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Quick and Easy SEO Tips – Title Tags

Posted by on November 17, 2008

SEO is a topic that is usually on the minds of most companies and individuals.  Everyone is always trying to figure out how to drive more traffic to their site.  A company usually has to jump through several hurdles to get anything implemented and that can usually take months.  As an individual or a small (perhaps even medium size) business you are much more flexible when it comes time to make changes.

As someone who runs a team of technical SEOs and has been in the SEO game for several years, I have a pretty solid understanding of how SEO works, and doesn’t work.  This is the first of a series of posts that is going to cover a few SEO basics, these posts are design to educate and inform, but it’s up to you to research and implement.  Let me also make a small disclaimer by saying that this whole site is going through a redesign so several of my SEO elements are not optimized (just in case you wanted to let me know).

Title Tags

We all hear about how title tags are the most important SEO element to go after, but, not many people understand how to write proper title tags.  Let me also be clear and state that the title tag is but one factor of SEO, and in order to really see results you need implement a holistic SEO strategy that covers much more then just title tags.

First let’s go over what the title tag is then we will go over how to write one.  The title tag is the bit of text you see in the upper left hand part of your browser; when viewing my blog homepage, this is what my title tag looks like, the lower portion is what it looks like in html:

Every page on your site has (or should have) its own UNIQUE title tag.  The problem that I see most companies or individuals running into is that they either leave generic title tags i.e. “home page,” they try to stuff every keyword into their title tag i.e. “web design, design, online design, design software…” or, they create identical title tags for all of their pages.  This is not the proper way to create title tags and you are not going to see the results you want.  So now that we know what a title tag is, let’s go over how to create one.

Remember that every page on your site should have it’s own unique title tag.  Think of the title tags as being titles of the chapters of a book, you want the titles to give the reader a good idea of what to expect.  If your chapter titles are all identical or stuffed with keywords then your reader is probably not going to know what to expect.  Now here are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating title tags:

  • You don’t want anything too broad such as “shoes” because chances are you don’t sell every single shoe known to man.  Go after your target audience.
  • Think about your audience, are you aiming specifically for a gender or demographic, perhaps you are only located in a certain geographic location?  If so, this information should go into your title tag to improve your chances to rank for your niche, after all it’s much easier to rank well for “discount nike shoes” then it is to rank for “shoes.”  This information will also give more information about your page/site to the users.
  • Keep the length of your title tags to around 65 characters or less, anything longer will usually get truncated by search engines
  • Branding comes second, keywords come first.  What I mean by this is don’t start your title tag with your company name because that’s the easiest thing to rank for.  Start off with your target keywords and include your company name at the very end.
  • Don’t bother using fancy company jargon, you need to do research to see what your users are actually searching for.  My team uses its own tools/process to get search engine data for keywords, unfortunately this information is not public so I can’t share it.  I have found that all the public tools out there are skewed and inaccurate.  Having said that you can try a few of the free tools out there (you can just do a google search for “free keyword research tools and you will plenty!) for general research such as:

Let’s say that you have a site that sells discount computers and computer parts.  You would probably want to start off with a more general title tag for your home page something like “discount computers and computer parts | company name.”  Now let’s say you have a section for only Dell computers and Dell parts, you could create a title tag like: ” buy discount dell computers and dell parts and accessories | company name.”

Getting the idea?  You want each title tag that you create to describe the content on the page this tells the search engines and the users what each page is about.  It’s really quite simple to create title tags once you have the guidelines down and research your market, the rest is just entering in text.

Dangers of not creating proper title tags

  • Pages will compete for the same keywords, this is not a good thing since you want the most relevant page to be presented to the users.  If each page (and title) is unique, then you shouldn’t have multiple pages from your site showing up for the same keyword, the goal here is quality not quantity.
  • Not targeting your audience, this is something I see a lot from people/companies who try to focus on terms that they believe will drive the most amount of traffic.  Traffic does not equal conversion.  If you rank #1 for shoes but your site is about cookies, then sure you will get a bunch of traffic but then the users will just leave, meaning you will not get the conversions you are looking for.
  • Focus on branding and not on the target market.  As I mentioned above ranking well for your company or brand name is usually easier than ranking for a particular keyword.  If you focus too much on ranking well for your company name but are then invisible online to people that are actually searching for a related keyword or phrase, then you are missing out on a very large portion of your target market.  For example a client of mine in the web analytics space ranks very well for their brand name, yet when you type in “web analytics,” or “web site analytics,” the company is nowhere to be found

Does this make sense?  Do you have any questions?

Thanks for reading!

  • Great advice. I'd add a thought to focus on titling pages for people over search engines. Ultimately, engines index pages according to content and linkage. Neither will come without people in mind who would read the content.

    • hey ari,

      engines don't really work that way, it's actually much more complex then that. you want to title pages for engines and humans. engines look at a lot of things that go beyond content on links 🙂

      for humans it's a visual experience but for engines it's a parsing experience, you can't neglect them. you want your copy to be attractive but you also want to make sure that engines know exactly what you're targeting.

      thanks for the comment, always good to hear from you!

  • Thanks for the tip. Does it also help to “emphasize” the title like using bold and bigger font size?

    • well your title tags are standard, i think you are referring to the H1/H2 (header) tags. In that case it does help slightly but don't base your strategy on createing emphasized headers 🙂

      thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Matt,

      Like Jacob mentioned title tags are standard, just be sure they're short, sweet and to the point.

      I would have to say definitely base you posts, content articles around Headers and Bolding keywords or phrases.

      Surprisingly, when you set your post's titles and sub-titles with H1, H2, H3, etc. it does let the search engine know the importance. Also, emphasizing keywords and phrases by bolding them is great practice to let the search engines know.

      All these little things play different roles in being successful at SEO and every little bit helps with how competitive it is.

  • Jacob,

    Nice job. Title tags are a simple (and fundamental) concept that are often ignored (or not updated). I've heard other seo folks discuss this in front of live audiences.

    Thanks for the reminder.


    • hey jeff,

      they are quite simple yet i see many people and companies creating improper title tags. this topic has been covered quite extensively but as you said, thought i would remind people.

      thanks for reading and commenting!

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  • Thank you for the being such a great educator. I'm learning so many new things about SEO.

    • you are very welcome 🙂

      thanks for commenting and reading!

  • Excellent and very thorough post on SEO, Jacob.

    I've learned several things about SEO! Keep up the great work!

    I appreciate you!

    • thanks for the kind words, i will do my best!

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  • alex

    This is the clearest and most straightforward explanation of title tags I've seen. I had an awful time trying to get this stuff sorted out when I was first learning it. I'll follow the rest of your series with interest

    Alex Newell

    • hi alex, thank you very much, i'm glad you found it simple and straightforward, that's exactly what I was aiming for!

      thanks a lot for the comment

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    You can also try – a free tool that provides a nice summary of the website performance.The estimation provided by estimix is the result of a complex analysis based on factors like: the age of the website, the demographic structure of the traffic, the countries where the website is popular and sources of the traffic.

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    When it comes to servicii seo and seo services there are only a handful of companies who really know what they're doing. Only these know what content is all about, fixing site issues, URL canoniclization and rewrites and getting you a lot of links.

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    Great article. If you’re targeting specific geographic locations, do you just list them in the title tag?

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