May 9th, 2007 - by Golgotha

“What’s in a name?” – Well hopefully your keywords, that’s what!

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in blogging (or on any website for that matter) is to not fully utilize your title tags. The title tag has been and will continue to be one of the most important elements in search engine rankings. Title tags are the over-arching descriptor for the page; they communicate with the search engines telling them what each page is about.

So then why is it that so many websites fail to optimize their title tags?

Without question the biggest mistake made by websites is to simply use their blog or company’s name as the title. Take Zales as an example. They are one of the biggest diamond stores around and yet what do we find in the title of their homepage? Nothing that mentions diamonds! Compare this to Luxurien’s website and notice the title of their page.

Luxurien’s title tag is fully optimized with their most important keywords: “Fine Jewelry”, “Titanium Rings”, “Bracelets”, “Tungsten Rings”, and “Gemstone birthstones”. These are keywords for which they would like to place highly in the search engines. So it comes as no surprise that they rank second in Google for the keyword titanium rings.

You might be thinking, “Yes, but what if someone types the name of the company in the search engine? Don’t we want to rank first for that too?” Of course you do, but that is pretty easy to achieve. The competition for the keyword “Luxurien” or “Zales” is pretty low, right? The competition for “diamond jewelry” or “titanium rings” is fierce.

Besides, if someone is searching for Luxurien in the search engines it’s reasonable to believe that they already know who you are as they are already seeking you out. In other words, that fish is already on the hook.

Often times people think they are being smart by putting their keywords first in the title tag and then at the end including the company or blog name. I still don’t recommend this! The reason is because by including the name along with your keywords you have lowered your keyword density.

The website that uses “Internet Marketing” as its title has a higher keyword density than the one that uses “Internet Marketing by Search-This“. If you’re in a competitive market then you need all the edge you can get so I would recommend you drop the name and just stick with the keywords.

It’s believed that the keywords in the beginning of the title tag are Lose Weight Exerciseed more than those in the middle or end. So be sure to place your most important words in the beginning of your title tag.

Finally, it’s also believed that a character limitation exists and is set to around 60 characters. So again, keep your title tags short and focused.

For review, your title tags:

  • should contain the keywords for that particular page
  • should not include your blog or company name
  • should be short and concise
  • should have the most important keywords first
  • should not include words like “the”, “by”, “that”
  • should be unique for every page

29 Responses to “Title Tags – A Search Engine Optimization Cornerstone”

1 Andrew Flusche

This is an interesting post. But I question your advice about not putting the site’s name in the title tag.

Specifically, doesn’t this decrease usability? Two ways immediately come to mind. First, if a user searches for Luxurien’s site by name, they don’t actually see the name in the search result listing. It only shows up in the URL, and I question how many searchers actually pay attention to that.

Second, people usually have numerous windows or tabs open when they’re browsing the net. If you use purely keyword title tags, it’s harder for a user to get back to your site’s window/tab.

Don’t get me wrong – your tips are great. I just think the main page of a site should include the site’s actually title. But maybe I’m an oddball on that.

Andrew

2 Golgotha

@Andrew: I don’t see those reasons as being strong enough to compel me to change my stance. Why? Because with both your examples the people already know who Luxurien is! That is exactly what we want!

Would you rather have the name in the title and never have people find your website OR have people find your website and have a ‘little’ usability issue?

3 Andrew Flusche

Hi Golgotha,

I definitely want people to find the website they’re wanting. I guess I’m trying to find a balance between SEO and other concerns, such as usability and branding.

I do think you’re over-estimating the value of leaving the site’s name out of the title. You said the other choice is to “never have people find your website.” It might be a little harder to find, but definitely not impossible. And other SEO techniques would come into play there.

Perhaps with a new brand who’s focusing on getting traffic, your technique would be best. In that case, loading up on keywords might be the way to go. I wish things like this were easier to test empirically.

Take care,
Andrew

4 Golgotha

Great feedback Andrew, having discussions like this certainly benefits us all. It’s truly the power of the blog :)

Here’s my thoughts:

On a scale of 1 to 10 for SEO I give the title tag about an 8.

On a scale of 1 to 10 for branding I give the title tag a 1.

And on a scale of 1 to 10 on how this effects usability I give it a 1.

So it’s *my opinion* that the title tag’s effects on SEO far exceed anything else.

I would agree with you that there are other SEO and promotional strategies that you can do to compensate and make it up.

