When it comes to on-site
search engine optimization,
few elements are more
important than the title tag.
For those unfamiliar with the term “title
tag,” it describes the text that appears in
the top line of a user’s Web browser. It is
also used by search engines as the actual
title of a search listing.
If you run an SEO campaign, then
you should be very interested in how title tags are
currently used — and how they can be improved
— on your site. If you run an SEO campaign and
are a savvy SEO, you’ll also notice how competitors
use title tags on their Web properties.
Writing descriptive title tags is a vitally important
aspect of optimizing a site to rank well with the search
engines and getting clicked on by visitors on search results
pages. A well-crafted title tag can stand on its own, generating
interest from users who know nothing of your website or company,
pulling them into the conversion funnel. That is the expectation
an SEO department should set when making title tag
Any effort to modify title tags site-wide should not be entered
into lightly. Among the considerations that
should be made are the sales and marketing
strategies of the Web enterprise or the business
running the website. It is also imperative that the
SEOs working on the behalf of a company
benchmark the competition as well as those outside the industry
to understand how the most popular websites leverage
their title tags.
So, what do the title tags of the most popular sites have in
common? Website Magazine examined the search results
pages of both Bing and Google for the answer. While only one
category is represented it is highly competitive in nature. The
keyword phrases used were “grocery coupons” and “printable
Presence of Keywords
Experienced SEOs know plenty from years of
title tag tweaks —such as to include at least one
targeted keyword or phrase. That certainly makes sense, but
you might be surprised at how few of them actually make the
effort, opting instead for using generic terms that do not distinguish
a page, much less excite users — particularly on long
tail keyword phrases.
Still other SEOs realize the importance of using the title tag as
an opportunity to achieve rankings through keyword association,
as in the case of CouponMom.com below.
Prominence of Keywords
It is also relatively well known that, whenever possible, keywords
should be used early in the title — it is most common to have
the keyword or key phrase used in the first half of the full title.
This helps search engines and the visitors they send identify the
main subject of the page quickly, not to mention to ensure that
page titles do not get cut off by search engines. See the Coupon-
Mom.com image above as an example.
You might also notice the inclusion of brand elements on a high
percentage of competitive search results pages. Coupon-
Cabin.com (image below), for example, even includes its name
(without the dot com), and even Coupon Divas (image above)
includes its registered trademark. If the brand is strong and
provides clarity as to what a user might find, using brand
elements should be considered for inclusion in title tags.
Special Character Omission
The verdict is out on the role that special characters may play in ranking and click-through rate (which many
believe are inextricably connected). For now, it
is best practice to avoid many special characters
in page titles — doing so will put your site at
least in line with the vast majority of Web properties.
It’s compelling (and, some would argue, attractive) to include
colons, hash marks, dollar signs and ampersands — but the top
sites typically do not and you shouldn’t, either. That being said,
there may just be something to being different — as might be the
case with wow-coupons.com (image above).
Length of Title Tag
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, understand that search engines
have limits as to how many characters are used from the
title tag and can display up to 70 characters. There is little in the
way of statistical data about the role that title tag length may play
in generating clicks (is longer or shorter better?), but focusing on
readability and establishing expectations for users should be the
primary objective anyway.
There is no silver bullet to title tag optimization. Simply
take great care in selecting the right keywords and phrases,
leaving out the unnecessary elements, and focusing near exclusively
on readability and the value that visitors will find
upon arriving at your site.