Web page titles are used extensively by search engines when ranking your site and Google places special emphasis on them. Every page should have a title; it must be located between the opening <head> and closing </head> tags and is formulated in HTML code something like this:
<title>Optimizing Web Page Titles For Better Search Engine Positioning</title>
Your page titles are without doubt one of the most important optimization areas on your site. They are important because:
- They are generally heavily weighted by the search engine ranking algorithms.
- They are almost always used as the heading for your site on the search results page.
- They are possibly the most important information your potential customers will use to decide if they want to visit your site after finding you in the search results.
Since you not only have to impress the search engines but your potential customers with your page title, and have to do it in 60 characters or less, you need to give careful attention to the formulation of your page titles.
How to construct an effective page title
You need to use good keywords (you have carefully researched and selected key phrases for each page haven't you?) appropriate to your site and particularly to the current page; your title must be readable and it must sell the potential visitor on your site. Construct your page tile using your list of keywords and phrases to form a complete sentence with your primary keywords positioned as far to the left as possible and the balance of your keywords arranged so as to form search terms.
As an example, let us build a title for our fictional San Francisco restaurant. Let's suppose that this particular place is known for its traditional Italian food and its great view of the bay. Your potential customers may not know about the bay view but they will be looking for restaurants (most likely in the area), and maybe for Italian food, and maybe for your particular restaurant. Let's try something like “San Francisco Bay areas traditional Italian restaurant – Mamas Place”. This title is 68 characters including spaces.
This would match the search terms San Francisco, Bay area, San Francisco bay area, Italian, Italian restaurant, Mamas Place, and would likely get a good rating for San Francisco Italian restaurants or bay area Italian restaurants, San Francisco restaurants, and bay area restaurants, but will it sell the customer, and does it target your most important search terms first? Based on this title, why should potential customers choose your place above the many other San Francisco bay area Italian restaurants the search engines may have presented him to choose from?
At this point, it should be noted that your particular business will have some effect on how you construct your page titles. In this example of a restaurant, which only offers its services in one specific location, it's important to use the location term in the title, but if you are selling say, software by download, the location of your business is of not much interest to the customer and should not be included.
Fine-tuning your page title for selling
Maybe we should mention that we offer fine food and good prices combined with a great view of the bay, but we are short on space. Let us try a couple of more titles and see what we can do.
How about “San Francisco's bay view Italian restaurant – Mamas Place – fine food under $20”? This may well sell the customer better since now he knows about the view and your good prices and great food, but we have lost all the bay area related search terms and the character count is now 77, a bit long for some search engine results pages (SERPs) titles.
This is the time when your knowledge of your own business comes into play. Where do your customers come from? Is the loss of the Bay area customers important? Is it important that you have your name in the title?
Suppose you feel that customers who already know your name won't be searching for you on the Web, but that many of your new customers come from the surrounding bay area regions; in that case, you might try something like “San Francisco bay area Italian restaurant – fine food with bay views under $20”. This might sell better according to your experience, but the character count is now 82, again a bit long.
At this point, more information on search engine preferences is perhaps in order.
Google will truncate titles somewhere between 52 and 60 characters, depending on the length of the last word before the truncation, Yahoo and BING between 95 and 100 characters. Google at least will read and index the entire page title, but will still only display 52 – 60 characters.
In the case of our page title above Google would truncate the last 25 characters or so but both Yahoo and Bing would display the full title. Rereading the above title without even the last 3 characters takes away one of your important selling tools – the price while truncating the last twenty characters takes all mention of the price and bay views. Hmmm…
Well, let's see what we might do about this. Suppose we restructure our title to “San Francisco bay area Italian restaurant-$20 fine food and bay views ” Our title length is now 56 characters, so Google and most other search engines will display the full title.
Maybe this is not so bad, considering that you may also have a description under the title in the search results. Again no one knows your business better than you do, so make your decisions accordingly.
Your page titles are possibly the most important on-page optimization that you can do, The use of keywords in page titles is therefore very important,
Use your best keywords as early in the title as you can and make sure that your phrases match the way searchers use them, As an example, the moving of the first word in a four-word page title from the beginning of the title to the end dropped the page rankings from #4 to #9.
Lets next look at the use of Meta Tags…