I also agree with you that this is even more important for the new brand or company — especially a company that’s trying to compete with some of the big fish.

If you are Nike or Coke you can do whatever you want, but if you are the mom & pap shop you need all the advantage you can get.

Of course, that’s my opinion.

This is great stuff though Andrew! It’s hard enough to get people to comment, let alone get comments that disagree with you! I love it — it’s discussions like this where real learning takes place!

5 Brendon Kozlowski

Ooooh, a 10 point scale rating, I have to jump in now…but only on one aspect I feel strongly about.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the effect of usability as a 4.

I’ve been reading a decent amount lately about SEO with regard to site structure and hierarchy, as well as some on the title “tag” (at first I thought you were going to discuss the title “parameter” in anchors and images from simply reading the article name). I was almost completely convinced by your article to drop the name, as it does take up precious real estate on the browser’s title bar that could be used more effectively (not to mention the SEO rank).

However, if the company name is short, or has a decently short alias (acronym or otherwise), I personally find the usability of the site increases when I’m using tabs. It’s an enormous pain to find the site I was originally looking for in my mass of open tabs without some helpful pointers. Usually, when I have multiple tabs open, they’re related subjects, so simply looking at the title isn’t always helpful — seeing the brand name isn’t always helpful either unless it’s meaningful or memorable. Regardless, I find that if a site’s design is well branded, even if I see the name for a split second, I will usually recall it and recognize it in a tab title. I “personally” find it very useful.

In retrospect, as I do this now, about the only thing I highly dislike is that an automatically generated site map (or google sitemap) all look eerily familiar and I end up having to drop the prefix (when used for internal purposes).

For the record, I agree with both arguments. I tend to find the usability with regard to recollection and search engines a nicety. (Okay, maybe a 3.5 out of 10.)

6 John

If you are Nike or Coke you can do whatever you want, but if you are the mom & pap shop you need all the advantage you can get.

I think this is an important distinction to make and one not covered in your article. You’ve made a blanket statement saying all sites shouldn’t have their name in the title tag, but obviously, it should depend on the type of site.

For the Mum & Dad site trying to compete in a competitive keyword market, then maybe; for a larger company concerned as much with building a brand as being searchable on the Internet, then maybe not.

Also, if your site name contains some of the keywords you’re trying to promote, then again, it’s probably a good idea to have it in the title.

I also think you might be underplaying the usability factor slightly too and this site is a prime example why.

The only thing to tell me what the name of this site is on this page is the logo in the top left corner which unfortunately, because it’s placed directly above a text field with a magnifying glass could be construed as only referring to the search form.

So I could see how it would be quite possible for someone who didn’t know anything about this site to think it was actually called ‘Title Tags’. Having the element that contains the post title stretch the full width of the middle column adds to this effect that the post title is actually the site title.

7 DotNetNuke

Great article, thanks for sharing:)

8 Alex Denver

Hi All,
A gr8 discussion indeed. I found the article very informative.

Alex,
http://www.designpresentation.com

9 Golgotha

Alright, maybe you guys can talk me into raising my usability score to a 2.5 :)
But that still is too low for me to change my stance :)

As far as multiple tabs and not seeing the company name — just look for the favicon — Search-This is the one that looks like its hypnotizing you :)

Great discussion guys. I’m glad everyone chimed in with their thoughts, nice work!

10 Brendon Kozlowski

Interestingly enough, there’s a SitePoint discussion started recently on this very point. :) I don’t want to take any focus from this discussion here so I won’t link to it, but it’s currently a highlighted topic on the main forum landing page.

11 Golgotha

That’s a good find Brendon! – I don’t mind including links if it helps the learning process so here is the link: http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=477201

12 TOMAS

Thanks for the write up Mark, this is a topic I’ve been wondering about for a while. I’ve been reluctant to remove my blog’s name from the title tag just for the fear of people skipping over the link in search results or even del.icio.us. Yet now that you bring up the topic of keyword density, I see how removing your blog’s name is beneficial. And, I do know that you can hack your social bookmark plugins to include the name of your blog when submitting to social sites even though it doesn’t show up in your title tag. Although it would be cool to do a social experiment to see how a user would pick from search results when it came to a generic “keyword rich” search result versus a branded result with a company or blog name in it.

13 Bobby Bentley

I must admit that I’ve been neglecting these tags! I appreciate the tip.

