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How Do You Write Your Title Tags?


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#1 RisaBB

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 12:00 AM

Hello,

A few weeks ago, Iamlost linked to this article written by Michael Martinez, These Aren’t The Meta Descriptions You’re Optimizing For.

Here's some of it:

Stop Putting Your Keywords Into Your Page Titles

There’s nothing like a well-written title tag. And, frankly, given all the SEO dreck I have to slog through every day about “title tags”, there *IS* nothing like a well-written title tag. Give it up. You suck at writing page titles. Furthermore, you suck at teaching other people to write page titles. Look around you at all the crummy, lousy, boring, repetitive page titles that are flooding the search results.

...

The magic is NOT in the keywords. Yes, I look at keywords all day long. I write titles that use keywords. But my keywords are better than your keywords. Why is that? That’s the bonus question in today’s SEO exam, ladies and gentlemen.


I've probably written thousands of title tags. The last few days I've been slogging through adding about 30 new products to my site. I've been doing my keyword research, writing nice descriptions of the products, and writing title tags. Now that I'm almost done for the night, and with this new batch of products, I'm wondering why Michael's keywords are better than mine and why I'm sure his title tags are better than mine. Anybody know the answer to Michael's question? Michael, do you want to give it up??

How do you write your title tags?

Do you write them like a catchy classified ad in headline format? Do you list keywords separated by a comma or | ? Do you count your words or care if it gets cut off in Google? Do you make sure the KW's in your title tag appear at least once on the page? Am I spending too much time on this? Why does Michael say to stop putting KW's in the title tag?

I remember when I was first doing web design, at least 8 years ago, and I heard about SEO and did KW research and wrote title tags for one of my clients who had a catering hall in Queens, NY. I wrote a title tag something like, "Queens Catering Hall..." A little while later I checked and I was BLOWN AWAY that my client was #1 for that spot.

I still put keywords in my title tag and I can rank high for long-tail and not so long-tail KW's, so I think it's important to put KW's in a title tag. I guess I'm not saying anything ground breaking here, but since I think title tags are so super-important, I'm curious how you guys write your title tags.

Thanks.

Risa

#2 jonbey

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 04:14 AM

Intriguing. My main problem is probably that I do not do keyword research. I just write what makes sense at the time. Maybe that is better? Maybe I am missing out on thousands of visitors? Hmmm.

#3 EGOL

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 06:26 AM

I am still putting all of my money on keywords in the page titles.

I do believe that additional information such as price, value proposition, provocations, etc. have value. However, the title tag is what helps earn rankings and traffic.

#4 A.N.Onym

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:12 AM

I usually try to turn the keyphrase in the beginning of the title tag into a call to action. It still remains a keyphrase (or becomes a narrower keyphrase, such as "buy a sturdy widget to.."), but a call to action with a few benefits should, potentially, increase CTR from the SERPs.

To be honest, I didn't get where Michael seemed to be getting new keyphrases that people aren't searching for. If they don't search with them, what's the point of using them? Then again, I do understand the importance of more relevant synonyms or qualifiers/benefits in titles that aren't used in search queries.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 06 October 2011 - 08:14 AM.


#5 bwelford

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 01:15 PM

I'm not sure whether what I do what Michael is hinting at, but my approach on titles (for blog posts) certainly starts with keywords. I believe the title is an important factor in the Google algorithm, as common sense suggests it should be. It's therefore worth some effort to get the best title you can.

I usually have a draft title while I'm writing the post, but early on I do some research on whether my draft title is a phrase that is common on the Internet. I do a Google search, particularly on Google News, and also use Google insight. By wandering around like this, I get a feel for the phrase that is most likely to be appearing in the searches that people are doing currently.

Sometimes the research I do on the draft title even suggests different sub-topics to include in the blog post. By this process, some of my blog posts end up two or three times the original length as important aspects are included.

#6 jonbey

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 11:16 AM

For the keyword phrase that I lost out on after Panda, all sites above me use that same kw phrase.

I have, as an experiment, changed my title.

And this led me to ask... should the META title and H1 be the same or different? Does it matter? Is H1 always just "on page seo" and the title just the bit in the SERP? I heard titles were really important - is it that maybe now H1 is important and titles should be more descriptive?

#7 iamlost

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 01:52 PM

How do you write your title tags?

Do you write them like a catchy classified ad in headline format? Do you list keywords separated by a comma or | ? Do you count your words or care if it gets cut off in Google? Do you make sure the KW's in your title tag appear at least once on the page? Am I spending too much time on this? Why does Michael say to stop putting KW's in the title tag?

Golly gee Miz Risa but that is one shotgun blast of questions :)
I'll let Michael speak for himself...

