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HTML Title Tag Defines Your SEO Strategy

Carrie Hill
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Meta tags, links, metadata, content, relevancy, competition, and page title all affect page ranking. The HTML title tag, an element that tells searchers what your page is about, is often overlooked.

If you're a regular student of SEO and search, you know how important titles are. Page titles can make or break search engine rankings for a small business Web site.

Crafting the perfect title tag is a lot of art, and a little bit of science. There are a variety of techniques -- and many schools of thoughts. Let's look at three types of page titles to see what works and what doesn't.

An Unoptimized Title

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I can't tell you how many Web sites I visit with the page name or title as "home" or "prices." What a horrible missed opportunity to use some great keyword phrases to rank your page for something that will actually sell your product.

I don't think someone searching for "home" will want to buy pizza. So why optimize your page for the term "home?"

Spamalicious -- the Word List

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Great -- a bunch of lower case words about pizza. This doesn't do anything but tell the search engines you're trying really hard to rank for a variety of terms related to pizza.

The first keyword is "pizza" -- there are 134 million people competing for that term in Google. How many of those are your target audience? I'd guess about half of one percent.

Put a location qualifier next to your keyword phrase if you rely on a local market. If you don't rely on a local market, think very hard about the feasibility of ranking for terms that are highly competitive. Is there a large list of long-tail terms that will be easier to rank for and will -- when added together -- bring just as much or more traffic as that one uber-competitive keyword phrase?

Beyond poor keyword choices for a page, many small business Web site owners miss the fact that not only is your page title a great way to tell the search engines what your page is about -- it's ad copy. That's right -- when you write a page title it shows up as the bold, blue, underlined header in the SERPs (define).

Results -- Guaranteed With a Side Order of Call to Action!

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This style is my personal favorite and very similar to how I write title tags for my clients and my own Web sites. Sometimes I'll trim it down a bit. Sometimes I'll just do something like "Order Brooklyn Style Pizza in Red Hook NOW and save 10 percent " if the client is running a special.

Effectively using page titles as ad copy depends on spidering (define) frequency. Page titles don't change instantly in search engines. Be very careful when featuring specials or one-time offers in title tags. You may not be able to remove the text from the results right away when the offer is over. If you're willing to offer the special until the page is re-indexed, then go for it. Offering a "deal" and making it prominent in the search results is a great way to gain market share.

You may also consider adding your business name to the end of your title tag. If you have enough brand recognition in your area or niche, it's important to capitalize on that. I have a client that gets more than 60 percent of their conversions based on brand recognition. Nearly all their title tags have their brand inserted so it shows in the SERPs.

The best parts of the third type of page title are the great keyword phrase and call to action. Remember, if you design your site based on keyword research, you can feature one keyword per page!

In this last example we're accomplishing two important aspects of SEM (define). We're telling the search engines what our page is about, and using some great ad copy in the SERPs.

A Real Life Example of a Page Title

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Number one and number two will probably get some clicks -- especially if they really luck out and have good positioning. It's not all about optimization though.

There needs to be a blend between search engine friendly and user-friendly. Style number three is telling us exactly what our pizzeria offers and where. Those are two great selling points.

You'll notice that our page titles have been shortened in a few instances. Google will only display about 63 characters, including spaces, in the title of a search engine result. Make sure your keyword and call to action come within that 63 character span.

I hope these examples will help do-it-yourselfers construct some killer page titles that will help with click-throughs and conversion on your small business Web site.

One last note: along with being search engine friendly, your page titles should also appeal to the eyes of your target market.

If you have any questions about title tags, contact me.

Join us for SES London February 19-21 and for training classes on February 22.


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