Page titles are very important to search engine results. In an SEOMoz survey of SEO thought leaders, the title tag was considered the single most important factor by 35 of 37 participants. What’s included in the <title> tag on your page tells the search engines what your page is about. As a result, page titles represent a great opportunity to include important keywords for your site. Knowing this, I was carefully crafting page titles to drive traffic. They looked just fine when I viewed the pages, but almost by accident, I realized that my hard work was being ignored by Google.
Apparently, the SEO plug-in I installed on our WordPress site, conflicted with the theme, and the end result was less than optimized titles. Fixing it wasn’t a big deal, but it was an important lesson learned. Check to see if the search engines are correctly picking up your titles.
Google Webmaster Tools (available for free) and SEOmoz (paid) will help you identify potential problems with your titles. Here are some issues they can help spot:
Missing Titles – Pages without titles aren’t likely to be found by search engines.
Duplicate Titles – Search engines will be confused if every page on your site has the same title. Each page should have a unique and descriptive page title.
Titles that are too long or too short – Long titles will get cut off by search engines, short titles such as “home” and “about” are too nondescript to be valuable to search engines. According to SEOmoz, Google will display 70 characters in the title.
Keywords: What is too many?
While its important to use relevant keywords in the title, keyword stuffing isn’t advised. If there is nothing on the page about the keyword, using it in the title will only result in a high bounce-back rate for your page.
To brand or not to brand?
If your brand is a household name, placing the brand at the beginning of the title tag will help marketers capitalize on brand searches. But if your brand isn’t well known, most SEO experts suggest placing the name at the end of the title tag.
Why is Google picking up something than the title tag?
It’s important to note that sometimes Google finds something even better than your title tag to display in its search engine results. Based on a user’s query, the search engine may show alternative text that is more relevant than the title tag. You don’t have control over this, but its probably a good thing because it means your site was relevant to the search.
Titles are an important component of writing for the web. The more you know about writing good titles, the more likely your content is to be found.
Have you learned any SEO lessons the hard way?