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    SEO - Title TagThere has been a recent revision to a report which first made an appearance last year, where 37 of the finest minds in the SEO arena were asked to appraise the various elements which can be used as part of a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) programme – White Hat SEO programme, of course.

    Their opinions and comments were recorded and distributed in Search Engine Ranking Factors V2 which is probably the most comprehensive report of its type in terms of listing and appraising individual factors that I have seen. In any case, particularly given the people involved, it is certainly something to take a careful look at as you embark on any type of optimisation of your blog.

    So what is the most important?

    The element which was given the greatest value overall, and hence considered the most important individual factor in SEO terms, was Keyword Use in Title Tag.

    The Title Tag is used in two principal areas:

    • when you are using a browser, it is what appears in the blue bar right at the top of your screen and tells the reader what is contained within the page;
    • Secondly, on the Search Engine Results page (SERPs), it forms the link that you click on to reach the page shown in the results.

    As a result, not only is it valuable in terms of Search Engine rankings but also in terms of the click throughs that you get. Why is that? Since it appears in the main Search Engine Results page, it can act as an attention grabbing headline for the person conducting the search.

    Creating a “good” Title Tag

    Ideally, you should be aiming to create a Title Tag that will attract the attention of both human readers and the Search Engines – this means that it is likely to be both marketing focused as well as keyword rich. Sounds good in theory, but in practice you are likely to veer more towards one “audience” than the other.

    Opinions vary, but a good rule of thumb is that you have about 8 – 10 words (circa 60 – 65 characters) that you can use effectively in the title tag, so it’s best to make use of them. As a result, you should look to try to:

    • include your keyword / keyword phrase for the page – ideally, focus primarily on these keywords and avoid too many “the” and “and” connectors

    • rather than full sentences, consider using “|” or “-” to break up the phrases (but do remember that it needs to attract your readers too!);

    • include the important terms at the start of the Title Tag, as they seem to carry more “weight” than those at the end;

    • every Title Tag should be distinct and focused – each page and each post is different and so the Title Tag it uses should reflect this.”

    In blogs, the Title Tag is usually generated automatically using the title of the post and the title of the blog. This isn’t necessarily going to best suit your purposes so you may like to consider ways of modifying this – you could alter the template itself or you may find the tools below helpful.

    Tools to help you

    Firstly, a page which I think expands well on the themes that I have mentioned here is Best Practices for Title Tags over at Seomoz and is well worth studying.

    As for tools to help with the actual implementation, if you are using WordPress, then in my opinion, the best option is the SEO Title Tag plugin by Stephan Spencer, who certainly knows what he’s doing when it comes to SEO. This gives you full rein to do what you want with a fully customised Title Tag option, as well as an improved default Title Tag as well.

    For those who have strayed down the Blogger route, then these two articles, Control your Title Tags in Blogger and Changing the Blogger Title Tag seem to cover two options (though I haven’t tried them personally) while Rank better in Google bay adding dynamic title tags to your Typepad blog seems to cover a possible solution for Typepad users.

    Conclusion

    So there you have it – the SEO elite confirm that they believe that the Title Tag is the SEO element that will do most for your Search Engine Ranking. One word of warning though (other than the fact that the Search Engine “goalposts” keep moving, so keep on your toes!) – if the content on your page doesn’t deliver, then the best Title Tag in the world will not help you. So before dedicating hours to creating great Title Tags, I’d always recommend paying just as much attention to the content it describes. :)

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    The use of Business Blogging by small businesses is a topic that has been covered by many but is certainly important enough to be revisited here. I am convinced, given the wide range of potential benefits and the different ways in which a small business can use a Business Blog, that the discussion should not be if a blog is worthwhile but rather where its focus should lie.

    A blog can play a central role in the marketing activity of a Small Business but, like all forms of marketing, it needs to be planned, targeted and measured. Consequently, a key phase in creating a successful Small Business blog happens ahead of its launch when you plan out how you want to use your Blog, who your target audience is and what you want to achieve with it. All three of these elements are key to its success.

    If we now take a look at some of the potential types of focus that a small business Blog can take, then you will see what a powerful tool it can be.

    Demonstrate and communicate your expertise
    Most small businesses offer specialist knowledge and skills – it’s what differentiates them – but what they often lack is a way to demonstrate them to potential customers. A Business Blog offers the ability to do this and much more beside. By what you write in your posts and also how you write them, you can show your expertise without overtly selling to your readers this gives you the chance to build up a positive reputation and a degree of trust with potential clients and partners alike.

    Build individual networks and foster collaboration
    Small businesses may be specialists but they also need a strong support structure and partners around them. Business blogging is not only an ideal way to start to engage with customers, as we have seen, but also to foster partnerships, collaborations and joint ventures with others in your industry. As you attract other players in your marketplace to your blog, opportunities for collaboration and networking will develop naturally through the conversations taking place.

    Communicate with a local, national or global audience
    While Business Blogs are most often used to communicate with a targeted, but geographically widespread, audience, they can also allow you to focus in on a local customer base, primarily by changing the emphasis of the posts and the structure. This flexibility of approach means that small businesses of all types and with all types of customer base can use blogs to promote their business and develop relationships with their customers.

    Developing reputation and trust
    We all need to get closer to our customers and a Business Blog is an excellent way to achieve that. It allows us to engage customers and readers of our blog in a way that no other online method can achieve. This in turn gives us the time and the opportunity to develop our reputation in their eyes and foster a high level of trust between ourselves and our customers.

    Great Search Engine rankings
    With so many people using the internet to research products and services before they buy, small businesses need to achieve a prominent position and high ranking in Search Engine Results for their chosen key phrases. Business Blogs can help immeasurably in this. The structure of a blog combined with the focused nature of the posts, regular updates and the interlinking which is part and parcel of blogs, will all push you towards to the top of the rankings. This makes a Business Blog ideal for small businesses looking for greater visibility and enquiries.

    Dominate a Niche Market
    Small businesses usually have a set of services or products which are designed to answer the needs of a specific, and often, niche market. Getting exposure in that market is key to being able to dominate it and ensure that your business is the one that the market itself recommends. Using a Business Blog, you can raise your profile and lead the discussions on any aspect affecting that market. Talk about it and get talked about!

    Project your personality
    As a small business, you will tend to work very closely with your customers. Your expertise is highly important but so are you as a person and how you get on with your customer – a strong relationship will help to ensure that the project develops well. Blogs can let your personality shine through before you enter the relationship and may give you the edge in being selected.

    Easy Web Publishing no webmaster required!
    While we rightly focus on external benefits, we should not forget that there are also solid internal reasons for using a blog in a small business and ease of use is right at the top of that list. Blogs can be used in addition to a business website or as part of it they can also be used instead of a website. In all of these cases, once established, you can publish new content or change pages on your site without relying on a web designer or webmaster. Reader friendly, user friendly and cost effective.

    Research your Market
    Your Business Blog provides you with a two way communication tool, and the information that you can get from your readers may be highly important. By participating in the discussions that your posts will generate, you should be able to get a clearer idea of what the up to the minute interests of your clients are. Surveys and focus groups can achieve this to a certain level but open conversations on your Blog will achieve much more, both in terms of depth and breadth.

    Finally a word of advice: dont get hung up about the word blog a blog is a tool and its what you do with it that counts. Many people use Microsoft Word but the documents that they produce are as varied as the author. The same is true with Blogs for small businesses. So, evaluate what you need as a business and then focus strongly on using the Blog for that purpose and it will be successful for you.

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