Bringing Keywords Into Order

A lot of Search Engine Optimisation revolves around trying to predict the random methods people use to find a site.

To complicate matters further, keyword order will have an impact upon organic search rankings.

Keyword order will not just impact the visible text within a page, it will affect the URL, the title tag, header tags etc.
Often there can be huge gains or losses in organic rankings, simply by changing the order of keywords.

You may be forgiven for thinking that you’d want to place the words in an order that sounds natural, as this is how the majority of people type, but there is also a significant proportion of the population that use a random order, ignoring all short words (prepositions such as : on, in, to etc).

For a given search phrase, the competition for the naturally speaking version will always be higher.

Take ‘Audi Quattro’ (Natural)
6,590,000 search results.
40,500 global monthly searches

For ‘Quattro Audi’ (Un-Natural):
1,320,000 search results
1,000 global monthly searches

To get these statistics, sign up for a Google AdWords account and use their Google AdWords Traffic estimator.

This will not always be the case, the trick would be to find a key-phrase where the ‘Un-Natural’ search, had fairly low search results, but high global monthly searches.
In short, ‘No competition and lots of people looking’.

How to predict keyphrases

With the launch of ‘Google Instant’ when you begin to type a phrase into the search box, the results are automatically populated before the ‘Google Search’ submit button is clicked.
Now when a user begins typing they often stop half way through their intended search phrase and click one of the suggestion. With Google the number one search engine, these short key phrases or even single words are favoured strongly.

  1. Taking each word of your keyphrase in isolation, begin typing it slowly into the Google’s, search box.
  2. Make a note of all the suggestions given within the drop down menus.
  3. Take a compiled list of all these phrases and enter them into Google one by one.
  4. Note down the number of search results for each
  5. Using the Google AdWords Traffic Estimator, enter each phrase, setting the Advanced Options and Filter’s Match types to ‘Exact’
  6. Note down the estimated traffic for each phrase.

Although larger, you should have a list somewhat similar to the ‘Audi’ one.

SEO problems with Keyword Order

Not only can finding the magic keyword order be initially time consuming, it will also need re-assessing periodically. Not everyone has this much time to spend on every page of their website, so what are the solutions?

The simple solution is ‘Theming’. When writing a piece of copy, try to encompass the whole subject wherever possible. Including such things as:

  • Product Features
  • History
  • Development
  • Advantages
  • Images
  • Usage
  • Similar Pages
  • References

Obviously, you’d give the page Title, url and H1 tag your No.1 keyphrase, but for each of the items in the list above use less popular combinations. It is also worth remembering that punctuation can be very handy for getting words into an un-natural order. Keywords can also be broken up with the use of breadcrumbs:

Keyword > SEO > Order > Keyword Order SEO

Google would read ‘Keyword SEO Order’ and ‘Keyword Order SEO’ as the same

Listing keywords

  • how to order words for SEO
  • keyword order SEO
  • ordering keywords for SEO
  • optimise keyword order
  • SEO keyword order
  • etc etc…

SEO Rules for Keyword Proximity

 

  • Directly adjacent is best.
  • Un-natural phrases are OK, especially if there is no competition and lots of people looking. 
    Keyword proximity (for 2+ keywords) #10
    • Directly adjacent is best.
    • When adjacent, punctuation between words is acceptable (key. Word) but less desirable
    • Try to keep keywords within the same tag. e.g <p>
  • When adjacent, punctuation between words is acceptable (key. Word) but less desirable
  • Where possible, try to keep keywords within the same tag. e.g <p>

 




Keywords, Google and What's Fair

Once bureaucrats gain a foothold, they are driven to expand their power: one restriction leads to two, then four, it’s exponential. And we all understand that governments worldwide were slow to react to the Internet, allowing years without any supervision, taxes, etc. How easy would it have been for the Royal Mail to charge, say, one pence per email? Had they done that in 1996 the current budget crisis might have been solved. The long and short of it is that governments would like to catch up and gain a strong foothold in Net commerce.

