I want to further explain the little-loved lines of text that receive so much hate, yet have such a large effect on your rankings AND click through rates (CTR). After all, the title tag is the first thing a user sees when they come across your site in a SERP, right?
I’ll admit right away that I’m writing this post for beginner SEOs. So if you’re advanced at SEO, you should probably go learn some ImportXML or something
Where is my title tag?
To start from the very beginning, the title tag is the text that you see on your search browser tab or along the top of your page if you are using a tabless browser like IE6. The title is also what you will see when you see the page indexed in a search results page (SERP).
Title tag guidelines for SEO
This one seems obvious, but your title tags should contain the main important keywords for your page that also describe the contents of the page. It seems obvious as well, but I can’t imagine that you could fool big G and rank for a page well for a page that has nothing to do with your content. SEO is about relevance in this case.
To learn basic keyword research, I recommend reading Rand’s recent post called SEO for Travel Blogging 101.
Each and every page and article should have a unique title. On large sites, many webmasters will carefull plan out an actionable plan for how to structure their title tags, to ensure the uniqueness across even millions of pages.
Constructing a Title Tag
Usually, a well-constructed title tag will have the keywords first and will be in the structure of “Keyword | Category” or “Keyword | Brand”. We use the pipe ( | ) because testing has shown that this is the most search crawler accessible divider.
Brands will sometimes want to structure their title tags to include their brand name on some of their most important category pages, but maybe not their individual product pages.
For example, if I were to do SEO for The North Face (I don’t but would love to. TNF, if you’re reading and need SEO, please get in touch), I would structure their main pages to include “| The North Face”.
A category page like Men’s Clothing would receive something like “Men’s Outdoor Gear and Apparel | The North Face”. Deeper into the products, however, I might put something like “Men’s Denali Fleece Jacket | Men’s Outdoor Apparel”.
A Couple More Notes
Before I unleash you into the wild of the Interwebs, let me give you two pieces of advice:
1) Do not keyword stuff your title tags. Do your keyword research to find the main term you want to target and use that. If I see anyone writing a title tag like “Blue Orange Widgets Plugins Cheap Prices” I will personally come smack you. Consider yourself warned. More importantly than the threat of bodily harm, the search engines also do not like stuffed title tags or content, and have been known to penalize sites for doing so.
2) Just because you are writing title tags for rankings does not mean that your title tags has to be boring! You can do the keyword research AND be creative. After all, good writing is what really gets the links and subsequently rankings, so pay attention to keywords but do not kill your creativity.
I hope this brief intro to title tags has been useful to you. I’d love to hear comments if you have any.