful to use the arrow or hyphen inside a title tag, as with a title like “SEO | SEM | Articles and Keyword Research – A Beginner’s Guide” hence my love of the pipe bar.
- Focus on clickthrough & conversion rates
The title tag is exceptionally similar to the title you might write for paid search ads, only it’s harder to measure and improve because the stats aren’t provided for you as easily. However, if you’ve got a market that is relatively stable in search volume week-to-week, you can do some testing with your title tags and improve the clickthrough. Watch your analytics and, if it makes sense, buy search ads on the page as well – even if it’s just for a week or two, it can make a huge difference in the long run. A word of warning, though – be wary that you don’t focus entirely on CTR. Remember to continue measuring conversion rates. As MindValley Labs showed us, a lower CTR can sometimes be the better choice due to a higher conversion rate.
- Target searcher intent
When you’re writing titles for web pages, keep in mind the search terms your audience employed to reach your site. If the intent is browsing or research-based, a more descriptive title tag is appropriate. If you’re reasonably sure the intent is a purchase, download or other action, make it clear in your title that this function can be performed at your site, i.e. “SkiDudes | View Snowboard Sizing Chart” or “SkiDudes | Buy Discount Snoqualmie Pass Lift Tickets”
- Be consistent
Once you’ve determined a good formula for your pages in a given section or area of your site, stick to that regimen – you’ll find that as you become a trusted and successful “brand” in the SERPs, users will seek out your pages on a subject area and have expectations that you’ll want to fulfill.
- Repeat in the headline
Re-using the title tag of each page as the H1 header tag can be valuable from both a keyword targeting standpoint and a user experience improvement. Users who go to a page from the SERPs will have the expectation of finding the title they clicked – deliver and you’ve fulfilled that obligation. Users will be more likely to stay on a page they’re reasonably certain fits their intended goal or query.
Any other suggestions that you’d like to include? Disagreements? Valuable links I should point to?
In Rebecca’s Fresh Egg Internship experience, she mentioned a disagreement that Ammon Johns (Internet Marketing legend and someone I consider a mentor) and I have on the issue of brand names in title tags. The dispute centers around how a company’s brand name should be used in their title tags:
Ammon’s Strategy – Put the brand name first in the title tag of the home page, but at the end of the title tag on any interior pages. Thus, Amazon.com’s title tags might read: “Sony 46″ Bravia Televisions – Amazon.com”
Rand’s Strategy – If it’s a short brand name (not “Washington Mutual Bank” for example), always have the brand name preceed the content. So, in my view, Amazon’s title tag would read – “Amazon.com – Sony 46″ Bravia Televisions”
It seems like a small area to have a debate about, but both sides bring up good points.
- You can fit more keywords into the visible portion of the title tag
- Users only read the first few words of a title tag and are searching for information about a subject/product/etc, not a brand
- Bookmark usability is far higher with descriptive title tags rather than brand-first tags
- The brand at the beginning serves to help remind the user of where they’re going and who’s providing the service – yeah, it’s beating them on the head a bit to have it on every page, but branding is an exposure-based system. Note the studies that say most TV ads have no recall until they’ve been viewed 7 or more times…
- Having the brand first in the SERPs can make a user who knows/loves your brand choose you over results that may rank above you – think of the times you search for a product and see a C|Net review or an Epicurious recipe. Assuming those are brands you like, you’re far more inclined to click them than a dodgy brand/URL you’ve never seen before. Brands carry inherent trust.
- Even if users don’t click you in the SERPs, seeing your brand front and center dozens of times over many searches will show them that you’re a strong brand, and brand recognition will follow. Sites like Expedia, Craigslist, Epinions and even, I’d argue, SEOmoz, have built brand recognition in this way.
For my caveat, I’d probably not put the brand name first in several of the clients Ammon was working on. I’d conceed the point that it’s not as valuable in many areas – just look at the title tags for our client, Avatar.
What’s your verdict? Is there a hard and fast rule? Should I be won over by Ammon’s years of experience and multiple strong points?
p.s. Somehow, I forgot to mention that Ammon is talking about this very same topic on the Fresh Egg Blog… Thanks to Kevgibbo for the reminder.
Check out this stellar example of how the major search engines display results for Netflix’s home page.
We see a high level of variation because while Ask & Google use the title and meta description directly from Netflix, Yahoo! and MSN are pulling data from the Yahoo! directory and DMOZ (respectively). I’d bet $50 that Netflix could get a 20%+ boost in their CTR at MSN simply by using the NOODP tag?
Currently, there’s no way to opt out of the Yahoo! directory listing. We’ve been trying to do it with one client for almost two years, but they won’t throw us out even when we don’t pay our dues! Someone at Yahoo! needs to fix that issue.
As search engines start to use metrics like CTR in the SERPs, you might lose more than just eyeballs – you’ll slide in rankings to boot. Here’s the strategy I’d recommend – look at your top 20-100 search referral phrases for the year, then search for each of them at the major engines. Note not just where you rank, but how well your “ad” (after all, what is a meta description tag if not ad copy) is written. Just as you constantly tweak and refine copy in your PPC listings, so too should you apply that same logic to the natural SERPs. You’ll probably find a far greater rate of return.
