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Tips & Recommendation
The Title Tag Isn't Just for SEO Anymore
by Jerry West, SEO Analyst
Posted December 11, 2007
Many of the ideas contained in this article I have learned from Brett Tabke and attending his Webmaster World events over the years. I highly recommend to subscribe to hisWebmaster World's Supporter Forum. It will greatly benefit your career in the Webmaster/SEO/Affiliate space.
The Title Tag
The Title Tag used to be the caveat of your website. The Title Tag was the key. If you didn't have the keyword phrase you were targeting in the Title Tag, you didn't have a chance to rank well. Those times have passed. The Title is a user's gateway to your page. It is the "on ramp" that we all must get on (click through) to reach any page listed on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
According to Brett: The story of the Page Title is the story of your page. Plain and simple. Stop for just a moment and reflect on what occurs when someone clicks on a search result. What are they clicking on? That's right - your Page Title.
Over the last few months as I have undertaken this project of testing Titles, I have realized the power of the Title is not in SEO, but in the all important step in the conversion process. As the Title has lost power in how your site ranks, it has gained power in getting the user to convert. Case in point: How often do you click on the #1 result in the SERPs? Not every time? What is the reason? According to a survey I conducted, the number one reason a user clicks on a search result is that it was "compelling or matched their search query." What made the result compelling? That's right - the Title.
In the survey I also asked how many users looked at the Page Title on the page they were viewing (the upper left hand corner of the browser). Less than 4% said they did. But 98% responded that they read the Page Title in the SERP. I am convinced the other 2% might not have understood the question.
Aaron Wall has stated that when the web was created, it was created around the idea of the page and the link being the fundamental units of data. Think about that. The page and the link being the key points. That is breaking it down in simplistic terms. The Page Title has been one of the most important attributes on the page. In some cases, SEOs can land a top ranking with non-competitive keyword phrases with just the keyword in the Page Title. But with a competitive phrase, it is a different game.
What Not To Do
Often, the best way to learn how to do something, is to show you what not to do. The following are very poor examples of Page Titles. All of these are actual Titles taken from the web:
Page 1 - Home Page
Your browser must support frames to use this page
payday loans, cheap loans, no fax loans, no credit check loans
The goal of the Page Title is not to give the search engines a brief description of the web page, instead, it is there to get the user to click the search result. I said it before, and here it is again, it is STEP ONE in the conversion process. And STEP ONE is getting them to your site.
The problems with the above examples:
- untitled document - this is a great example of the "lazy webmaster" who hasn't taken the time to change the default text.
- Page 1 - Home Page - see reason above.
- Your browser must support ... - Okay, if this is your Title, I am sorry, you are just an idiot webmaster and you really need to outsource the work to someone else.
- Mark's Page - Great to know this is your page, but I don't care about that. Give me what I want, not what you think I want.
- payday loans, cheap loans, etc. - You think by keyword stuffing that you will gain a top ranking? You just might, but remember, a top ranking is only worthwhile if you get the click-through. Remember, you are surrounded by competition and you must stand out. These types of Titles don't work, and they never have. In testing that we have done, a compelling Title ranking #3 out pulled a Title similar to this example that ranked #1 by an 11-1 margin. That is huge.
What To Do - Titles Done Right
Let me briefly explain how to do the Title the right way. It should be understood that the algorithms of Google, Yahoo! and MSN are very different, thus, the "Perfect Title" does not exist. You read that right, the perfect Title in terms of meeting the "Big Three" algorithms does not exist. There is just enough difference in their algorithms to not allow for a top ranking to occur across all three with the Title tag alone.
Instead, what you want to do is take the keyword phrase you have researched that will not just bring you traffic, but qualified traffic. Qualified traffic is vital as it converts from a visitor to a buyer at the highest percentage possible. You should NOT be content to have a 1-2% conversion ratio. You should be aiming for 7-9%.
How do you do that? That is an upcoming issue - which will cover all about Call To Action and how everything that you do in SEO can be built into a high convertible site. Essentially how to double or triple your income without driving anymore traffic to your site.
Here are examples of good Page Titles:
Plastic Surgery - Don't Trust Your Body to Just Anyone - this achieved a 4-1 click through ratio over a listing four spots above in the SERPS, mainly due to the word "trust" being added.
Looking for the Best Mortgage? - this achieved a 3-1 click through ratio over a listing five spots above and the conversion ratios were very good as the landing page contained a graphic, "See Us for the Best Mortgage Offer for your Home". This is a strong call to action and generated a lot of interest and phone calls.
Get Help Finding a New Job - The director reported that since changing the Title their overall traffic has decreased, but the number of closes for their resume help service has gone up seven fold. Visitors are not just more qualified, but they come in with an obvious better outlook and attitude.
Health Insurance | Avoid the Traps, Get Expert Advice - This Title has boosted leads to the highest point in this firm's web history. They have their top keyword phrase "health insurance" but they also tell them why they should click - to avoid traps and also get expert advice. Notice that they did not place their company name in the Title, which is often just a waste, unless your company name is part of your main keyword phrase.
We don't know yet what exactly makes a great Title. There is no plugin, turn key formula for making a killer Title. As I mentioned earlier, there is not a perfect Title, but the near-perfect Title lives somewhere in the balance of quality keyword placement to help with the ranking and the nuance of clickability .
The Keyword Phrase
Using the keyword phrase in the Title is pretty straight forward, but how you use it is vital. Remember, in Google, having the keyword phrase in the Title is not a requirement for top ranking (as Google is a stronger "off page" engine). Remember that you want a phrase, not a word, because we are talking ROI, conversion rate, and Long Tail of search here. To do that, it takes keyword phrases and not just a keyword. The real simple rule for the keyword phrase is to use the phrase in the Title and reinforce that phrase in: metas, page headings, and content near the top of the page.
How long should your Title be? Consult the algorithm update for exact numbers for each engine, but the rule of thumb is eight words or less. Google chops off the Title display at 64 characters and that is important to realize so you don't create a great, compelling Title, only to have it cut off in the SERPs. Up until the Florida update, Google would consider up to 120 characters for a Title, but no longer. In some cases, they still consider upwards of 100 characters, but the weight drops off significantly over 64 characters.
Strong Title Uses to Consider:
- Search Engine Results
- Link Text
- Link Text
- Email and Mailing list Titles
- Keep in mind how your keyword might get bolded on the SERP if it matches a search keyword
If you want Brett Tabke's Personal Title "Algo" you'll need to be a subscriber at Webmaster World. It is that good. But I will pass along on things NOT to do:
- use keyword more than once in the Title
- no double Title tags. All the engines have penalties now.
- no long Titles
Where To Practice Good Titles.
- Forums. Yep, that is a great place to test out 'clickability'.
- Email. Always create a good informative Title for EVERY email. Never slack - do the work - it will pay rewards.
- Your own page. It should be the first thing you think of for you page, as it sets the tone for the entire page.
Focus on your Title, rewrite the Title on at least one of your pages every day. Doing so will allow you to see the difference the change makes and over time, you will get more click throughs, and more sales.
Good luck, and you will see a difference in not only your traffic, but your conversions if you focus your Title as an advertisement instead of one more SEO piece of the puzzle.
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© 2007, WebMarketingNow.com
Jerry West is the Director of Internet Marketing for Web
Marketing Now. He has been consulting on the web
since 1996 and has assisted hundreds of companies gain
an upper-hand over their competition. Visit Web
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