12 Apr 2012

6 Tips to Improve Your Title Tags

If you’re looking to tighten up your on-page SEO, title tags are a great place to start. They are usually easy to edit, in just about every platform, and they’re one of the most influential SEO factors on a web page.

Word Choice

Always use the keywords that are best for your site in terms of search value. Do the research and find what people would be searching for if they wanted your product. The title tag is not the place to coin new lingo or use overly narrow industry terminology. Also quality factors, “#1 Rated” Trust indicators “In business for…”. These may all fit better in the meta description. The title tag can impact search placement where the meta description is much less of a factor. So use those to extol your virtues but keep title tags keyword focused.

Word Placement

Think carefully about what words you place up front. The first few words of the title tag can carry the most weight both visually and with search engines. You can include branding in the title tag, but it should be at the end.

Keep Adding…

Don’t pull up short on your title tags. If it only takes 3 keywords to describe a page, then find another variation to say it again, or even 3 times maybe 4. Redundancy is actually good in title tags. Just stick to the most relevant concepts of each specific page, variation only means finding an alternative way the same thing. But keep going until it feels like too much.

…Then Take Something Off

Ok, now you’ve probably gone too far. Like Coco Chanel Said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”. Title tags shouldn’t be too short but they shouldn’t ever approach spammy levels. So once you’ve overdone your title tags, cut them back. Look for places where you use the same word more than once. For most terms once you’ve used a singular and a plural that should be enough. It’s okay to go over the top, but then you have to edit. Combine what you can, eliminate what isn’t necessary and remember, ampersands and vertical bars can be your best, space saving, friends.

Vary It Up

If you’ve found a formula that works, that’s good, but try and find a few. Doing all of your title tags by hand is the SEO idealistic dream, but a lot of title tags are auto generated these days. Big stores have a lot of pages, it just makes more sense. But if you can, use multiple auto generating patterns and try to at least retain the ability to edit page specific titles. It’s worth it to do the hand work on your most valuable pages.

Let Them Keep You Honest.

The word over optimization has been coming up a lot lately. And title tags are one place where over optimization can happen. If you’re doing user intent keyword grouping well, there should be so many keyword possibilities for a page that you have to cut some out. So if you find that you only have one phrase for your title tag, it may be an unnecessary page. Privacy policy, about us or contact aside I’m talking about keyword variations. Variations including words like cheap, discount or online don’t really deserve their own page. Because if you can’t generate multiple legitimate variations of a phrase how can you produce enough valuable content on that subject to fill a whole page? You probably can’t so the content would come out shallow or shall I say “thin”. And we know what happens to pages with thin content… Panda’s eat them.

It’s The Little Things

Title tags seem like such a simple little thing they can easily become an afterthought. But they have so much potential they can also be exploited. It’s a tough fence to straddle, but the best title tags lie somewhere in between. They should have smart keyword choices, in the right order. They shouldn’t leave space on the table or be overly long and they should be varied. But most importantly they should be an honest reflection of the content on the page, and the content on the page should exist to express and idea, not support a keyword in a title tag.

But if all of your pages are created with the right focus and intent with a little research and consideration it should all become clear pretty quickly. You’ll see how high volume phrases stand out and how the top few can fit together. And you’ll be able to feel when to stop.  It just takes some time and the willingness to focus on this simple little thing with so much SEO value.