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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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    Back in December of last year, I wrote what I thought was a harmless little post called All Bloggers are Real Amateurs which did a little word play on the fact that the word “amateur” comes from the Latin “amare” – “to love” and that you should ideally be passionate about the subjects that you blog about. All well and good.

    I wasn’t targeting any keywords but I do basic optimisation on everything that I write so the Better Business Blogging site is set up with good title tags (using Stephan Spencer’s SEO Title Tag plug-in which is great and takes all coding effort out of it) as well as a number of other tweaks. Thought nothing more of it and it passed into the “Great Archive in the Sky” as posts do.

    However, recently while checking my blog stats, I noticed I was getting a number of hits on that post – not massive, but enough to stand out a little. That’s great, I’m always up for some additional, if unexpected, traffic. I checked what keyword phrase was attracting the hits and found it was “real amateurs” and discovered that I was position 2 for a UK search on the phrase and about page 6 worldwide.

    The downside was that all of the other sites were, shall we say, adult in nature and this was clearly a popular search term for a certain type of site. Aha … the penny finally dropped. (Took a while … yes, I know) In hindsight, having one of the tags as “blogging with passion” wasn’t a great idea either!

    So, the moral to this story is two-fold:

    • one, we know that blogs are attractive to Search Engines, but you can’t always dictate what they should or shouldn’t find attractive about your posts; and secondly,
    • if you are targeting keywords in your posts, then do your keyword research not only to make sure that they are relevant to your target readers but also that they are likely to produce the results you expect

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    I was recently reading a post by Chris Lake over at e-Consultancy discussing the relative merits of Witty vs Descriptive Headlines for your blog posts.

    Interesting stuff and some nice examples but not quite the whole story.

    Firstly though, why are they important? They are important because they act just like a newspaper headline – they attract the readers’ attention and encourage them to read the full article. With the huge amount of information that we have nowadays it is vitally important that we attract people’s attention in the short space of time that we are given to achieve this and generally we only have the post title at our disposal to achieve this.

    However, we need to remember that we are in fact trying to attract the attention of two groups: readers (or should I clarify by saying ‘human readers’) and Search Engines. Unfortunately, they don’t react in the same way and they aren’t attracted by the same things. While human readers are attracted by humour, nuance, plays on words as well as information, Search Engines are attracted purely by the words which we provide.

    But there’s more!! More? Yes, there’s more! Because we are working on-line, we have to remember what people actually see in different situations and places – bear with me here, it’s important!

    In RSS Feeds, the title of your post appears, as it does in the main Blog Search Engines such as Technorati or Google Blog Search. As people browse here, then the title is critical because it is the only real element that you can use to attract their attention as they skim through the articles on offer.

    However, in the main Search Engine Results pages (such as Google and Yahoo) what you see is not the title of your post but the “Title Tag”. This is distinct from your post title and something which you can control separately. The Title Tag is doubly important because it is a key element that the main Search Engines look at when ranking pages – they do take note of the title of your post, but they take much more interest in the “Title Tag”.

    So which way to go? My own preference is to keep the title interesting without making it too cryptic, and I always try to include the main keyword for the article. I then make sure that I modify the Title Tag to ensure that that is keyword rich – if you want more details then you ‘ll find more information in my SEO series.

    So, try to appeal to both audiences. You are best placed to know what will appeal to your readers and you can guess that, for Search Engines, the principal keyword phrases for the post are going to be key. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to combine both as well as you can.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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