I hope my departure from my promise to deliver a detailed analysis of the top 10 things you can do for SEO has left you anxiously awaiting the next installment (and not discouraged you from sticking with me as my thoughts wander). Consider my other topics a commercial break from this 10 part mini-series (For my new readers, here’s part 1 and part 2). Let us get back to the show!
In recent years, you may have heard that Meta data is of little value to SEO. While it is true the meta keywords and descriptions are less valuable than when originally created, your page title is where you want to spend time.
Think of the title tag as the title of a movie, book, or magazine; it is, the first experience most users and customers have with your website. Would you go see Casino Royale if it was called “Movie”?
Before we get started, make sure you are familiar with the meta content and title of a page. When viewing the page source (in Internet Explorer select View from the Menu Bar then Source) search for content that looks like this:
<title>This is your website’s Page Title</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Description of the article or contents of your page”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”keywords and phrases related to the page”>
Notice this content is found within <head> containers (as opposed to <body> containers where the content appears) to helps characterize meta tags as the defining attributes of the website; that is, reference material.
The title of your page appears at the top of your browser and in natural search results.
Why are titles more important than the keywords or description?
Keywords and descriptions are used (to varying degrees) to determine the content of a page but the keywords are never actually seen by your audience while descriptions are used only by some engines as the actual description of your site. Because titles literally appear in the search results to serve as the title of a page, they are public and less likely to spam. Consider that any website can put “Britney Spears” in their list of meta keywords or description; unless your site is about Britney, that’s spam, engines therefore discount the value of that meta content. Websites are are not likely to put “Britney Spears” in the Title unless your page really is about Britney.
Most SEOs simply explain title optimization as ensuring the title is relevant to the content using popular keywords. Consider the following titles:
– Flat Panel, Projection, and HDTVs at Best Buy
– Nike Sports Apparel and Shoes
Both sites appear prominently in search results (heck, we’re talking about Nike and Best Buy here) but were I searching for HDTVs at Best Buy, the first result, though it is to Best Buy, is a broken link. Now put yourself in the shoes of the customer, on Yahoo! the title of that result is just “HDTVs” while the second result says “HDTVs on sale @ Best Buy” Which is the best response to your search? Which would you choose considering you are looking for HDTVs at Best Buy? That second link, by the way, goes to Engadget.
This is basic title optimization and the first step you should take to ensure titles are optimized for what customers might be searching. I want to share with you more advanced considerations. Keep in mind you are the marketer (a moment of your time off topic… please don’t tell me your SEO lives in IT or with web design. SEO should be the responsibility of marketing since you are talking to your customer and want to set priorities consistent with those of your marketing efforts) Keep in mind you are the marketer and you, in every other marketing channel, include a call to action, copy to grab the user’s attention, or a promotion to attract the customer. What makes SEO any different? Why would you not not make the same effort here? Now consider:
– Shop for Flat Panel, Projection, and HDTVs at Best Buy
– Compare Flat Panel, Projection, and HDTVs at Best Buy
– Find retailers for Nike Sports Apparel and Shoes
– Nike Sports Apparel and Shoes on sale at Nike.com
Which is more compelling? Which is more likely to drive qualified traffic? Which, against the thousands of other pages in your site, is more likely to send a customer to the page they need?
Page title optimization is much more than relevance and keyword popularity. Go further, treat SEO as a marketing channel, and do your audience a service by helping them find the content in your site that responds to their need.