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Why is the TITLE tag so important?

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Ranking Factor #3

The TITLE Tag element is placed inside the head structure of a web page’s html code. This tag places text into the browser page tab. A TITLE tag will look something like:
<head>
<title> Website optimisation techniques</title>
</head>

It is important to include this tag in every page of your website. It is also important for each one to be unique. If title tags are the same, often only one page results is displayed in listings.

Why is the title tag important?

There are many reasons why the title tag is important, not just to the person viewing the page, but to other sites linking to this page, automated spiders crawling the page and to SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages). Think about trying to find a book in a library, if the title tag is undescriptive nonsense where do you think the librarian will have hidden it? The same applies to websites.

  • A search engine will display the content of this tag bold text within search results. The same is true of many social media sites. It is the most prominent piece of information presently to potential viewers. Think of how your results will appear on a SERP’s page and tailor them to attract customers.
  • When other sites link to yours, they need a descriptive title. Sometimes this process is automated in software with the linking text lifted from your TITLE tag. Some sites administrators get dozens of links to review per month. If you were to submit a link along the lines of <TITLE>Folder – Sub Folder – Another Folder – some words</TITLE>, the chances of yours getting reviewed first are slim to non-existent. Be descriptive as a search engine applies similar rules!
  • Some people try to keyword load their TITLE tags. E.g. <TITLE>Keyword – Key Word – Key Phrase – Keyword</TITLE>. Don’t you think they are trying too hard?! The author has given keywords priority over readability. A spider trawling the site will probably penalise them for over-optimisation.
  • Also think about how a visitor remembers your site within search results. You want them to come back right? Give them something brief, logical and accurate for the brain to store.
  • When you save a page to ‘My favourites’ it is this tag that is used to index it.

Title tag length

There is a character limit on the length of the title tag. Browsers will cut off long title tags. If your keyword is at the end of the tag, it will be invisible and ignored. Every browser will use these tags differently, so this page is just a general guide.

Each browser has a slightly different cut off point:

  • Internet Explorer shows 95 characters
  • Google shows 65 – 70 characters – cropping to complete words where possible
  • Yahoo shows 72 characters (previously 120 – now reduced)
  • Bing shows 65 characters (cropping mid word)
  • Ask shows 69 characters (cropping mid word)

So, the absolute maximum character limit is 65 characters including spaces and hyphenation. The key phrase in the sentence is ‘Absolute Maximum’. Try to optimise this tag down to a key phrase:

  • It is nice to have just a couple of words for a title tag, but where this is not possible, try to place the keyword first
  • Do not repeat words within the title tag
  • Try to have only one keyword or key-phrase in the title tag
  • The title of a page should be a brief description yet accurate of the content found on the page
  • Avoid special characters

Title Tag Keyword Prominence

Keyword prominence refers to the positioning of a keyword within the title tag. A word at the beginning of the tag will be given prominence over one at the end. The order words appear in is also important. The title tag should directly reflect the target key phrase of a page. A key-phrase that is prominent in the TITLE tag, the meta DESCRIPTION and page headers etc. will convey to search engines a much strong ‘theme’ for this particular page.

If you were trying to optimise for ‘Cherry Pie’ consider this tag

  • How to cook, favourite recipes, cakes, cherry pie and more

The target phrase appears, yet there are other key-phrases ahead of it. It is just one of several phrases.

Now consider:

  • Cherry Pie – How to perfect this recipe

Placing the target key-phrase close to the beginning places greater stress on the target. The sentence is more descriptive and reads naturally. If the prominent phrase matches other key page elements, search engines will be able to categorize this page much more accurately.

Repeating Title Tag Words

As an experiment, pick a search engine and type in a key phrase of your choosing. Look at the results. Now go back and type the same key phrase and duplicate one of the words at the end. Same results right? Therefore, repeating words has no real value. Plus repeating keywords could get the whole site penalised for keyword stuffing.

