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SEO Website Audit

All About Title Tags

February 14, 2007

The title tag has been — and probably will always be — one of the most
important factors in achieving high search engine rankings.  In fact, fixing
just the title tags of your pages can often generate quick and appreciable
differences to your rankings.  And because the words in the title tag are
what appear in the clickable link on the search engine results page (SERP),
changing them may result in more clickthroughs.

 

Search Engines and Title Tags

 

Title tags are definitely one of the “big three” as far as the algorithmic
weight given to them by search engines; they are equally as important as
your visible text copy and the links pointing to your pages — perhaps even
more so.

 

Do Company Names Belong in the Title Tag?

 

This is one of the most common questions asked about titles.  The answer is
a resounding YES!  I’ve found that it’s fine to place your company name in
the title, and *gasp*, even to place it at the beginning of the tag! In
fact, if your company is already a well-known brand, I’d say that it’s
essential. Even if you’re not a well-known brand yet, chances are you’d like
to eventually be one. The title tag gives you a great opportunity to further
this cause.

 

This doesn’t mean that you should put *just* your company name in the title
tag. Even the most well-known brands will benefit from a good descriptive
phrase or two added, as it will serve to enhance your brand as well as your
search engine rankings. The people who already know your company and seek it
out by name will be able to find you in the engines, and so will those who
have never heard of you but seek the products or services you sell.

 

Title Tags Should Contain Specific Keyword Phrases

 

For example, if your company is “Johnson and Smith Inc.,” a tax accounting
firm in Texas, you shouldn’t place only the words “Johnson and Smith Inc.”
in your title tag, but instead use something like “Johnson and Smith Inc.
Tax Accountants in Texas.”

 

As a Texas tax accountant, you would want your company’s site to appear in
the search engine results for searches on phrases such as “Texas tax
accountants” and “CPAs in Texas.” (Be sure to do your keyword research to
find the best phrases!)  You would need to be even more specific if you
prefer to work with people only in the Dallas area. In that case, use
keywords such as “Dallas tax accountants” in your site’s title tags.

Using our Dallas accountant’s example, you might create a title tag as
follows:

 

Johnson and Smith Tax Accountants in Dallas

 

or you might try something like this:

 

Johnson and Smith Dallas CPAs

 

However, there’s more than enough space in the title tag to include both of
these important keyword phrases.  (I like to use about 10-12 words in my
title tags.)

 

One way to do it would be like this:

 

Johnson and Smith - Dallas Tax Accountants - CPAs in Dallas, TX

I’ve always liked the method of separating phrases with a hyphen; however,
in today’s competitive marketplace, how your listing appears in the SERPs is
a critical aspect of your SEO campaign.  After all, if you have high search
engine rankings but your targeted buyers aren’t clicking through, it won’t
do you much good.

 

These days I try to write compelling titles as opposed to simply factual
ones, if I can.  But it also depends on the page, the type of business, the
targeted keyword phrases, and many other factors.  There’s nothing wrong
with the title tag in my above example. If you were looking for a tax
accountant in Dallas and saw that listing at Google, you’d probably click on
it.

 

Still, you could make it a readable sentence like this:

 

Johnson and Smith are Tax Accountants and CPAs in Dallas, TX

 

I’m not as thrilled with that one because I had to remove the exact phrase
“Dallas Tax Accountants,” as it wouldn’t read as well if it said:

 

Johnson and Smith are Dallas Tax Accountants and CPAs in Dallas, TX

 

It sounds redundant that way, as if it were written only for the search
engines.

 

In the end, it’s really a personal preference.  Don’t make yourself crazy
trying to create the perfect title tag, as there’s just no such thing.  Most
likely, either of my examples would work fine.  The best thing to do would
be to test different ones and see which rank higher and which convert
better.  It may very well be that the second version doesn’t rank as well,
but gets clicked on more, effectively making up the difference.

 

Use Your Visible Text Copy As Your Guide

 

I prefer not to create my title tags until the copy on the page has been
written and optimized. I need to see how the copywriter integrated the
keyword phrases into the text to know where to begin. If you’ve done a good
job with your writing (or better yet, hired a professional SEO copywriter),
you should find all the information you need right there on your page.
Simply choose the most relevant keyword phrases that the copy was based on,
and write a compelling title tag accordingly. If you’re having trouble with
this and can’t seem to get a handle on what the most important phrases are
for any given page, you probably need to rewrite the copy.

 

I recommend that you *don’t* use an exact sentence pulled from your copy as
your title tag. It’s much better to have a unique sentence or a compelling
string of words in this tag.  This is why you have to watch out for certain
development tools.  Some content management systems (CMS) and blog software
such as WordPress automatically generate the title tag from information you
provide elsewhere.  In WordPress, for example, the default is to use your
blog name, plus whatever you named the page. The problem is that this same
info is also used as the headline, plus in the navigational link to the
page.  Depending on your setup, it could also be the URL for that page.
Very rarely would you want all those to be the same.

 

The good news is that most of today’s CMS and blog software have workarounds
so that you can customize your title tags.  For WordPress, I recommend
installing the “SEO Title Tag” plug-in developed by Stephan Spencer.  It works like a charm
on all my WordPress sites.

 

Jill