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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings Advisor: Terrific Title Tags - Issue No. 139

May 11, 2005

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Pay-for-Performance SEO

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   Dan Thies' SEM Kit
---->   SEO Copywriting Combo
---->   GoGuides Directory

*Guest Article:
---->   Terrific Title Tags

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Blogging for Business
---->   eMarketing Talk Show with Jill and Karon

*High Rankings Forum Threads of the Week:
---->   Will There Be an SEO Crash?
---->   Changing the Focus from Rankings

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   SES London Free Pass

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone! Too busy today for an intro, so let's get straight to
it.  - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Pay-for-Performance SEO++

Hi Jill,

Yesterday I met someone who is not willing to pay for SEO, but is
willing to pay a commission for any sales (the company offers
management courses) received via the website.

From an SEO point of view the website leaves a lot to be desired, so
there will be a lot of effort involved there.

What do you think about such a proposal?  One other thing -- there is
no way I will be able to gauge if any queries were generated through
the website or if these queries actually became orders.

I was going to decline this business, but I would appreciate your
feedback if possible.

Thank you so much

Liz :)

++Jill's Response++

My original answer to Liz was simply, "Run like the wind! People who
aren't willing to put any money up front are not serious about their
business and you definitely don't want to work with them."  However,
it seemed that I might be able to expand upon that answer for others
who may have been approached with similar offers.

There are various layers to this situation, many of which set off red
flags for me.  There's the original issue I already mentioned, where
the client isn't willing to spend any money, making you wonder how
serious they are about their business.  Beyond that, there are issues
of trust.  This potential client doesn't trust the SEO company enough
to pay them their normal fee, and/or they don't trust the whole SEO

Liz might be able to educate this client enough to trust her and the
SEO process in general so that he might be willing to pay for her
services up front, but that alone could take more time than it would
be worth to her.  She would need to provide many client references
which state how much return on investment they have made while using
her services, and she would also need to educate him on how SEO works.
She'd have to be sure he understood the time involved, the structural
changes it might be necessary to implement on his site, and the
hit-or-miss nature of the search engine results.

This type of education is very draining and doesn't guarantee that the
client will be willing to pay for the services.  I'd be more inclined
to point the client to the various articles and information at sites
like my and Search Engine Watch and tell them to come
back when they have a better understanding of what SEO is all about,
and when they're serious about fixing their site to be all it can be.

If Liz was absolutely positive that she could fix the site in
question, and that the client would provide her with free reign to do
exactly what she wanted, there would still be the problem with
tracking the sales in a pay-for-performance gig.  This would be
necessary in order to determine how much she was to be paid once the
revenues started rolling in.  Most SEO companies that work with this
type of model create completely new websites for their clients so they
can track every single order or clickthrough.  Unfortunately, there
are problems with this as well, since you're basically creating
something strictly for the search engines.  You've got to come up with
completely new content in order for the site to be different enough
from the original site or the engines won't even bother with it.
Plus, with Google's aging delay now, a new domain could take up to a
year or possibly more to start seeing results.

All in all, it's generally just not cost effective to work with
clients who don't already understand the value of search engine
optimization, and who don't trust your ability to help their site gain
targeted traffic and sales.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!


(P.S. If anyone would like to republish the above Q&A article, please
email me your request and where it will reside, and I'll send you a
short bio you can use with it for your site.)

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And that's just the CD! The book is chock-full of SEO/SEM strategies.

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~~~Guest Article~~~

++Terrific Title Tag Tips++

Today's guest article was written by Erik Dafforn, Vice President of
Intrapromote, LLC, a search engine optimization company based in
Cleveland, Ohio.

Before you read this article, I just want to mention that title tags
are very subjective, and every SEO consultant creates them
differently.  What Erik does may not be exactly the same as what I do,
and you may do something completely different as well.  In fact,
sometimes I look at title tags I created one day, and think that the
client changed them, but no, they were mine!  So, please use Erik's
tips as a guideline, and then put your own creativity to work when
creating your title tags.