At any rate, the recent challenge to Google and the use of a trade mark as a keyword might be the exception: that is, a wise use of government regulation. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that purchasing another party’s trade mark as a keyword could infringe the trade mark proprietor’s rights (in the case between Marks & Spencer and Interflora).

The Court ruled that infringement occurs if the keyword’s use affects the original trade mark in two of its key functions: its ability to identify the origin of goods or services and its ability to preserve the proprietor’s reputation, which attracts customers.

So, for example, ‘Bob’s Marketing’ can’t use ‘Vertical Marketing’ in its ad words campaign as a way to come out on top when someone searches for Vertical.

In legal terms, proprietors of a trade mark with a reputation can prevent a competitor from such advertising where the competitor’s use of the keyword is free riding on the trade mark’s reputation.

As reported on B2Bmarketing.net, Kirsten Gilbert, partner at Marks & Clerk Solicitors, said, “Brand owners will be encouraged that their competitors no longer have a completely free rein over use of their trade mark as a keyword. But, the practice of purchasing rivals’ trade marks as keywords is widespread, and marketers may now have to think of other creative ways to advertise their brands on the web.

The key phrase there, no pun intended, is ‘creative ways’. Marketing is about creativity and not riding the coat tails of someone else’s smart marketing idea. There is something inherently immoral and unfair about that, and it’s surprising that Google did nothing to prohibit this practice. Well, not surprising, given the amount of revenue keyword advertising generates.




SEO Font Definitions

Did you know that if you make text Bold, it is not only more visible to your readers but to search engines as well?

What things should I be highlighting? Are italics the same as underlines?

We’ve put together some hot tips on SEO font definitions.

Typical font definitions

  • Use Keywords in <strong> tag
  • Use Keywords in <em> tag
  • Use Keywords in <li> tag
  • Use Keywords in <u> tag
  • Use Keywords in <font> tag

From experimentation I’d say there is little difference between any of these tags. However, I would say it is very important to use these tags on relevant words.

In the same way as a copywriter would have a list of topics he would like to cover within an article, an SEO guru would have a list of words he would like to highlight in some way. These words are not his major keywords, chosen for the page, they are words that purely strengthen the theme of a page.

I use font definitions when I need to highlight certain SEO key-phrases that wouldn’t make much sense as headers. For instance if you had a page about a DVD player, good words to highlight would be ‘BluRay’ or ‘MP4 compatible’.

  • Don’t overdo it, a page that is all bullet points or has every other word in a different font face is difficult to read. Keep it readable, you don’t want a bounce.
  • Don’t waste your font definitions. How many pages have you seen where the only highlighted phrase on a page is ‘Read More’?
  • With the exception of bullet points, embed highlighted words and phrases within sentences.



Keyword in header Top 5

An eye catching headline is good for drawing in readers, but do search engines work the same way?

Putting a keyword or key-phrase within a header is not as simple as you’d first think. Web page headers are more like the smaller navigational heading you’d find inside a magazine than the ones you find emblazoned across the front cover.

From a page ranking perspective, a header (H1, H2, H3, H4 etc.) is slightly different to those you would read on the front of a newspaper. After all, headers are invisible to the user within SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) yet are argued to be the 8th most important on-page ranking factor. For a person to read the web page’s header, they have already arrived at your page. The header has already performed its invisible SEO function before a page even loads. A magazine on the other hand uses headlines to make their publication stand out from the crowd, forcing you to part with cash.

The question is, should you sacrifice keywords within the header for a comic one liner?
In the case of the H1 tag I would always say NO, but then again I’m an SEO nerd not a copywriter. Personally, I’d use other methods of keeping a person on the page: a clear informative image, a free give-away or similar. I always make sure the H1 header of any page is closely related, if not identical to the page title (<title> tag) and the page url. You only have one H1 tag on any page – so use it carefully!

