From: Steve Tauber

Hi Jill!

I never miss an issue of your meaty, no-fluff newsletter! You have a flair for making the reader feel like you are personally talking to them. It is a goldmine, and required reading for an SEO master, or for anyone even contemplating a site -- and that is no exaggeration!

I have saved up all my questions regarding many things you have said. Hopefully you'll think the answers might be helpful to your readers.

[Jill's note: Rather than posting the questions twice, in the interest of saving space (and your time) I'm leaving them out of the original email question and just pasting them into my answer.]

As you can tell, I really value your opinion. Thank you in advance, for your valuable time.


Steve Tauber


~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your kind words about this newsletter. Even if it's just an obligatory suck-up, it makes me feel good, nonetheless! (Remind me to one day tell you about the hilarious fake email my daughter Corie once sent me that had all the parts of the typical email I receive...including but not limited to the "obligatory suck-up"!)

Okay, let's get right into those questions of yours:

Q. - In the Title Tag, you say one should not stuff it with as many keywords as possible. But why not use up the approx. 60-115 characters with as many keyword phrases as are even closely related to the page content, and then repeat them on the page saying something like "people who are interested in these things, will especially enjoy this page/site"?

A. - Because then you will dilute your actual keyword phrases! Optimizing any one page of a site is all about focus. Focus, focus, focus. Personally, I have no problem with long Title tags, and use them often; however, they are absolutely focused on the main two or three keyword phrases that I optimized a particular page's content for. It sounds like you're thinking you can optimize a page's content for tons of different keyword phrases. But again, in doing so, you'll lose your focus and end up with zippo!


Q. - You say less than 250 words of copy is okay, but how about just 30 words (say on a catalog page simply describing one product for sale)?

A. - Generally, I like 250 words, but, like anytime I deal in numbers, they're not written in stone. It all depends on what (and how many) keyword phrases you're optimizing the page for. If you're optimizing for a highly competitive phrase where there are thousands of other sites optimized for the same keyword phrases, it's doubtful that 30 words of copy will be enough to utilize your keyword phrase appropriately. On the other hand, if you simply want to rank highly for the keywords "ProductName Part# 342392" you may certainly have enough to go on with only 30 words on the page. It really depends on how many other sites sell that particular product part, and how search-engine-friendly they've made their site.


Q. - To have more keyword space, are commas (or even the normal space after commas), necessary in Titles or Description Tags?

A. - You don't need to have more space in either your Meta keyword tag or your Meta description tag. Doing so will only serve to dilute your two or three highly specific keyword phrases for that page. That said, I still create my Meta Keyword tags with a comma and no space between the words, but it's only out of habit from the old days when (like you) I thought I should conserve space in these tags!


Q. - Will shorter Title or Description Tags (or copy) increase word importance to engines?

A. - This is something debated by many SEOs on a daily basis. Many seem to believe that you should focus on only one keyword phrase per page, and use only that one keyword phrase in the Title tag. I don't happen to agree. Certainly, you *can* optimize that way if you want to, but to me, that's such a waste of a good page! Why optimize for one phrase when you can optimize for three? I don't know about you, but I'd much rather give my page the potential for showing up under three highly relevant phrases in the search engines than just one phrase! You won't always rank highly for all three phrases when you do this, however. Sometimes you'll rank highly for only one of them, or sometimes for two. Regardless of how many you end up ranking highly with, you'll have more chances just by the fact that you optimized for three instead of one. Unfortunately, as discussed above, once you go beyond three, you stand a good chance of diluting them all, and ranking highly for none of them.


Q. - As with Title Tags, can one make slightly different Description tags for each site page?

A. - Can one? One absolutely MUST! Each page of your site is totally different (or it better be!); therefore, of course each description tag must also be different. Not slightly different, but totally different. If your pages are so similar that your description tags are nearly the same, then you'll probably want to rethink your whole site strategy. Every page of your site should be completely unique, because people don't want to read one page of your site, then click to another page only to read pretty much the same thing there. If that happens, you can kiss your visitor bye-bye right then and there!


Q. - Can Description Tags be in all capital letters?

A. - Why would you want them to be? They can be anything you want. You could fill them with numbers and exclamation points if you want to, but what would be the purpose? Since Meta description tags show up in many search engines' results pages, you generally want to use a nice descriptive sentence or two. All caps would probably not look very attractive to the average person looking for your site. The search engines aren't case-specific anymore, so it probably wouldn't matter as far as rankings go, but it might make a difference to the users.


Q. - Even with commas, if I don't put dashes between keyword phrase words in Title and Description tags, how will spiders know they belong together? Thus if I sell many types of gifts, can I put the word "gifts" numerous times, each time beside a different type of gift (i.e., science gifts, toy gifts, etc)?

A. - Well, again, you should be only optimizing each page for up to three keyword phrases. Now that you have a better understanding of this from my previous answers, I think you can figure out this one yourself!


Q. - Besides a minimum, is there an optimum number of times a keyword should be repeated in Title and Description tags, or copy?

A. - Every page is unique, and every optimization is unique. Therefore there will never be an optimum number of times to use any particular keyword or keyword phrase in any of the tags or in the page copy. You should use them in the way that makes the most sense for the particular page you are working on.

That said, for Title tags, I wouldn't use any one word more than two times. It's the same for the Meta description tag. With the Meta keyword tag, I wouldn't use any one word more than three or four times.

Within the actual page copy, I have no number to give. My rule of thumb is to use the two or three keyword phrases as many times within the copy as it makes sense to do so without making it sound stupid. (Shameless plug) My recently released report, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines," can definitely help you figure out how to do exactly that -- get keywords into the copy. (End Shameless plug)
March 21, 2003

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,, 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.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Using Keywords to Optimize Titles and Descriptions for Search Engines