14 Golgotha

@Tomas: no problem. Obviously there’s no consensus on whether to include the blog/company name in the title tags or just use keywords; which is fine. What’s important is that you know your options. That you know the significance of the title tag on SEO and that you can make an informed decision.

The second part of your comment, Tomas, makes it sound like you are of the belief that your blog/company name helps in social sites? I’m not so sure I think it helps there either. Let’s take your blog as an example, if you saw the below links in digg or del.icio.us which one would you like best?

1.) The Closet Entrepreneur – 10 Excel Tips to Make Your Life Easier

2.) 10 Excel Tips to Make Your Life Easier -
The Closet Entrepreneur

3.) 10 Excel Tips to Make Your Life Easier

Me personally, I don’t care to see the name of the blog, it has nothing to do with anything, I just want Excel tips. And number 3 is better in the search engines too :)

@Bobby: Neglect them no more, they are too important! And welcome to Search-This

15 TOMAS

You make a good point Mark, I’ll have to give it a try.

[...] is a great article on title tags for your website over at Search-This. It is amazing how often title tags are ignored, even by the [...]

17 Slemps

Good article Mark, I too have been wondering about whether to remove branding from my titles.

I would also be intersted in some retina heat map data on a SERP containing listings with and without brand names at the beginning of the title.

Personally, I would scan the page and my eye would be drawn to the big brand names that I know. 9 times out of 10 I would probably click on the Barclays, Citibank etc link, rather than a page with ‘Online banking and investment services’ as a title.

I think maybe for smaller, lesser known companies you are correct but in my opinion, big brands that have built their brand awareness already are fighting for their *name* to appear as a relevant result for a competitive query.

S.

18 Golgotha

@Slemps, good points – If I was Citibank I may include the name in my title; at the end. But, then again, maybe not… I would check stats and do some testing though.

19 10 Blogging Mistakes / Why Your Blog Struggles

[...] For further reading on the importance of Title tags read “Title Tags – A Search Engine Optimization Cornerstone.” [...]

20 Mark

Due to the 60 character limitation, what if solve both parts of the issue and use your first 60 words for SEO, and the rest for your company and/or branding. Then you have all the positives of Search Engine Optimization along with branding, usability, and bookmarking capabilities.

-Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my site to be ranked!

21 Title tags: six steps to search engine nirvana

[...] Title Tags – A Search Engine Optimization Cornerstone [...]

22 Fedevit

I thought good stuff, really well written and it goes right to the point. Then I checked your page’s sorgent thinking: “this guy really knows what he’s talking about, lets learn from how he keeps his own site as well”. This is the result:

meta name=”keywords” content=”Title Tags – A Search Engine Optimization Cornerstone” />

meta name=”keywords” content=”The Search Engine Relationship Chart” />

And now I wonder, why on hearth do you talk a way and walk another?
You’ve just told us not to use common words like “the, an, in, by”, keep the keywords as short as you can, etc.
I’m just disappointed, that’s all.

23 Golgotha

@Fedevit: I use a script to write all my meta data. It does a pretty good job, although not a perfect job. But as I don’t wish to do it for every page written I can live with it.

24 Fedevit

OK, sorry I was a bit too fast in my judgement.
The fact is that I use to analyze sites’ code of web experts I’m fan of and I had great expectation from yours.
However you’re right this is not a big deal. To make you forgive me I want you to know that I’m doing a research about SEO and I found the articles of yours all damn useful.

25 Golgotha

@Fedevit – np, thanks for checking us out – hope you find what you need.

mark

[...] The title tag has been and will continue to be one of the most important elements in search engine rankings. Title tags are the over-arching descriptors for the page; they communicate with the search engines telling them what each page is about. Don’t overlook your title tags. Their importance simply can’t be denied. [...]

27 MemoTrek

wow! just what i was looking for, very interesting blogs and thanks out to all for the discussion!

i am about to experiment on just this topic on one of my sites http://www.memotrek.com selling USB flash drives – a highly competitive area where keyword battles and daily struggles for ranking prevail.

my guess is that usability is important.

a customer browsing to buy promotional USB drives will in most cases have several tabs open at the same time and i want him to see and remember the company name – and return to that page as to further walk down that tunnel of conversion.

it would really be nice though with a social experiment to see if this would actually make a difference for users….

28 Dawid Ryba

This is an interesting post.
Give you something to thing.

29 AutoCAD Drafting

Nice and informative article.

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