June 2014 update: I’ve made some updates to this post to ensure it’s up to date with the recent Google changes.
In case you don’t know. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which basically means the process by which you fiddle with your site in order to ensure Google ranks it highly in the natural (rather than paid) search.
There are lots of aspects to SEO, but this article is going to focus on one particular part of what is called ‘on-page optimisation’.
We’re going to talk about how to rework your page title tags in order to give the search engines ‘what they want’ with the aim of improving your ranking.
Don’t expect shudderingly good results overnight. This is just one piece of a complex SEO jigsaw, but every little helps.
What is a title tag?
A title tag is a piece of code that sits at the top of each page on your website. It can’t be read on the actual page by users, but instead appears in the grey bar at the top of your internet browser:
Essentially, it’s there to define the content and what you’re talking about on this page.
Why should I care about title tags?
Although there is much debate in geek circles as to the importance of title tags, in my opinion they are essential if you want your website to attract customers and actually rank in a search. Title tags are often the first impression your customers get of your website, and it helps them decide whether your site is worth a click, so it’s essential to get them right.
How do I change my title tags?
If you’re using a Content Management System such as WordPress, you’ll probably have installed an SEO plugin like All in One SEO, or Yoast . This adds a box in the admin (generally at the bottom of every page or post) where you can complete the title (and meta description) information. If you’re feeling confused already, speak to your developer and ask them to demonstrate.
How to write your title tag
Firstly, you need to decide which keyword phrase you want to focus on. If you haven’t already chosen your keywords, read this article first.
So, you have your keywords and are read to write. Here are some things to remember:
- Your title tag is there to describe the page content.
- You should limit your title tag to around 55ish characters (including spaces between your words) – this is the maximum length that can be displayed in the search results.
- If you don’t stick to the 55-character limit, your title tag will truncate with dots, like this…
- It’s a good idea to include your brand if you can squeeze it in, but it’s not essential on all pages.
- It’s best to focus on one keyword phrase per page rather than multiple ones.
Here is a little title tag tool from Moz to help you check your title tags before they go live.
Show me some examples
Okay, so perhaps you’re a wedding and portrait photographer, based on the Central Coast of NSW. Your company is called ‘Confetti Snaps’.
You’ve decided that some of the keywords you want to target are:
- Confetti Snaps (If you’re a new company it’s important to include your brand name).
Wedding photographer Central Coast.
- Wedding photographs Central Coast.
- Wedding photography Avoca.
- Portrait photography Terrigal.
- Sue Carstairs photographer (Some people might know you personally and try to find you by typing in your name).
So you could try:
Wedding photographer Central Coast
(35 characters including spaces)
Or include the business name:
Wedding photographer Central Coast | Confetti Snaps
(51 characters including spaces)
Or include the business name and your name:
Wedding photographer Central Coast | Confetti Snaps | Sue Carstairs
(68 characters including spaces)
You can try playing with adjectives, but be aware that there are so many different ways to use adjectives that you might not get a huge amount of traffic this way.
Beautiful Wedding photographs Central Coast | Confetti Snaps
(61 characters including spaces)
Great value | Wedding photographs Central Coast | Confetti Snaps
(65 characters including spaces)
Is there anything else I need to know?
Well of course there are a few more things to think about, including:
- Don’t worry about including the name of the page (Home, About, Contact us) in the title tag. The words on the page can do the job of telling people where they are in the site; let the title focus on SEO.
- If you use a keyword phrase in the title tag, be sure you’re actually using it on the page as well. Read more about SEO copywriting here.
- Ensure that every page title is UNIQUE – or Google may judge the pages as being the same and you will lose valuable SEO juice.
- Back them up with a great Meta Description – these have no impact on ranking but can be powerful for encouraging click through. Think of them like a two-line sales pitch.
Share your thoughts
Have you struggled to write your title tags? Or rewritten them and noticed a boost in traffic? Why not share your tips below?
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