The title tag has been - and probably will always be - one of the most important factors in achieving high search engine rankings. In fact, fixing just the title tags of your pages can often generate quick and appreciable differences to your rankings. And because the words in the title tag are what appear in the clickable link on the search engine results page (SERP), changing them may result in more clickthroughs.
Search Engines and Title Tags
Title tags are definitely one of the "big three" as far as the algorithmic weight given to them by search engines; they are equally as important as your visible text copy and the links pointing to your pages — perhaps even more so.
Do Company Names Belong in the Title Tag?
This is one of the most common questions asked about titles. The answer is a resounding YES! I've found that it's fine to place your company name in the title, and *gasp*, even to place it at the beginning of the tag! In fact, if your company is already a well-known brand, I'd say that it's essential. Even if you're not a well-known brand yet, chances are you'd like to eventually be one. The title tag gives you a great opportunity to further this cause.
This doesn't mean that you should put *just* your company name in the title tag. Even the most well-known brands will benefit from a good descriptive phrase or two added, as it will serve to enhance your brand as well as your search engine rankings. The people who already know your company and seek it out by name will be able to find you in the engines, and so will those who have never heard of you but seek the products or services you sell.
Title Tags Should Contain Specific Keyword Phrases
For example, if your company is "Johnson and Smith Inc.," a tax accounting firm in Texas, you shouldn't place only the words "Johnson and Smith Inc." in your title tag, but instead use something like "Johnson and Smith Inc. Tax Accountants in Texas."
As a Texas tax accountant, you would want your company's site to appear in the search engine results for searches on phrases such as "Texas tax accountants" and "CPAs in Texas." (Be sure to do your keyword research to find the best phrases!) You would need to be even more specific if you prefer to work with people only in the Dallas area. In that case, use keywords such as "Dallas tax accountants" in your site's title tags.
Using our Dallas accountant's example, you might create a title tag as follows:
Johnson and Smith Tax Accountants in Dallas
or you might try something like this:
Johnson and Smith Dallas CPAs
However, there's more than enough space in the title tag to include both of these important keyword phrases. (I like to use about 10-12 words in my title tags.)
One way to do it would be like this:
Johnson and Smith - Dallas Tax Accountants - CPAs in Dallas, TX
I've always liked the method of separating phrases with a hyphen; however, in today's competitive marketplace, how your listing appears in the SERPs is a critical aspect of your SEO campaign. After all, if you have high search engine rankings but your targeted buyers aren't clicking through, it won't do you much good.
These days I try to write compelling titles as opposed to simply factual ones, if I can. But it also depends on the page, the type of business, the targeted keyword phrases, and many other factors. There's nothing wrong with the title tag in my above example. If you were looking for a tax accountant in Dallas and saw that listing at Google, you'd probably click on it.
Still, you could make it a readable sentence like this:
Johnson and Smith are Tax Accountants and CPAs in Dallas, TX
I'm not as thrilled with that one because I had to remove the exact phrase "Dallas Tax Accountants," as it wouldn't read as well if it said:
Johnson and Smith are Dallas Tax Accountants and CPAs in Dallas, TX
It sounds redundant that way, as if it were written only for the search engines.
In the end, it's really a personal preference. Don't make yourself crazy trying to create the perfect title tag, as there's just no such thing. Most likely, either of my examples would work fine. The best thing to do would be to test different ones and see which rank higher and which convert better. It may very well be that the second version doesn't rank as well, but gets clicked on more, effectively making up the difference.
Use Your Visible Text Copy As Your Guide
I prefer not to create my title tags until the copy on the page has been written and optimized. I need to see how the copywriter integrated the keyword phrases into the text to know where to begin. If you've done a good job with your writing (or better yet, hired a professional SEO copywriter), you should find all the information you need right there on your page. Simply choose the most relevant keyword phrases that the copy was based on, and write a compelling title tag accordingly. If you're having trouble with this and can't seem to get a handle on what the most important phrases are for any given page, you probably need to rewrite the copy.
I recommend that you *don't* use an exact sentence pulled from your copy as your title tag. It's much better to have a unique sentence or a compelling string of words in this tag. This is why you have to watch out for certain development tools. Some content management systems (CMS) and blog software such as WordPress automatically generate the title tag from information you provide elsewhere. In WordPress, for example, the default is to use your blog name, plus whatever you named the page. The problem is that this same info is also used as the headline, plus in the navigational link to the page. Depending on your setup, it could also be the URL for that page. Very rarely would you want all those to be the same.
The good news is that most of today's CMS and blog software have workarounds so that you can customize your title tags. For WordPress, I recommend installing the "SEO Title Tag" plug-in developed by Stephan Spencer. It works like a charm on all my WordPress sites.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.
High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.
Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.
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