Jun 9, 2009

Writing Good Title Tags

Writing Good Title Tags

A common practice among SEOs when strategizing how to set up title tags for our clients is to target keywords in the title tag. However, Good title tags do not always have to play by this rule because Google does not require it. Many SEOs in our industry would argue that if you don't put keywords in the title tags you have no chance to rank at the top. This is not true.

Lets take a look at this argument. Most people who have tried to optimize their website for the search engines know the importance of having keyword rich anchor text that points back to their site helps increase the popularity and get to the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Making a title tag more compelling could mean a higher CTR as long as it has a call for action and entices the user to click on your link. Even if your competitors outrank you in the SERPs you could still get more clicks based on having well written title tags, which is the first step to getting visitors and converting them into clients.

If you have been in SEO for the last couple years you would know that Google does not require your title tags to be optimized due to "off page factors," such as inbound keyword rich anchor text links.

So lets look at these two examples:

"Job Search" and "Search Engine"

When you do a search in google for Job Search the top two results show CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com.

Here is Career Builders Title Tag - "CareerBuilder.com Jobs - The Largest Job Search, Employment"

Here is Monster's title tag - "Find Jobs. Build a Better Career. Find Your Calling. | Monster.com"

Notice how Career Builder uses the keyword in the title tag but Monster does not. Now, which one is more compelling to click on? In my opinion Monster.com
by far does. Especially now the way the economy is with all millions of people out of work.

Lets take a look at the next example "search engine". Neither of the top two results have that keyword in their title tags. Yahoo is in the top 10 two times and in both occurrences it does not use the keyword in the title tag. But how compelling are these tags to click on? Some would say those companies are going for a branding strategy vs. trying to obtain a high click through, which is fine if that is your primary objective.

Should this mean you should not use your primary keyword in the title tag? Absolutely not. However, you should think a little outside the box when writing title tags because that is where it all starts. Make your links - title tags - more clickable to the search traffic you're going after.

Some say Google is moving towards giving more credit to organic listings with higher CTR than those who do not. It is similar to doing PPC as the advertisers are rewarded with a higher quality score because they get more clicks and therefore their ads show more.

It's Google's way of rewarding a more relevant add to its searchers. There are way too many SEOs who stuff title tags with keywords, do a little back linking, purchase links with anchor text, and are done with their SEO efforts.
By not making an effort of separating clients from their competitors is doing their clients a dis-service.

With that all being said Obviously the quality of incoming links and other factors is going to play a big factor in your rankings and therefore give you more leeway how creative you can be with your title tags. Small and medium sized businesses looking for affordable SEO Services might not have the same outcomes especially early on in their campaign optimizing for the search engines. But it does not mean you still
can't be creative.

Here is my top 7 list of things to consider when creating title tags for pages on your website:
  1. Keep your brand in mind on all your title tags. There are differing opinions on whether to put the brand name at the beginning or end of the title tag. I prefer to have it at the end so that my keywords are at the beginning coupled with a creative phrase. However, I think it depends on your goals and objectives and the kind of business you are. An online store might want to establish their brand to get as many return vistits while a site selling something purchased one time might want to incert it at the end of the title tag.
  2. Title Tags should be limited to 65 characters or less including spaces. You go past that mark and some of your words will be cut off in the SERPs and will make you look unprofessional. There are some cases where Google will accept up to 70 characters but as a general rule keep it to 65 or under.
  3. Utilize your keyword phrases. Duh... right? When your keyword research is complete and you have made your list that describes your page you should make those keywords be the center of attention.
  4. Try to use the longer keyword phrases as much as possible if they are relevant to your page. For example "The Shoe Guys" | Sports Jogging Shoes and Accessories" rather than "The Shoe Guys" | Sports Shoes. Getting creative like this could increase relevance and traffic. But keep in mind if you have another page on your site that has anything to do with accessories could be confusing to Google on which page to give more value to.
  5. Focus on increasing conversions and higher click through rates. This is similar as stated above to paid search marketing. It's imperative to write titles that are going to encourage your visitors to click on your link. You can monitor your analytic s if you decide to do testing but be cautious because sometimes lower click through rates still lead to a higher conversion rate.
  6. What is the intent of your visitors? If your searchers are more about browsing or information a more descriptive title tag might be in order. But if the intent is to make a purchase then try to creatively put that information in your title tags with a call to action.
  7. Keep your H1 tags similar to your title tags. It not only helps rankings but it helps the user who came to your site in the first place. People have certain expectations when they land on a website and if the information is not relevant to what they just clicked on then there is a good chance they will not stay long and you will end up with a high bounce rate.
I hope you found this information helpful for writing good title tags for your website. I wanted to just call attention to this because you need ways of separating yourself from your competitors so be creative when forming your strategy.

Finally be cautious if you are attempting to do this without an SEO expert because without proper research it could actually hurt you. Seek out Consultants who can offer SEO services at a low-cost and still get results.


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