Tuesday, April 11, 2006

SEO: Are Your Title Tags OK?

Today's post is a good example of what happens if you aren't playing the game right. Instead of posting first, I checked my email.... and I never got free all day long to just write a post. The funny thing is, I actually answered two emails with questions about title tags today, when I could have just referred them to this post. Funny. Not really.

One thing for today - if you aren't making the most of the title tags on your web site, you are losing out on search engine traffic. There are just a few things you need to know, to do this right:
  • Every page of unique content on your site should have a unique title tag (and one unique URL, by the way). Having 500 pages that are titled "Welcome!" or "Catalog" invites the search engines to filter them out as duplicate content.

  • Page titles should contain keywords describing the page - ideally, the title tag should make sense if you used it in a link to the page - in other words, the title should tell the visitor what they're getting on the page. If you aren't using relevant keywords for a page in the title, expect less search engine traffic, from lower rankings.

  • Building on that last point, did you know that searchers are more likely to click on a link (in paid ads or organic listings) if the link includes the search terms they just typed? This effect is amplified by search engines like Google that apply bold formatting when the search terms appear on the search results page (SERP). If you aren't using keywords in page titles, expect less search engine traffic, because fewer searchers will click on your listing.

  • Speaking of rankings, did you know that you can only expect the search engines to index the first 10 words in the title tag for ranking purposes? Stuffing 50 keywords into the page title won't help you at all, and it will annoy more than a couple of visitors. 10 words, that's the size of the canvas you get to paint on.

  • Speaking of SERPs, did you know that you can only expect Google to display about 65 characters from your title tag on the search results page? (Yahoo will display about twice as many). If your keywords appear after character number 65, regardless of the number of words you're using, don't expect the keywords to be visible on the SERP, and expect a lower click-through rate.

  • Unless your brand name is especially valuable, you may be better off putting the company name last in the title tag, rather than first. If you're Amazon.com, you probably get a higher click-through rate from a title like "Amazon - The Da Vinci Code : Books : Dan Brown." If you're Fred's Internet Book Emporium, you may want something like "The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - free shipping @ Fred's Books" instead.
If you do nothing else with today's tip, at least make sure you're using unique titles on every page.

Shameless Plug: If you're finding this series helpful, but would like to get things done more quickly than "one thing a day," please consider joining me in my upcoming "SEO Your Site" teleclass beginning April 25th. We will do a complete review of every student's web site, and spend 10 weeks getting your site into shape. Register by April 15th for the best price.


At 6:52 AM, Glenn M. Ginsburg said...


Thank you for this post. Recently I add about 150 pages to a 300 page website! The pages were added over about a one and an half month's time frame. And yes, they all had the same title element, meta tags for description and keywords.

You can just imagine my glee, when my site dropped like a lead balloon in the SERP's. (glee is not the right word.)

Going into panic mode - started changing title elements and found a further drop. Do you think waiting and changing a few title elements and meta tags each and every day - would be better than a lot of changes?

Thank you

At 8:44 AM, Dan Thies said...

With Google, you should expect the changes to be reflected in their next crawl and index update, usually within a few days.

With Yahoo and MSN, changes to the title may not be reflected for a longer period, so maybe a slower pace makes sense there. I've heard of pages being dropped temporarily on Yahoo with a title tag change.

The issue with Google may be more about adding that many pages in a short time, with some of the hallmarks of duplicate content (same title etc.) Getting some links in, and links in to those new pages, should help with that.

At 9:11 AM, Glenn M. Ginsburg said...

Dan - thank you for your response, it was greatly appreciated.

I have been reading on some forums that webmasters are complaining that Google has not been actively crawling their sites. I have noticed that Google is crawling my site very heavily over the past two months.

Add "breadcrumbs" with keywords shortly after the pages went live. Now actively changing title elements and meta tags.

There is been a lot of discussion about duplicate content. Just wondering with some technical terms, there is only one way to accurately define term, which causes duplicate content. But having such resource material available on a site is extremely helpful to the visitor.

At 1:48 PM, Dalpress said...

I understand Google and Yahoo have a character count for the META data. You point out Google's Title Tag is 65 characters, what are the character count for Description and Content?

At 3:39 PM, Dan Thies said...

The length of descriptions or snippets displayed on Google SERPs looks like it hits a maximum around 145 characters.

I have no idea what you mean by "Content." Can you clarify that part of the question?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home