Back to the basics for a minute – let’s talk about how to create the ideal title tag. There are several best practices that, in my opinion, make a big difference for the major effects you’re shooting for in title tag optimization (CTR in the SERPs, rankings at the search engines and value to users as navigational data).
In the simplest situation, you’ve got 3 pieces of data to convey:
* Company or Website name (for branding and ID purposes)
* Location in site architecture (if on a non-landing specific page)
* Keyword term or phrase targeted for search traffic
There are several ways to put this information together. Examples are probably the best way to show this:
1. SEO | SEM | Articles >> Beginner’s Guide to SEO
2. Beginner’s Guide to SEO | SEO | SEM Articles
3. Articles >> Beginner’s Guide to SEO from SEO | SEM
4. SEO | SEM | Beginner’s Guide to SEO
5. SEO Beginner’s Guide
In most situations where you have or are attempting to build a long-term brand online, configuration #1 is preferable – it accomplishes all of the goals sucessfully. However, certain situations demand more attention to keyword usage, or don’t require navigational structure, in which case, #2 or #4 might be options. If you need to be “ultra-optimized” (mostly for Yahoo! or MSN purposes), #5 is also a choice.
What to avoid:
1. SEO | Beginner’s Guide to SEO from the SEO experts at SEO | SEM
2. Beginner’s Guide to SEO where you’ll learn all the basics about the subject from industry leaders at SEO | SEM
3. ||>>|| SEO | SEM ||<<|| Beginner’s Guide to SEO
#1 – No need to run on and sound unnatural. #2 will never be seen or read and run-on titles appear highly unprofessional. #3 may look like it stands out in the SERPs, but Google and the other engines have been cracking down on overuse of non-letter characters, even those characters they would normally display.
If you’re dealing with the need to optimize for multiple terms/phrases on a page, the best thing you can do is to cleverly combine them in a phrase or short sentence. Using comma separation is a surefire way to look spammy. For example:
* Cellphones, ringtones, Nokia
Cellworld | Covering the cellphone world from ringtones to Nokia
* Glass art, glassblowing, Dale Chihuly
Glas.com | The art of glassblowing & glass art from masters like Dale Chihuly
* Dell, Gateway, Compaq, Lenovo
CPUStyle | Machine comparisons from Dell, Gateway, Compaq, Lenovo & more
I know I just broke the comma rule, but since it makes sense and fits logically…
The important point to remember is that the evolution of search technology means that its less and less important to make the targeted KW first in the title tag or repeat it multiple times or avoid too much additional text. What’s good for the visitor is, largely, what’s good for the engines.
Thanks to Michael (Graywolf) for his exceptional effort to bring us the answer to a vexing question – what is the “best” possible title tag:
From his research, it’s – “keyword phrase” : site title
That would have been my guess as well, but I’m glad to see it confirmed (with some wiggle room). Of course, the SEs could always change the algo on us, but this format makes the best sense – it tells you what the page is about and who’s bringing it to you – the exact format a human could get the best data from.
A popular thread at HighRankings started by the owner of Gamer’s Corner (who was right to seek SEO help) shows, in detail, how a poor quality SEO firm has “optimized” a website. They primarily changed the meta-tags (yeah, I know) and the title tags of the site’s pages and it seems the SEs did not appreciate the new “over-optimized” pages and promptly dropped their rankings.
I particularly love this e-mail from the SEO company:
Hello I inform you that as the search enngine crwals the site also crawls depending upon the traffic generated. Its not your site there are thousands of sites crawl every day so this fluctation arises. It will almost take 90 to 120 days to get listed in major search engines according to the rules of search engines. I assure you once again that kindly be patience your site will be listed in search engines dont get panic.
There’s a lot of good advice in the thread form HighRankings members, but what I take away from it, more than anything else, is how ignorant much of the site-owning population is about SEO. It would be great if a few media publications could help to clear things up with some high profile articles on what does and doesn’t help/hurt in the SEs.
Here is an easy method for testing title tag effectiveness – or how sexy your title tag is to searchers. Using this method you can easily estimate the CTR of your title tags.
First get a title tag indexed and showing in the SERPs. Then start an adwords campaign, bidding high enough to stay on the first page for your target search term – and have a budget high enough so that your adds will not slow or go over budget. It’s also important to use “exact match” for your keyword. Let this run for a couple of days – or shorter if there are lots of searches for your term. Your goal is to find out how many impressions that search term generates.
After you have the impressions data, then run your log analysis software to see how many referrals came from google for that search term and time frame. Then use this formula….
CTR = google referrals for term / adwords impressions for term
This formula estimates the CTR for your title tag. Now change your title tag and see if you can improve the CTR.
Don’t blindly use that same old title tag when testing its effectiveness is so easy to do.
Footnote: The method above assumes constant google SERPs and constant title tags on competitor websites.