When it comes to search engine optimization, the single most important sentence that you will write for your website is the title tag of your main page. If you write it properly then you will have taken a big step towards getting your site well placed in search engine queries for your important keywords.
Before I give you a step-by-step guide to writing title tags, let's define what they actually are and see why they are important. When you look at a web page in your browser, the writing in the blue strip above browser's commands (file, edit, view, etc.) is the title tag. On your actual html document the title tag is in the head portion between the notation <title> and </title>.
The title tag is important because it "tells" the search engine what the page is about, and in the case of your main page, what your website is all about. I remember back in my school days that we used to take standardized examinations in which we had to read a story and then answer the question: "What would be the best title for this essay?" Choosing a title tag is something like answering this kind of question. You've got to pick out the gist of your enterprise and highlight it in a sentence. So, take a look at your web page and get ready to begin, following these steps:
- Make sure your three or four most important keywords or keyword phrases appear in the title tag. The most important words should appear near the beginning of the sentence, and they can be repeated within the sentence for added emphasis. For example, if I am offering low-cost web design, then my title tag might look like this: <title>Web Design: Affordable, Low Cost Web Design from the Acme Web Design Company</title>
- Leave your branding and sales pitch for another part of the web page. Although it is a natural tendency to want to put your company name at the beginning of the title tag, you should remember that unless you are very famous like Coca Cola, people are not searching for you. So, put your most important keywords at the front of the title tag, and establish your brand name with your logo and other elements of the web page. If your company name includes your keywords, like our hypothetical Acme Web Design Company, then put it in the title tag, but not necessarily at the beginning.
Similarly, the title tag is no place for your sales pitch, so keep out flowery or extraneous adjectives, unless they are actual terms used in searches for your product or service.
- Place your geographical or niche-defining term in your title tag. If you are trying for a top ten or top twenty position for a term such as "web design," then you are really in for a difficult struggle. However, suppose the Acme Web Design Company is located in Columbus, Ohio. Then instead of attempting the almost impossible task of getting the top rankings for the term "web design," it would be far better to get a high ranking in the geographical niche using a title tag such "Web Design, Columbus, Ohio: Low Cost Web Design in Columbus, Ohio by The Acme Web Design Company"
- The title tag can be longer than you think. Some guidelines say that the title tag should be no longer than 70 characters. It is true that only the first 70 characters will show in the top bar of the browser, but search engine robots will read the rest of the tag and the search engines will not penalize you for going over the 70 character mark. Take a look at highly ranked sites in heavily competitive categories and you will see examples of long title tags. Write the tag according to your need to get your important words and phrases included in a sentence that best describes what your product or service is about.
- Vary the title tags on the inner pages of your website. Even with a long title tag, it is not possible to highlight all the possible terms which someone might use to find your website. This is not a problem if you make use of the other pages of your website. Instead of simply having a title tag that says "services" our web design firm could highlight "low cost, web design services" on that page. The "contact" page could be used to emphasize the geographical location once again, and so on.
Many websites make the mistake of repeating the same title tag on each of the inner pages of the site. Avoid this and use each of your page's titles to target important keywords and keyword phrases.
Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has been working on the Internet since 1995, and is currently the director of A1-Optimization (http://www.a1-optimization.com), a firm providing low cost search engine optimization, submission and web promotion services.
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