March 24, 2010
You know those words in the top bar of the browser when you’re on a website? You may not have noticed them before now, but you’ll want to pay attention to what shows there for your site from now on.
Those words are from the page’s title meta tag, a part of the code that makes up the page. And while the title tag is just one small part of the code, it plays a really big role.
Title tags are crucial in getting your site indexed and ranked in the search engines. A title tag tells the search engine what your page is about – and it’s also what displays in search results to represent your site.
Let’s take a look at your title tags now. Pull up your site and look at what appears in the very top bar of the browser.
If you’re seeing generic terms like “Untitled Document”, “Welcome to our Home Page”, “About Us” or “Contact Us” as you click through the pages, it’s time for an overhaul. (Known as stop words or dead weight words, these are so common that search engines ignore them or return search results irrelevant to what the person is looking for.)
If you see just the name of your company or services, your title tags will also need help.
Here’s what you need to do to get those all-important title tags working for you…
- Include your most important keywords in your title tags. These are the terms people will most likely use to conduct a search on Google, Yahoo, etc. (A solid list of keywords is the foundation for any search engine optimization effort.)
- Avoid your company’s name or product/service names as the sole component of title tags. It’s likely that only a very small segment of potential searchers will be searching on branded names, so be sure to use more descriptive terms the average customer might use.
- Each page should have a separate title tag that represents the unique content on that page. Don’t be tempted to use the same title tag for all the pages in one section of your site, for example.
- Keep title tags to around 60 characters. Anything longer and it may be chopped off by the search engines.
- Don’t stuff keywords. This makes your title tag appear messy or unreadable, and it’s going to entice fewer clicks even if it ranks high in search engines. Stop words such as “the”, “of”, “that”, “is”, “and”, “to” and so forth can be used sparingly to improve the readability of a title.
- Find out which other websites are using your keywords in their title tags to get an idea of who you’ll be competing with. Google has a handy tool to help you find out. Go to Google.com and type in the search bar “intitle:your keywords” (quotes not needed).
Sample Title Tags
We’ll show you a couple of examples to give you a boost on your way to great title tags.
If you look at T-mobile.com, you’ll see a title tag something like:
“Cell phones, cellular phone plans, prepaid cell phones, free cell phones and deals”
Not bad. You can tell someone has put thought into which keywords the home page should rank for.
On the other hand, go to Nortel.com, and you’ll see a good example of what not to do:
Here’s another example from the alpaca niche:
Before: “Alpaca Meadows Homepage”
After: “Wisconsin Alpaca Farm, Northern Wisconsin Alpaca Breeder: Alpaca Meadows”
The first tag is quite generic and will not rank well since most people looking for information on alpacas will not be looking for a specific ranch or breeders name right off the bat.
The second tag on the other hand contains many general AND specific keyword phrases such as “alpaca”, “alpaca farm”, “alpaca breeder” along with keywords related to its location. Not only will this descriptive tag gain more traction in the rankings but it will lure more visitors to the site.
Creating great title tags is a little bit of an art form. Indeed, some SEO engineers specialize in this, though hard-hitting meta titles should be included with any on-page SEO efforts you undertake.
Stone Reuning is president of SEO Advantage, a search engine optimization company that helps businesses harness the revenue generation potential of their websites. Referenced in books such as “Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale” and the BusinessWeek bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”, http://www.seo-advantage.com/ offers information to help small businesses compete online.