PART 2: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT "TITLE TAGS"
PART 2: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT "TITLE TAGS"
A website can do just fine online without SEO. PPC, social media and other properly implemented off-line marketing efforts can really help a site succeed online with little or no SEO. But unless and until you begin to SEO your site it will always under perform, never quite reaching its fullest potential. Without SEO, you'll always be missing out on a great deal of targeted traffic that the other avenues cannot make up for.
So where do we start? SEO can be so broad and vast that we often don't know where we should begin, what will give us the greatest impact, and how to move forward. That's what I hope to answer here.
Building Good Title Tags
The title tag is the single most important piece of SEO real estate on your site. A title tag can be as long as you want, but you only have about 63 characters before the search engines cut it off. So use it wisely.
Since the title appears as the clickable link in the SERPs pages it has to be able to meet a couple of different demands.
Searchers type in specific words into the search engines and they expect the engines to provide results that match their original query. We know that the search engines look at over 200 different signals to determine the relevance of any page against the keyword searched. The title tag one of them, but a very key one at that. You don't necessarily need your keyword in the title tag for it to come up in the search results, but it helps a great deal.
But what about the visitor? What does the searcher see? Let say a searcher types "how to be beautiful" into the search engine and two results are displayed. One reads "How to Look Good and Feel Great" and another reads "How to Look Beautiful Even When you Don't Feel Like It." Which of these two is more likely to be clicked by the visitor?
It's entirely likely both pages address the same concerns, but only one uses the searched keyword. More than likely, the second result will get far more clicks than the first, even if it is in a lower position in the results (which isn't likely, but lets pretend anyway.)
The next thing your title tag needs to be is compelling. We looked out how to make it more likely to be clicked simply by putting keywords in it, but that itself is only part of the issue. Going back to our example above if we put the first non-keyword using headline up against a third keyword rich headline of "Sexy and Beautiful, Today's Hottest Stars." which do you think will gain more clicks? My guess is the first one that doesn't use keywords because it is far more compelling and speaks more toward the searcher's intent. So in this situation the third headline is likely to rank higher but will receive fewer clicks.
The trick is to make sure that the title tag is both keyword rich and compelling. This will help move your site to the top of the rankings, but also ensure that visitors are more likely to click on it into your site.
Implementing your title tags properly is crucial to ensuring they are effective. There are a number of easy mistakes that you can make if you don't take the time to do it right. It's easy to want to blast through your title tags, especially if you have a lot of pages. But because the title tag is so important, you want to take care in developing them properly. Here are a few common issues:
Same on Every Page: Each page in your site is unique, or at least it should be. This means your title tags should be unique on each page as well. On a lot of sites you'll see the same title tag across all the pages "Welcome to My Site, or something like that. That hardly describes the page at all. And show that in the search results, you're not likely to get any clicks. Go through the site and customize each title, ensuring it uniquely and accurately describes the content of the page.
Leading with Business Name: There are good reasons to have your business name present in your title tag, but that should not be by default. If you use your business name be sure to think through the reasoning and make sure it's sound. The limitations of the title tag make using your business name something you do only with great care and consideration. I'll discuss this more in a bit.
List of Keywords: Wanting to get your keywords in the title tag makes it tempting to just try to throw as many in there as you possible can. "Beauty | Makeup | Makeovers | Diet | Healthy Skin." Sure that gets all your keywords in there but does nothing to make someone want to click on the result. This means that (gasp!) you have to use keywords sparingly so you can also make the title something worth clicking on.
Lack of Description: Aside from getting your primary keywords in the title, and making it compelling, you also have to make sure the title tag provides enough of a description of the content to ensure it gets a targeted click. No sense having someone click into the site only to find the information on the page isn't what they expected. Make sure that the title describes the content in a compelling and keyword friendly way.
So let's address using your business name in your title tags. As I said earlier, sometimes its wise but that shouldn't be the default position.
In general, you can place your business name either at the front or the rear of the title tag. My rule of thumb is that you don't want to put your business name at the front of your title tag unless you have a highly recognizable brand name that the visitor will know and will likely be a click-generator from the search results. If that's not the case then you simply don't want to give up that real estate.
Branding at the rear of the title tag is a far better solution for most businesses. This helps moderately known or even unknown companies build brand name recognition. The downside of branding your title tags this way is you are still using up valuable real estate that might otherwise be used making a keyword rich and compelling headline. Also note, that if the title goes too long, your business name will be cut off in the search results.
Most of the time you don't need your business name in your title tags at all, however there is one time when I would suggest leaving it off almost 90% of the time. This is on product pages. It's so crucial to get important product data into the title tag that there often simply isn't room enough for your business name. Again, I might make an exception for well-known business names, but default to showing product info first and foremost.
PART 3: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT "META DESCRIPTION AND KEYWORD TAGS"
Meta Description Tag
One of the big misconceptions about SEO is that everything we do is designed to increase search engine rankings. This isn't (or shouldn't be) true, and there is no simpler example of that then the Meta Description tag. Even though this description tag doesn't weigh all that heavily into the search engine ranking algorithms, it is still a very powerful part of an effective optimization campaign.
Like the Title Tag, the Meta Description tag will often show up in the search results. Generally what you see in the SERPs is the clickable title link and then the description tag or page snippet just below it. If the description is pulled in to the results, it becomes a very important part of helping entice visitors to click on the link into your site.
If your description tag fails to properly or adequately tell your visitors whats on the page then it's likely they'll click on another result.
The reason why many people don't put much stock into the description tag is because they are stuck on the belief that people click on rankings, not on search results. This isn't true. Sure, more people click on sites that rank higher, but only if those sites also have compelling titles and descriptions, which is often not the case. Few people blindly click links without first vetting them, and those that do often find themselves disappointed if they do.
Those who take the time to look through the search results, reading titles and descriptions to find the site that is most likely to give them what they are looking for, are more likely to be a targeted visitor one they land on your site.
If you're like me then you read descriptions before the title tags in the search results. I figure it's easy to stuff the main keywords in the title, but the description is more likely to have some of the longer tail phrases that I'm looking for. If the title matches my search broadly, the description should match much more specifically. If it doesn't then I'm probably looking at the wrong result.
The general rule is that you want each of your description tags to be unique. The description should b e a 20-40 word summary of what the visitor will expect to find on that page, and that page only. Descriptions for each page should be unique from the next. Make sure you summarize the page in a unique way, using primary and secondary keywords while making it compelling to searchers.
You don't always want or need a description tag on every page. There are some instances when you would be better served not having a description at all. For me, the general rule is if you're targeting broader keywords, use the description tag. If you're targeting long-tail keywords then don't.
The reasoning here is that if you're going after long-tail phrases on an article page or blog post, then there are simply too many variations to attempt to work them into a 40-word description. On the other hand, if those long-tail words are in the content, without the description tag, the search engine will import snippets from the page based on the search. This increases your likelihood of getting actual keywords into the description content below the clickable link in the search results.
Meta Keywords Tag
The only thing there is to say about the Meta Keyword tag is that there isn't much to say about it. The search engines don't put much, if any, stock in it and your visitors don't see it. By all measures its invisible.
But that doesn't keep people from asking, Do I use commas or spaces? Do I use phrases or words? How long should the keyword tag be?
The answer is: It doesn't matter. If you are going to take the time to add the meta keywords tag to your pages then I suggest this: don't waste your valuable time worrying about the "right" way to write it. Throw a few keywords in there and walk away. Don't worry about formatting, spacing, commas, length or anything like that. Keep is short, sweet and move on.