However, speaking for myself, I've tried just about every title variation I've ever heard of at one time or another. And, with one proviso still in testing, the following is my 'secret sauce' formula for title (content) writing:
* determine the topic and contexts (business and visitors) of the proposed page.
* write the title.
* write a draft description - one paragraph, max of three sentences, summary of proposed page.
* create the content.
* edit content.
* edit description.
* reconsider title.
* confirm topical contexts met.
The title must catch the eye of SE results scanning readers. It must encourage them to read the description. The combination must encourage them to click the link to my page.

I never (well, not for several years at least) 'list' keywords in a title. Rather than a 'classified ad headline' format I'd consider it more a 'tabloid headline' format. It often but not always includes one major term plus a modifying or secondary term.

My proviso still in testing, is how necessary a keyword in the title really is, given the current way SEs, especially Google, are associating queries with results. It is quite difficult to isolate one factor among so many and I'm still refining test. Initial results indicate possible differences between verticals. Another preliminary indication is that title may influence the intent, i.e. transactional or informational, that the SE classifies the page. However, I am not ready to conclude either at this time.

And this led me to ask... should the META title and H1 be the same or different? Does it matter? Is H1 always just "on page seo" and the title just the bit in the SERP? I heard titles were really important - is it that maybe now H1 is important and titles should be more descriptive?

My title and H1 are always different. The title is almost always a call to action, grabbing the results reader; the main header is usually rather boring, more in line with most people's expectation of a title.

Put another way my title is a marketing/advertising device and the h1 (all my headers actually) are descriptive labelling.


Note: for that other Cre8 conversation Risa mentions on Michael's article see The Seo X-files, The truth is out there...

#8 jonbey

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 07:15 PM

That all makes sense, having a catching tabloid title and attention grabbing description to get to clicks from search, but ........ what if you ain't up there in the search because you just dropped your keywords from your title?

Maybe a really good headline will grab more attention than a search term. For instance, if I wanted a perfect burger recipe ... I may type into Google:

Perfect burger recipes

Then if I saw a website with title "Perfect burger recipes" I may well click that, especially if it was no.1. But what if I spotted "The Finest Hamburgers You Can Make" below. Would I click that? Would it rise above the "Perfect Burger recipes" site?

In my experience, looking at the competitive and best paying keywords, all the sites at the top are still using "perfect burger recipes" in titles, H1s and as much in a domain as possible. Those that do not seem to be relegated for one reason or another. But then, there are a lot of people build pages for those words so a lot to chose from.

Do these salesy titles work just as well on the most competitive terms?

#9 RisaBB

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 08:03 PM

Thanks for spilling your secret sauce, Iamlost! Very interesting! I'm going to test it, like you, and see how it goes.

I wonder the same questions as Jonbey, although you did say that you almost always include a KW term.

Thanks.

Risa

#10 iamlost

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 11:29 PM

Remember that there are a zillion and one inputs, filters, et al that go into listing a query return result. Yes, in the past things such as exact match be it in domain name, title, etc. seemed to have unusual weight, which is why they became popular and thus SEO 'standards'.

That my pages tended to rank well (when ranking had meaning) and still draw SE traffic well (wherever the results might be) despite being on non-term named domains (businesses should be brand-able, not generic SEO sauce) with many titles also not containing terms in the search query has always caused me to wonder if the other 'qualities' of my pages/sites were/are overcoming that lack or if the exact matches of competitors are/were overcoming their shortcomings elsewhere. Or a bit of both. :)

I do know that (so far, knock head on desk) I've not been adversely affected by a single Google algo change; not Florida, not Panda, nor any in between. Of course there have been fluctuations. Those are a constant. But the month over month graphs have never dived deeply and never remained down for long.

Sadly, I have never been able to distill my success into salable secret sauce recipes. Much of how I work has been reported here over the past several years, make of it all as you will.

What Michael has so well commented on is that with the SEs, especially Google, casting an ever increasingly broad net in query associations both titles and descriptions are in flux from an optimisation perspective. Note the lack of qualifier.

I also note that SEs often differentiate by vertical, not all niches are treated equally. One reason that explicit 'paint by numbers' advice often fails.

Do these salesy titles work just as well on the most competitive terms?

I gave up tracking SE term ranking years ago for SE term traffic tracking with a concern for converting traffic ratio; from that pov I can say that I am generally pleased with both.

#11 RisaBB

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 08:20 AM

Thanks!

#12 fisicx

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 05:12 AM

Many moons ago copyblogger created the magnetic headlines series of posts. Still very valid and an easy read: http://www.copyblogg...etic-headlines/

And this was one of the first source I used when developing my own title writing skills: http://www.seologic.com/faq/title-tags

But jonbey says it all really: just wirte what you feel is right. If you are selling socks then making sure the word sock is in the beginning part of title is important but so it making sure it catches the eye of the Googler.

#13 Scratch

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 12:53 PM

It's good to have keywords in a title, but it's easy to murder your click-through rate.