Without further ado, here's Erik! - Jill

Terrific Title Tags
By Erik Dafforn

Pound for pound, the title tag is one of the strongest weapons in your
SEO arsenal. With only a few exceptions (such as a misplaced keystroke
in your robots.txt file) can a handful of characters help or hurt your
marketing efforts so greatly.

Scottie Claiborne recently compared SEO to healthy dieting ("Can You
Lose Weight on Spam?"
</issue137.htm#guest>), so I'll further the
analogy. The best foods are both good for you and delicious.
Similarly, the best page titles live in the "sweet spot" -- the zone
where compelling copy overlaps with balanced, keyword-rich text.
Effective titles inform readers and entice them to click over to your
site, and they describe perfectly to engines the content on the page.

Location, Location, Location

On their results pages, most search engines use a page's title tag as
the first line in a site's description. Typically, Google truncates
titles somewhere between character 63 and 67. In other words, any
characters beyond that limit don't appear on the blue, linked title of
your search description. Instead, Google replaces remaining characters
with ellipses (...). As a result, you should try to complete your
"thought" -- that is, write a compelling line of text -- within about
64 characters (including spaces).

While there's reason to believe that Google will use 80 or more
characters of your title tag in evaluating your web page, your human
visitors won't see those characters on the results page. And if you
haven't said it by character 64, chances are you're trying to cram too
many ideas into one title.

In trying to find the character ceiling for other engines, I've seen
up to 69 characters displayed in MSN results and over 90 at Yahoo.
Yahoo, however, sometimes uses its own directory to generate results
data, so your page title might not even appear on a Yahoo results
page. I feel it's best, therefore, to use Google's number as the

Company Name Clutter

In general, it's fine to include your company name in your titles, but
unless that name is both extremely popular and extremely competitive,
it should be near the end of the title tag. For example, structuring
your titles like this one:

<title>Amalgamated Gadgetry, Incorporated - Post-Modern Gadget
Theory</title> typically a mistake. Sure, you'll rank very well for
"Amalgamated Gadgetry, Incorporated," but if you're the only company
out there with that name, you'll probably rank well for that phrase
regardless of where (and even if) it appears in all your titles. Also,
if your company name is as long as this one, consider abbreviating.

Optimal Ordering

So you've done all your keyword research and know exactly what your
"main" phrase target is for your page. You also know the secondary
phrases you'll use to attract searches related to your main phrase.
How should you write the title?

It's wise to put your main phrase at or near the very beginning of the
title. This quickly shows the engines and your visitors the focus of
your page. The main phrase, however, doesn't necessarily have to begin
with the title's first word. Check the existing search results page
for your main phrase. Do all the titles of all results look the same,
with the two- or three-word phrase leading the title? If so, consider
starting your title with a different word to make your title stand out
visually on the results page.

Throughout the back two-thirds of the title, I usually try to
integrate the main phrase one more time (although not necessarily in
the same word order), as well as terms related to the main phrase.
Also, don't be afraid to "stem." Engines are now adept at
understanding that "design," "designs," and "designing" are all
related concepts. Finally, consider a synonym in the second iteration
of your main phrase. To see what Google considers synonyms, use a
tilde (~) before a search term, and see what terms appear in boldface
on the results page. For example, searching for "~mp3" (no quotes)
shows that Google considers "cd," "music," and "audio" to be closely
related to "mp3."

The Long-awaited Sample

So let's put it all together for a fictitious example. (I haven't done
real research on these phrases, so don't quote me on the specifics!)
For your home theater site, you're currently working on the page that
describes the best place to locate your speakers. Your main target
phrase is "speaker placement." Because of your keyword research, you
know that some related queries include the phrase "home theater,"
along with the current home theater standard, "7.1."

You draft your initial title:

<title>Speaker Placement in Home Theater and the Best Type of Speaker
Placement for 7.1 Surround Sound Systems</title>

Your main phrase is in the title twice, and your secondary phrases
appear once, but it's repetitive, long-winded, and at 103 characters,
needs some editorial assistance.

