SEO | page title and title tag issues

The Page Title is the most important on-page SEO element! Why? Several reasons. First, it's your search result listing headline, the first thing searchers see. Second, search engines place a high emphasis on the title tag. This summarizes what your page is all about. This is where you make your topic, the purpose of the page infinitely clear to your visitors and the search engines. Start each page with a well crafted, crystal clear title.

Search Engine Results Headline

Your Page Title appears as the headline in your listing on the search engine results page. Let's take a look at a Google search for the phrase "joomla extensions." Here's what Google shows:


The very top line of the first result reads, Home - Joomla! Extensions Directory. It's highlighted with an underscore, and clearly a hyperlink. It's a searcher's first impression of the site. It needs to grab their attention both by showing that it's what they're looking for and it's interesting. Without that, they make the snap decision to pass on your listing.

Look closely, and you'll see that Google highlights (in bold) the keywords joomla and extensions throughout the listing. We're covering the Page Title (your <title> tag) here, so be aware that Google highlights the entire title with a different color (the hyperlink default), underlining and add bold to the keywords in the title. I've seen some SEO experts highlight keywords further by adding them in all upper case. Personally, I've had mixed results with the uppercase tactic. On more established sites, it seems to help. On newer, less established sites it's hurt. You can experiment with this to see what works for your site.

Browser's Title Bar

Your <title> tag also appears in your browser's title bar. Generally, most people don't even notice it, still it's a helpful SEO tool, allowing you to quickly check your <title> tag.

Crafting Your Page Title

Clearly you'll need to do your keyword research first. If this is a new page, brainstorm what you'd type into google to find this content. Enter your page's url into Google's Targeting Explorer to get some more ideas (along with search statistics, competition and estimated cpc advertising value). You might also want to check out the Term Extractor over at SEOMOZ and see what that SEO tool finds.

Write for People

Human readability is the most important factor. Some folks concentrate on keywords too much. The result is high page position, but low click through. Lawyers are notorious for this. Search for Criminal Lawyer and inevitably, you'll come up with a bunch of listings with far too many keywords. First focus on being informative, interesting and getting that click. Second, get your keywords and phrases in there. If you believe you have too many keywords and it's hard to get them all in there, you need to break them up into separate pages.

Divide and Conquer Don't Overstuff

People often spend too much time focusing on their home page, stuffing every conceivable keyword phrase into every crevasse they can find. In the long run, they'll lose out. People don't like reading the same phrases over and over again, and Google's smart enough to know you're playing games. Instead, think of your site as an outline - a hierarchy of ideas. Split individual concepts (i.e., keyword phrases) into separate pages. A recipe site, for example should narrowly focus their home page on "recipes" and closely related keyword phrases. Instead of stuffing the homepage with chicken recipes, beef recipes, etc. they can build pages, directly linked from the home page for each of these topics.

Page Title Tips

Learn from the success and failure of others. Once you know your keywords and how popular and competitive they are, google them! Check out the top few listings, how do their titles read? Scroll down a dozen pages or so, what sort of titles are these low ranking sites using? Remember, there are hundreds of things that go into SEO, Page Title is just one of them. Many low ranking sites have great headings, and some high ranking sites have poor headings. But you'll get a fairly good idea.

Here are some basic rules or your Page Title:

  • Keep it to no more than 65 characters/15 words
  • Keep it HUMAN readable - make it clickable
  • Use, but don't overuse keyword phrases - divide and conquer
  • Eliminate your site's name, or at the very least move it to the end of the Page Title
  • Get rid of navigational words that don't relate to the topic (e.g., "chapter", "section", "home", "index")

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