With the H2, H3, H4 etc tags you have a certain degree of extra freedom. Don’t go overboard, as random sentences can dilute the theme of a page, making it hard for a search engine to index. Personally, where I have several keywords or key-phrases that I have chosen for a page, I assign them across these headers in descending order of priority. I make sure that only one keyword / key-phrase is used within each tag. Finally, when coding, I make sure the tags read in a logical order down the page.

  • H1
    • H2
      • H3
    • H2
      • H3
      • H4

Do not repeat headers and do not waste them on phrases such as ‘Contact Us’, ‘Terms and Conditions’ etc.

Don’t forget, if you must have a ‘showbiz header’ you could always use large type font, saving your H1 for SEO.

5 Keyword in Header Tips

  • Primary keyword in H1 tag
  • If possible, separate Hx tags for each keyword
  • Only one H1 tag
  • Use keyword only once in each header
  • H1 tag should reflect title tag of page



Internet or Social Media: Which Has More B2B Impact?

Think about this: in, say, 1998 my company offers high tech widgets using product datasheets and a corporate brochure. Then the internet comes along, and voila… I am using the same materials, the same brochure and product info, only now they’ve been HTML coded and are online. Same words, different format.

Now it’s 2011 and social media hits B2B… guess what? My materials have to change… from sell sheets to blogs, brochures to videos, technical papers to online problem solving for customers, from advertising to information that engages, teaches, inspires confidence and builds trust.

Yes, the internet has changed the way customers find my company and has made it easier for them to research my widgets. These are monumental changes, no doubt.

But social media has changed the essence of what I say to customers, which means the very fibre of how I market and sell. The self-serving corporate brochure (now turned website) and ‘we’re the greatest’ datasheets are mostly meaningless these days.

For companies and marketers, the logical effects of this watershed change are just being realised; but it’s not hard to see that the complete restructuring of the relationship among company/distributor/customers that social media has fostered will continue to have revolutonary implications in just about every aspect of B2B marketing.




Individual Keyword Density in Body Text

Individual keyword density differs from overal keyword density, in that it is the density of each keyword or key phrase. It is not the density of all keywords lumped together (overall).

For many years the keyword tag dominated search engine ranking factors. These days are long gone. Many of the big players included don’t even use it. If you have optimised for 3 key-phrases, then you will have 3 individual keyword density scores. Although you can add 1,000 characters to this tag, search engines are very wary of long tags and may consider the site ‘spam’. Keep the whole tag down to 10-12 words.

Each key-phrase should have greater than 1% density but less than 6%

  • >1% → < 6% − (each keyword/ total words)

Although this is ranked behind overal keyword density, if you have optimised for just 2 or 3 phrases then it will take priority.

There is an obvious balancing act and trade-off between individual and overall. You want to create a strong ‘theme’ to a page but a heavily focused page may be a little too niché.

As a guideline, aim for at least 3 key-phrases but less than 7 total. The more copy you have on a page the more key-phrases you can insert.

For 3 different keywords (appearing twice each) and 300 words of copy:
100% x (2×3)/300 = 6% (overall density)

For the same keyword appearing 3 times and 300 words of copy:
100% x 3/300 = 3% (individual density)

For the same keyword appearing 30 times and 1000 words of copy:
100% x 30/1000 = 3% (individual density)

The danger is, the more copy on a page the less focussed it can become. Don’t ramble and get the copy proof-read by somebody unfamiliar with the subject. If they get to the end of the first paragraph and yawn, you’ve failed. Keep the text friendly and aimed at a secondary educated student, rather than their ‘geekie’ white haired professor.

Keywords within content is still a very significant ranking factor. However, these keywords no longer need to be declared within the keyword meta tag.

The problem…

Suppose you sell a unique product. Your website is the only place on the planet where someone can buy it. Your site is light on content because you only sell one product. That product has a generic product name, such as ‘golden block’.

Because other sites have loads more content on various different ‘golden block’ subjects, your listing doesn’t appear until page 100 of results.

The solution….