* In further research, you find that nearly every title on the current
results page begins with "Speaker Placement," so you decide to start
with something different.

* You realize engines don't bother with words such as "in," "and,"
"the," "to," and "for," so you eliminate them wherever possible.

* By doing a tilde search at Google for "speaker ~placement" (no
quotes), you find out that Google considers "positioning" a synonym
for "placement."

* You realize that using a plural form of a main keyword won't do any
damage, and it will enable you to shorten the title.

You give it another try:

Home Theater Speaker Placement: Best Positioning of 7.1 Speakers

This time it's 64 characters, so you know you won't get cut off by
ellipses. Only the colon and the words "best" and "of" are extraneous
and not related to the queries you're looking for. Best of all, it
leaves absolutely no doubt as to the page's contents. When a user
reads that title, she knows exactly what she'll find.

Repeat this process a few hundred (or a few thousand) times, and
you're done; good luck!

Erik Dafforn
Intrapromote, LLC

_________Powerful SEO Copywriting Combo______________

Your site's only as good as its writing. You need the "write" skills.

If your site is poorly written, your sales will be slow.  You *must*
speak to your target audience with each and every word you write.
At the same time, keeping your keywords featured prominently is
a bit of a juggling act.

Save $10 on the most powerful copywriting combo available today!

Karon Thackston's Step-By-Step Copywriting Course & Jill Whalen's
Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines.

~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Blogging for Business - May 12th Networking Event++

My Search Creative division is sponsoring a women's networking event
put on by the WorldWIT Boston Metro area chapter (MassWIT) on
Thursday, May 12th from 6-8 PM at Sun Microsystems in Burlington, MA.

Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profits will be presenting on the
topic of "Blogging for Business."

You can learn more or register (only $15!) here:
<>.  Hope to see you

++eMarketing Talk Show with Jill and Karon++

It's getting closer to that eMarketing Talk Show I mentioned to you a
few weeks ago.  It's the one from World Talk Radio, where I'll be
interviewed on May 20th at 7PM EDT.  Only now it's going to be even
better, as my copywriting buddy Karon Thackston has agreed to join me
on the show.  I'm really glad about that since I'm hesitant to talk
about SEO copywriting without an actual copywriter on board, because
sticking keywords into copy is no good unless it's professionally
written to begin with.  Together, Karon and I can answer any
SEO/copywriting question you may have.  The cool thing is that you can
actually call in to the show with your questions, if you're listening

Here's the pertinent info about the show:

Website Content and Writing with Jill Whalen & Karon Thackston.
Listen Live 5/20 7pm EDT.

* First segment: Your target audience and choosing keywords.
* Second segment: Where to place the keywords within your pages.
* Third segment: Write to your customers first and the engines second.

For more info and to learn how to listen to the show, please visit
this page:

~~~High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week~~~

++Will There Be an SEO Crash?++

Forum member Lizzielu asks, "Do you see an SEO crash similar to the
dot com crash? Yes, it's great for now, and we're all riding a nice
big wave, but is this wave going to hit shore - and when?"

See what others think about this, and share your own thoughts here:

++Changing the Focus from Rankings++

Along the same lines as the thread above, I had a call from a
potential client this morning, and I found myself practically yelling
at him not to hire me.  Read why here:

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~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's it for today!

Unfortunately, I've had to bow out of this year's London Search Engine
Strategies conference on June 1 & 2 due to time constraints; however,
I do still have a free pass to give away.  If you can pay for your own
transportation and lodging, and you'd like to be considered for the
pass, please email me at and let me know why
I should choose you.  There's more information about the conference
here: <>.

And speaking of conferences, last week's Toronto show was great!  I
definitely prefer the smaller international venues, and it's also fun
being right in the city.  The weather was a bit cool, but nothing I'm
not used to.  Plus, I got to hang out with many of my friends and talk
shop in the bar, so what more could a girl ask for!  My business
partner Lorraine did make me go shopping with her once (which I don't
like) but other than that, it was all good.  I'll be looking forward
to the San Jose conference in August!

Catch you next week...or maybe in two. - Jill
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