Do you feel like this when you hear the term SEO?
If you do, rest assured, you’re not alone.
I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while.
If you’re like most people, the term “search engine optimization” will mean very little.
While scrolling through blogs and websites, I notice many people tend to miss opportunities to take advantage of search engine optimization or SEO.
My guess is, people just find it too damn confusing.
And hence I’ve deliberately not written anything about SEO until now because it’s a topic that is polluted with so much noise and misinformation on the blogosphere.
But today I introduce the first SEO article on ShaeBaxter.com and it’s packed full of practical examples.
What Does SEO Mean?
For the uninitiated, the real purpose of SEO is all about helping people find your website or blog through search engines.
Nothing more, nothing less.
To get people to find you, the content on your website must match what people are trying to find.
Google Learns From Simple Signals
SEO copywriter Glenn Murray in his fabulous ebook SEO Secrets illustrates a simple analogy, which I love. He says Google relies on some pretty simple signals to learn what your website is about and to figure out whether it’s relevant to a search query.
You need to hold its hand a bit. If those signals aren’t present, Google (and the many other search engines) won’t know how to index your web pages and your site won’t rank in the searches you want it to.
You want Google to fully appreciate the relevance of your content.
There is a plethora of “signals” (I’ll keep using the term signals seeing as I already used it) and tactics you can use to help tell Google what content you have so it will return your website on the search results page.
The topic of today’s post is about one such specific signal – the Page Title also commonly referred to as the Title Tag.
What Is A Page Title?
The page title tag is the main text that describes a web page. It’s one of the prime real estate sections on your website to be used as a point of attracting search engines to crawl, index and rank your website. According to SEOmoz, it’s the single most important on-page SEO element (behind overall content) and hence why I’ve chosen to write about it first. Using my own website as an example, the page title appears in two key places:
Browser – The page title shows up in the top of a browser as follows:
Search Result Pages – The page title also shows up in the search engine results page (SERPs):
Because the page title functions as the headline of your SERPs listing, the search engines figure it’s likely you’ll make it something fairly relevant to the content of the target page, in order to get people to click through. As a result, they pay more attention to it than the other tags (or signals) when indexing your site.
The page title is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a web page’s content. I can explain many elements of what makes an effective page title but for now I want to focus on one key aspect.
A business owner friend of mine owns and manages an online e-commerce store selling women’s business shirts. I took the liberty of looking at her page title and believed she could improve it in order to attract more love from the search engines and to make it more obvious what her site is about to her visitors.
So what am I talking about exactly? My business friend was targeting the keyword phrase women’s business shirts. It also happens to be a popular keyword phrase many people type into search engines to find this type of product.
Now she did already have this keyword phrase in her page title, which is great. However, the keyword phrase was placed at the end of her page title while her business name was placed at the beginning. So it looked like this:
Sate & Lawler – womens business shirts
(I can 100% guarantee that I am referring to a real business but my friend did not want her real business name identified so not create any awkwardness with her SEO company. I’m respecting my friend’s wishes).
Why Your Keywords Should Be Placed At The Beginning Of Your Page Title
SEOmoz says one of the critical parts of optimizing page titles for the search engines and for the person reading is to place important keywords close to the front of the page title.
Google places a lot of weight to the first two to three words in the page title. SEOmoz’s page title testing says the closer to the start a keyword is, the more helpful it will be for ranking and the more likely a user will be to click them in search results.
If Sate & Lawler were a big brand, visitors will respond best to page titles that start with the brand name. Glenn says, “when they see a familiar name, they tend to click on it because it makes them feel secure and comfortable.” But nobody is typing Sate & Lawler into Google (yet) so my advice to her was to place the keyword phrase at the beginning of her page title because people are searching for women’s business shirts.
To quote directly from SEOmoz:
Many SEO firms recommend using the brand name at the end of a title tag instead, and there are times when this can be a better approach. The differentiating factor is the strength and awareness of the brand in the target market. If it is a well known brand, and it can make a difference in click-through rates in search results, the brand name should be first. If this is not the case, the keyword should be first.
A Page Title Only Has Room For 70 Characters
You have 70 characters (including spaces) in which to write a compelling, keyword-rich page title.
The search engines will show an ellipsis – “…” to indicate that a page title has been cut off.
So when my friend had her business name at the beginning of her page title, she was compromising the search engines ability to rank and display the full keyword phrase she was optimizing for.
In his ebook SEO Secrets, Glenn Murray suggests considering the four criteria for writing an effective headline in which to write a page title:
- Self Interest – Does it promise a benefit to the searcher?
- Quick, Easy Way – Does it offer one?
- News – Does it contain any?
- Curiosity – Does it sound interesting?