  • Concentrate content on the type of product / service and not the brand name – ‘Golden Block’ is a non-starter!
  • Place that page within a ‘themed’ branch of your website, offering a page on every possible piece of info you think a customer could use
  • The keyword density of this page needs to be at the upper end of the range
  • The body word count needs increasing
  • Lose any excessive scripting, the big banners, condense the page html and compress images etc.

There is a definite bias towards keyword and total word count. Sometimes, it may seem that you can get your point across in 10 words and yet other sites with 1,000 words of boring, rambling or inappropriate content beat you in search results. It is then you need to look at your analytics, see which phrases people are actually arriving at the site with and see if you can’t throw them some kind of biscuit. They are obviously looking for an answer, so try to guess what their question is and provide them with a detailed and relevant answer. Sure, this answer maybe slightly off topic, but the website needs to follow demand.

Look at the competition, grab their keywords and beat them at their own game. Don’t copy content, even a single sentence, generate fresh ‘lively’, detailed content that is broken down into headed subject areas.




How dense are my words?

You need text on a web page. Having a page that is constructed purely in flash, java-script or of images is next to worthless. Sure, sites as popular as Facebook can get away with this, but you are not them. Real words rule the roost!

In my time, I’ve seen some truly awful attempts at getting keyword density spot on. Everything had been sacrificed to get exactly 5% and 300 words. The developer was all smiles, yet when I read the page it was like Yoda reciting Haiku. Every sentence was utter nonsense. If I didn’t have my ‘evaluation hat’ on I’d click instantly click away. By doing all that hard work, the developer had shot himself in the foot.

I’m a big advocate of getting professional copywriters to write web pages. The pages are interesting, they keep me entertained and they tell me what I want to know in a language that I can understand. My dictionary can stay in the bottom drawer and I might even bookmark the site for future reference.

Thats the beauty (and also danger) of CMS web sites. The copy is generated by those that are best informed. Providing copywriters are fed the write keyword info well in advance, everybody should be happy.

My advice with any website is planning and control. For a website to be successful, content not only has to be good, it has to be ‘On Theme’. For instance, placing an article about ‘Formula One Racing’ on a site about ‘Traditional Cakes’ dilutes the ‘theme’ of the website. Weakly themed websites, that do not have a strong pyramid structure, are at a major disadvantage. You wouldn’t get a recipe book out to get racing results would you? The same applies when Google indexes a site.

So, get a big sheet of paper, identify your vertical markets (themes) and generate content to strengthen those vertical and horizontals.

How many words should I place within the <body> tag?

Don’t get too hung up about this one. You’ll need 100 to 300 words minimum, with at least 250 being a good goal to keep in mind when creating content. Don’t spend hours counting every word. Quickly look at a web page, multiply the rough line count by the average words per line. If the web page has 1,000 words do not get in a sweat – every sentence may be very interesting.

The goal of any body text is to keep a user on-page for at least 10 seconds; less could contribute to a bounce by search engines.

Keep in mind how a search engine will categorise a page; if the page has less than 100 words or is made up mostly of part numbers and unknown brand names then there will be no obvious ‘theme’ for the search engine to store results. If it is important to display these brand names or part numbers, then do not add them into your total word count.

When creating content bear in mind the other pages within that branch of the website. The idea being, if several pages discuss related but not identical subjects, the ‘theme’ of that website branch is strengthened. Imagine if you walked into a bookshop looking for a specific recipe. First you’d look for the Cookery department, then the shelf with the cake books, you’d pick the biggest book and flick to the relevant section. If that bookshop only had one cookery book with 1 cake recipe, you’d always shop elsewhere after that.

Overall keyword density

  • 5 − 20% − (all keywords and phrases/ total words)

Some ‘Hot Topics’ have been reported to have different keyword spamming densities, but as a general guideline this figure is correct. It is recommended that a page have 250 – 300 words, although too many can make a page lack focus.

Using 300 words, you should have 15 − 60 keyword occurrences.
With 300 words on page and 3 target keywords or phrases, each keyword should appear 5 − 20 times.

If you have 1,000 words and you have 3 key-phrases on the page, then you really need to review the content as it could lack focus.

