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Pages Indexed, Descriptions and Title Tags

October 22, 2008

Dear Jill,

How important is it to have a large number of indexed sites through Google? If so, how do we increase the number, and how do we edit what text appears under the link?

I've seen different requirements for the length of a Title tag. What is the most effective length? Also, is it important to list the name of your organization – and if so, should it be at the beginning or the end of the Title?

Also, how long does it take to see results of changes in your Title tags?

Thank you,

Katie O.

++Jill's Response++

Hi Katie,

Thanks for your questions; please see my answers below:
How important is it to have a large number of indexed sites through Google?
If so, how do we increase the number and how do we edit what text appears
under the link?
Do you mean a large number of pages indexed? (As opposed to sites.) If so, no, it's only important to have as many pages as you need on your website to say what you need to say. In other words, if you're asking whether you should add pages to your site because you think the search engines like sites with more pages, then the answer would be no. Adding pages for search engines is never a good idea. Only add pages to your site if you feel it isn't providing all the information that it should be providing to the site visitors who read it.

That said, if you mean that you have a lot of pages on your site but many of them aren't getting indexed, then that's another story. You do want every page of your site to be indexed, so if they're not, it's important to figure out why. It may be a technical problem with your site design that is impeding the search engine spiders' ability to get to every page. Or it may be the site's lack of popularity on the Internet as a whole (as measured by the links that point to it). Once the website becomes more popular, the search engines should more deeply index it.

Regarding the text that appears under your link at the Google search results pages, that is search-query dependent. That means it will change depending on what words were used to find your page at Google. So, if you type in the name of your company, you will see one description, and if you type in a keyword phrase for which your page shows up, it will most likely show a different description. Sometimes these descriptions will be pulled from your Meta description tag – often if the keyword phrase the person used at Google happens to be in your Meta description – and sometimes it will be pulled from some content on the page where the keywords were used in the copy.

Please see my Meta description articles for more info on this.
I've seen different requirements for the length of a Title tag. What
is the most effective length? Also, is it important to list the name
of your organization – and if so, should it be at the beginning or the
end of the Title?
There is no such thing as a "required length" for Title tags. I prefer them to be approximately 11-12 words. That provides me with enough space to use 3 keyword phrases and make it enticing for the searcher to click on in the search results pages. Those who suggest shorter Title tags usually do so because they don't like their tags appearing to be cut off in the search results.

As far as adding in the name of your organization, you definitely want it first in the Title tag of your home page. On inner pages, it depends on a few things: If your organization or company name is very short, or can be abbreviated into just one or two words, then I would recommend keeping it at the beginning. If it's a number of words, you may want to leave it out or put it at the end. But if you're a well-known brand, you may want to keep it at the front of every Title. If you can't or don't want it in the Title tag, then make sure you use it at the beginning of your Meta description tag.
Also, how long does it take to see results of changes in your title tags?
Anywhere from as soon as the new Title is indexed, to never. I know that's not a very good answer, but it's the unfortunate truth. In general, if you're going to see any changes at all, it would probably be within a month or so. Still, it depends on how drastic your Title tag change was, how competitive the phrases are that are contained within it, and how well optimized the page is for the keyword phrases in question. If you're optimizing for a highly competitive phrase, simply putting it into the Title tag may have no effect whatsoever. On the other hand, if you've added some non-competitive phrases to the Title tag, you will probably see quick results (but not necessarily a traffic increase!).

Just remember that all SEO factors work together to bring more targeted traffic to your website, and doing only one thing in isolation may or may not make a difference.

Hope this helps!

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Company.

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Post Comment

 Rich Brooks said:

Seeing how you're much smarter than I am, maybe I shouldn't question you. But since I'm not that smart, I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.

I wouldn't put my company name first. I figure that if someone is searching for "flyte" or "flyte new media" they're going to find me no matter where my company name appears in the title.

However, I'm more interested in attracting people who are looking for "Web design and Internet Marketing," which is why my home page title starts with that.

Now, there are of course exceptions, especially if your company name explains what you do, i.e., "Maine Real Estate Company" or if you have a super generic name that's often searched on, such as "Book Shop" or "Click Here, LLC"

 Jill said:
Hey Rich,

It's not so people will find you when searching on your name. It's for branding purposes when they see your company there in the Title. If they already recognize your name (say you're a big brand), they may be like, oh yeah, that's that great company I used before but forgot about!

Also, it just looks more professional because you are indeed trying to brand yourself rather than just being a generic page that sells whatever. You're showing you're a real company, not just some fly by night one.

 Bob Meetin said:
For what it's worth, there appear to be character limits to the title tag which you can work with. I ran some tests and it seems that both Google and Yahoo will index a title tag up to 95 characters in length, however they will only display 70 characters in search results. If you have a word that splits somewhere at the 70th character Google will balk and display ... (dot-dot-dot). Something similar for yahoo.

What this says to me is that you have 25 chars more real estate to work with than meets the eye. Whether you choose to invest in this hidden real estate or not is another matter.
 Ian Feavearyear said:
I personally never put the company name first on the home page's title tag, rather the most important keywords for that company . . . but end with the company name. I have found that produces higher positions on Google, which seems to treat the first few words as the most important ones, in my experience.
 Jill said:
I used to feel the same Ian. But you're missing out on branding as well as adding credibility to the search result. Especially if the company name is cut off at the end in the SERP.
 Aventura Realtor said:
Interesting Ian. I have been putting the company name following by a "-" then the primary keyphrase for the page. I susppose I could reverse them and have the same branding effect while potentionally improving my rankings.
 Jeff Minner said:
Hello Jill:

I like your website as you really good some great information and I enjoy reading it. I have been taking classes at the Search Engine College for a while now and what I have learned there has said basically the same thing.
We are taught that you should include your business name in the title tag if you would like to brand yourself or your business. The words at the beginning of the title tag carry more weight and relevancy so if you are not branding your business, you should put your best key words at the beginning if at all possible. It is a matter of personal choice whether you want to brand your business, but I think that in most instances it is recommended.

Also, another point worth mentioning - it is okay to put a hyphen in your title tag but do not use a comma (,) or period (.) In your title unless you really mean to. Commas and periods act as stop words to the search engines, so if you put them inside your keyword phrases in the title tag, you may not rank well for that keyword phrase. I have been taught that a hyphen is not treated as a stop word and that it is okay to use.

Thanks for the good content Jill!

 Jill Whalen said:
Jeff what you learned about commas in title tags is 100% false