SEO is a topic that is usually on the minds of most companies and individuals. Everyone is always trying to figure out how to drive more traffic to their site. A company usually has to jump through several hurdles to get anything implemented and that can usually take months. As an individual or a small (perhaps even medium size) business you are much more flexible when it comes time to make changes.
As someone who runs a team of technical SEOs and has been in the SEO game for several years, I have a pretty solid understanding of how SEO works, and doesn’t work. This is the first of a series of posts that is going to cover a few SEO basics, these posts are design to educate and inform, but it’s up to you to research and implement. Let me also make a small disclaimer by saying that this whole site is going through a redesign so several of my SEO elements are not optimized (just in case you wanted to let me know).
We all hear about how title tags are the most important SEO element to go after, but, not many people understand how to write proper title tags. Let me also be clear and state that the title tag is but one factor of SEO, and in order to really see results you need implement a holistic SEO strategy that covers much more then just title tags.
First let’s go over what the title tag is then we will go over how to write one. The title tag is the bit of text you see in the upper left hand part of your browser; when viewing my blog homepage, this is what my title tag looks like, the lower portion is what it looks like in html:
Every page on your site has (or should have) its own UNIQUE title tag. The problem that I see most companies or individuals running into is that they either leave generic title tags i.e. “home page,” they try to stuff every keyword into their title tag i.e. “web design, design, online design, design software…” or, they create identical title tags for all of their pages. This is not the proper way to create title tags and you are not going to see the results you want. So now that we know what a title tag is, let’s go over how to create one.
Remember that every page on your site should have it’s own unique title tag. Think of the title tags as being titles of the chapters of a book, you want the titles to give the reader a good idea of what to expect. If your chapter titles are all identical or stuffed with keywords then your reader is probably not going to know what to expect. Now here are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating title tags:
- You don’t want anything too broad such as “shoes” because chances are you don’t sell every single shoe known to man. Go after your target audience.
- Think about your audience, are you aiming specifically for a gender or demographic, perhaps you are only located in a certain geographic location? If so, this information should go into your title tag to improve your chances to rank for your niche, after all it’s much easier to rank well for “discount nike shoes” then it is to rank for “shoes.” This information will also give more information about your page/site to the users.
- Keep the length of your title tags to around 65 characters or less, anything longer will usually get truncated by search engines
- Research your online competition to know what the competitive landscape looks like, this is just a good overall SEO practice.
- Branding comes second, keywords come first. What I mean by this is don’t start your title tag with your company name because that’s the easiest thing to rank for. Start off with your target keywords and include your company name at the very end.
- Don’t bother using fancy company jargon, you need to do research to see what your users are actually searching for. My team uses its own tools/process to get search engine data for keywords, unfortunately this information is not public so I can’t share it. I have found that all the public tools out there are skewed and inaccurate. Having said that you can try a few of the free tools out there (you can just do a google search for “free keyword research tools and you will plenty!) for general research such as:
Let’s say that you have a site that sells discount computers and computer parts. You would probably want to start off with a more general title tag for your home page something like “discount computers and computer parts | company name.” Now let’s say you have a section for only Dell computers and Dell parts, you could create a title tag like: ” buy discount dell computers and dell parts and accessories | company name.”
Getting the idea? You want each title tag that you create to describe the content on the page this tells the search engines and the users what each page is about. It’s really quite simple to create title tags once you have the guidelines down and research your market, the rest is just entering in text.
Dangers of not creating proper title tags
- Pages will compete for the same keywords, this is not a good thing since you want the most relevant page to be presented to the users. If each page (and title) is unique, then you shouldn’t have multiple pages from your site showing up for the same keyword, the goal here is quality not quantity.
- Not targeting your audience, this is something I see a lot from people/companies who try to focus on terms that they believe will drive the most amount of traffic. Traffic does not equal conversion. If you rank #1 for shoes but your site is about cookies, then sure you will get a bunch of traffic but then the users will just leave, meaning you will not get the conversions you are looking for.
- Focus on branding and not on the target market. As I mentioned above ranking well for your company or brand name is usually easier than ranking for a particular keyword. If you focus too much on ranking well for your company name but are then invisible online to people that are actually searching for a related keyword or phrase, then you are missing out on a very large portion of your target market. For example a client of mine in the web analytics space ranks very well for their brand name, yet when you type in “web analytics,” or “web site analytics,” the company is nowhere to be found
Does this make sense? Do you have any questions?
Thanks for reading!