Take your copy and paste it into a MsWord document. Do a search for each phrase, deleting all instances. Now do a search for each distinct word. For instance, the tag below contains: cherry, pie, recipe and for. Delete them.

<meta name=”keywords” content=”cherry pie, cherry pie recipe, recipe for cherry pie”>

How many words are left?

If you started with 300 words and have 250 left – 50 words were keyword related.
100% x 50 / 300 = 17% overall density.

Keyword prominence and proximity

A keyword or key-phrase should be as close to the tag as possible. The keyword needs to be visible on a small screen monitor or phone without the need to scroll. If your key-phrase only appears within the site footer, you need to start again. If two keywords appear adjacent to each other they will gain a higher ranking bonus than if they were 20 words apart. Punctuation between words is ‘ok’ and is still given ranking preference.

Placement of the first paragraph

Many web developers ignore this rule and as a result are heavily penalised. Imagine a website that has a huge scrolling java-script banner, followed by a series of drop down menus containing hundreds of links. After which the very first phrase within the HTML is ‘Home Page’. They score a big fat zero in optimisation terms!

Page layout is important not just from a visual standpoint, but from an invisible coding perspective. An automated web spider cannot interpret java-script, read text hidden within images etc. It will start at the top of your code and read logically through it line by line. If the first 100 lines are non-descriptive links such as ‘home page’, ‘contact us’, ‘products’, like the rest of us it will get bored. A spider has a finite window of time to index a site, if it has to read through the same 100 links on every page before it gets to anything worth reading, the game is lost.

Many web designers place the index page on the left. Although this has become an expected location by many human visitors, especially as they read from left to right, it doesn’t mean that the HTML has to be constructed in this order. CSS can be used to float elements left or right giving the web-coder greater flexibility.

How many sites have you seen where every page has a massive banner and only 2 lines of text showing? Annoying isn’t it? Having to scroll down before content is visible can be very frustrating. You are trying to keep people on your site not leave them with tired fingers! You only have to look at your analytics to see that some visitors spend less than 2 second on a page. If you have a high bounce rate, this page needs serious attention. Swallow your pride, lose the big useless banners, drop the javascript and go back to basic printed text. Take forum sites, they often have tiny generic banners with only a couple of ‘smilie’ images on page, yet dominate search results. Why? Words, words and more words, plus, a lot of sentences are very descriptive and relevant to the page subject.

Paragraph placement guidelines

Basically, you have around 1 second to grab attention, some say a decent image can get you 2, but words rule the roost. Those words need to be visible, readable by spiders, easy to read and very descriptive. Capture the audience and get them to read other pages on your site. If a visitor spends 2 seconds on your page then instantly goes back to Google to see the next result, they haven’t found the answer they were looking for. Try to make your content understandable by a ‘newbie’, if you need a dictionary or a degree to read anything, go back to basics.

The first sentence on any page should ideally contain around 15 – 30 words and be highly relevant to the ‘theme’ of that page.

Common paragraph placement mistakes

Some web pages only display content when you expand a certain section or select a tab. Target content is hidden to both the visitor and trawling spider. The most significant problem can be canonicalisation.
When you click on tabs they can append variables to the url

  •  www.domain-name/folder/page.html
  •  www.domain-name/folder/page.html?show-hidden=true

Search engines will see these two urls as duplicates of each other (canonicalised). A duplicate penalty will be given and there is no guarantee that the correct url of the two is listed. Even worse, if a particular url has a user ID appended; with ‘My Shopping Cart’ tab being prime offenders; only that user can see that tab. The search engine has still listed it. A visitor clicking on that link will get a 404 error or be re-directed to a page with different content. This will get you duplicate errors, dynamic content errors, and 404 missing page errors. You don’t want any one of these on your site!




Is the description meta tag still used?

This tag isn’t used in search engine rankings, so isn’t using it just a waste of time?
I often hear ‘Well, if xyz site doesn’t used it then I’m not either…’.
So, what are the reasons for still using this tag and why do some still say that it is the No. 4 SEO ranking factor?