Title Tag Capitalisation

Try to type your TITLE tag in ‘Proper Case’. When SERP’s display results, often not all the words are capitalised or bold text. Therefore, they have little significance to the key phrase. These words are still important as they aid readability to the user. To help search engines decide which words are significant follow a few simple rules:

  • The first word of the TITLE tag should be capitalised, as should the last
  • Some multi-purpose words should not be capitalised. These words include :
    • and, at, on, in, a, nor, on, to, up
      NB. These are some of the most repeated words and have little significance to search results
  • Capitalise two letter words when acting as a noun, pronoun, adjective, or adverb
  • Capitalise verbs, adverbs, pronouns and adjectives

Title Tag Branding

Should you use a brand name in a title tag?

This all comes down to the strength of the brand name within the market place. Is the product being advertised on other forms of media? Sure, if your name is Pepsi or Toyota use it, but if your name is ‘Bob’s Paints’ then your keyword should definitely be first. You have to think of your target market; if your company is relatively un-known or new, swallow your pride and use keywords instead.

Common Title Tag Mistakes

Probably the most common mistake is using the domain name in the TITLE tag.
<TITLE>www.domain-name.com</TITLE>

A search engine already knows the url and it’s displayed in the browser bar millimetres above the tab. It’s a wasted opportunity. The title tag of the home page should clearly reflect the organisations’ name and their key purpose or function. Not doing so could seriously affect rankings. There is no need to include the organisation’s name in every title tag of every page, but including it after key phrases can help, especially if the brand is well known. Only if the company is ‘famous’ should it go first on every page.

A TITLE tag such has <TITLE>Unkown Company Name | SALES – click here</TITLE> fails to meet all criteria.

A TITLE tag must be stand-alone. It must describe the page accurately without reference to its surrounding folder structure or website. Tags like ‘home’ and ‘contact us’ are useless as they tell search engines and viewers nothing about the contents of the page. Imagine if your whole ‘My Favourites’ list read:

  • HOME
  • HOME
  • ABOUT US
  • CONTACT US
  • HOME

You’d never find anything and would stop using this function.

None standard Character Set in the Title tag

Some people argue that using non-standard characters (UTF-8) within the TITLE tag can increase their prominence in SERPS. The counter argument is that they use up some of the valuable character limit and spoil readability. Some argue that this comes under ‘trying too hard’. If you decide to use them limit their use to non-prominent key words:

  • Sawn Timber – Trade NameTM
  • Pepper Pots | UK Distributor of Condiments & Tableware | Company®

Remember – Don’t try too hard!

Although special characters only take up one of the displayed character limit (65), they may use up to 7 of the maximum 95 that Internet Explorer can display. Eg. » = »

Title Tag Keyword Density

An important concept not to ignore is keyword density. You have chosen your url and your title tag. You now need to make sure that TITLE phrase appears in the main text.

It is recommended that a page has at least 300 words, although too many can make a page lack focus.

Keyword density for a single keyword or phrase should be 1 – 6%. Using 300 words, an individual keyword should appear 3 − 18 times.

  • 100 x 3 / 300 = 1%
  • 100 x 18 / 300 = 6%

Bear this is mind whilst typing up the content. Make a careful note of all keywords, possibly keeping a printed copy with the keyword highlighted. It’ll reinforce it in your brain and be a useful reference to anyone editing the page in future.

If you have several keywords or phrases on a page make sure the overall density does not exceed 5 − 20%.
If 50% of all words on a page are keywords then not just that page will get penalised but probably the whole website.

If keyword density for a phrase is too low then search engines will regard other pages more relevant. However, as this can be a very time consuming process, especially for large sites, you are probably better off just doing this for key pages and briefing scanning others. Some people use special tools to analyse the density of every page, but often these pages and sites end up disjointed, with hard to read sentences that seem vague and repetitive.

Where to place the TITLE tag

This tag should be place directly below the tag and above the meta DESCRIPTION tag.

Title Tag Tips

Give the finished page to someone not involved in creating it, asking them to guess what subject the page is about. If they guess close then you’ve done a good job. If they are way off, then maybe you need to rewrite the content or change the page title.

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