I've downloaded click-through data from Google Webmaster Tools, and found that, while the maximum CTR is what you'd expect (about 40% for position #1, etc.), the real CTR can be much lower.

http://www.webdesign...kthrough-rates/

So why invest all your resources to get onto page 1, if your title tag doesn't sell the click?

I was watching myself on SERPs today, and I was definitely scanning the title tags first. If the title tag ain't interesting, your metadesc is unlikely to factor.

Get something that makes you think, "THAT'S what I need!" AND has keywords near the beginning - that's the real skill.

BTW - I don't believe in filling my 65-70 characters. Shorter can be sweeter.

#14 Michael_Martinez

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 12:55 PM

Let me see if I can explain the issue both more concisely and from a different perspective.

There are 10,000 people trying to be SEOs. 1% (100) of those people are the absolute best in the world. 1% (100) of those people are the absolute worst in the world.

Everyone from the bottom 1% layer to the top 1% is shoving keywords into their page titles. The top 1% are doing it as a matter of routine because they not only know how to make it work but how to tweak it when it doesn't work. The bottom 1% are shoving keywords into page titles because that is what the other 9,900 SEOs are doing and telling each other to do.

As you move through the crowd, you gradually find fewer people doing this mechanically with no idea of what they are doing and more people doing it with an eye for opportunity where they recognize it.

In other words, just because everyone says you should be slapping keywords into page titles is the absolute worst reason to be doing that. All their arguments, proofs, justifications, validations, and examples of success make the problem even worse.

When people stop THINKING about WHY they should do something and simply do it robotically, a huge upswell in bad SEO practices emerges across the Web and we see subsequent search algorithm responses to that upswell.

Google's latest algorithmic attempts to peek past the meta description are just the latest in a long series of such algorithmic responses (and plenty of them have come from other search engines -- this is not just a "Google thing").


Frankly, I think you should spend a year writing page titles that DON'T have active keywords in them and investing your time in driving search traffic to those pages. You'll see quickly and easily after that how it's not that the search engines care about page titles so much as it's giving people something to search for.

20-25% of all search queries have not been registered before. The only people who are putting THOSE keywords into their page titles are the people who stepped away from the crowd and started thinking about what is going on and how to leverage that process.

Edited by Michael_Martinez, 10 October 2011 - 12:57 PM.


#15 test-ok

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:42 AM

I like others here put my keywords in the title. I also try and make it as short as I can, if I need another phrase I'll do it on another page. I also try and create the rest of the page to reflect that same keyword or keyword phrase....along with incoming links being the same.
I've never added the company name in the title...I think it's a waste of title space and brings the relevance down on the phrase.
a title like: {banana boats} as opposed to {banana boats/Ship Factory LTD}
if someone searched for banana boats...the first title is 100 percent relevant the second one is only about 50 percent relevant.

#16 Michael_Martinez

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 12:48 PM

... {banana boats} as opposed to {banana boats/Ship Factory LTD}
if someone searched for banana boats...the first title is 100 percent relevant the second one is only about 50 percent relevant.


Unless they're searching for "Banana boats from Ship Factory LTD", which comprise a huge selection of ecommerce queries.

Brand value wields more power in search than most people realize, and I believe Google has committed to giving it even more power over the past couple of years.

#17 test-ok

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 01:18 PM

Unless they're searching for "Banana boats from Ship Factory LTD", which comprise a huge selection of ecommerce queries.

Brand value wields more power in search than most people realize, and I believe Google has committed to giving it even more power over the past couple of years.


If it's a recognized household name I'd say yes, but if no ones ever heard of "Ship Factory LTD" and still wanted a banana boat I highly doubt that buyer will search "Banana boats from Ship Factory LTD".
But I understand where your coming from..it kinda depends on who you are, if you have competition, what the competition is, if your one of many resales, a distributor or the manufacture.
But then SEO has a lot of depends...

#18 Michael_Martinez

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 05:29 PM

I don't see it that way.

No one had ever heard of IBM, Apple, Nike, Wal-mart, or any other of a thousand brands when they first launched.

The only difference between those who have brand value and those who don't is the choice whether to create it.

I am sure there have been plenty of spectacular brand campaign failures -- marketing majors must have to learn case studies on this stuff. But the only online brand failure I can think of (other than those that were built around nothing more than capitalization) is Fandom, Inc. -- which unsuccessfully attempted to seize control over the word "fandom".

They went around and bought up popular Websites. They even bought a popular magazine. They had plenty of content, passion, enthusiasm, etc.

They just couldn't convince anyone to take them seriously, and now they are a distant memory.

When you chase keywords, you're not building brand value. When you create something you love and share it with other people enthusiastically and build up that synergy between provider and consumer, you're building brand value.

That's why Banana Republic is a brand. That's why JC Penney's online revenues continued to increase despite the big bad Google penalty earlier this year.

Edited by Michael_Martinez, 17 October 2011 - 05:29 PM.




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