The quick answer is ‘We’re not machines, we’re human beings!’ – and as such we have a different perspective.

The meta description tag is often used as the page description below the page heading in Google search results.
Meta Description Tag

It’s a shop window for humans. Without it, you’d have nothing to tell passers by what’s inside. It’s one method of targeting traffic. Imagine one shop with boarded over windows and another with a display of fresh food. If you were hungry, which one would you visit? – same principle?

The better your shop window the more ‘hits’ you’ll get, and therefore you’ll be more popular with search engines because of your traffic and not the tag. It’s in-direct, but you can see its importance.

Google and Ask no longer place so much emphasis on this tag (for ranking), but it has been proved that it is still used within its algorithms.

  • The <meta description should be a 70 words or 2−3 sentences long (ideally well under 200 characters – maximum 350)
  • It should describe the page
  • Some search engines use this description when displaying search results
  • Keywords are important, but it is important not to ‘keyword stuff’
  • Write a sensible description and avoid automated tools for generating meta description
  • Include your popular keywords in the meta description as they will be bold when displayed in search engine results

Although not a significant search engine ranking factor anymore, it is still used by all popular search engines when displaying search engine results. Different search engines place varying levels of importance on this tag.
Some report this tag to be dead, but studies have shown that it is used, especially when surfing on less popular ‘niché’ topics. In conclusion, this tag is still used, but the algorithm is a lot more complicated.

Use longer, more descriptive words, trying not to repeat any of them. Avoid words such as the, a, home, contact us etc. 350/70 gives an average of 5 characters per word. The closer you get to 70 words and 150 characters the better. Any tag over 200 characters is too long.

It is important not only to optimise the meta description tag, but also to create interest with the user. You need to spur user interaction and create a positive impression. The tag needs to be easy and quick to read. Remember, a user will only spend a couple of seconds scanning a whole page of search results (SERPs). If you can create an emotional response to a headline: even better.

How long should a meta description be?

Various web browsers display different numbers of characters, depending upon user settings. Typically you should use the following as a guide only:

  • Google usually ignores this tag, displaying a snippet of text from the page body instead. But for more ‘niche’ results 150 – 158 characters including spaces and hyphenation (truncating at end of nearest word) may be displayed
    Remember….Niche phrases are often your £££ keywords
  • Yahoo displays up to 160 characters including spaces
  • Bing displays 150 characters including spaces
  • Ask does not display text from this tag, using snippets from the main body instead. Even if a word only appears within the meta description, it will display the first sentence from the page body
  • Internet Explorer supports 350 characters.



Is B2B Advertising Dead? Not Really

“While everyone is saying advertising is dead, what they mean is that advertising the way it used to be done is dead. Giving people something they believe in, in a way that they can’t help but notice, is where the action really is.”

So said Jason Korman, CEO of gapingvoid.com. And while the site is about marketing, in general, at first blush you wouldn’t think he’s much concerned about B2B… but you’d be wrong in this case.

The ‘death’ of advertising is a reality that both B2B and B2C marketers face each day. Whether it’s ‘dead’ print ads or television spots or press releases or trade shows. The question is, what are the alternatives?

Korman has given us the succinct answer: a great product with an authentic story that you present to customers in clever, unexpected ways and in unexpected places.

Why, then, does such a ‘simple’ thing take so much courage to carry out? Because while consumers want what’s new, marketers feel safe and sound with what’s old.

And one more thing: the difference between B2B and B2C advertising is that ‘traditional’ platforms have more life in the B2B world. It would be a mistake to completely abandon print ads, for example, in certain industries. The question for B2B marketers becomes one of proportion. Increasingly, social media is the primary focus of marketing activities with traditional outlets ‘filling in the gaps’, so to speak. As mentioned above, marketers who like safe and sound continue to pour money and resources into what should be secondary efforts and that is a big, costly mistake.




Why is the TITLE tag so important?

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.