Question: When I only have about 65 characters to work with in a title tag (that which is visible on the search engine results pages), should I use any of that valuable real estate to display my company name?

This is a question that I hear quite often, and it's a good one. I don't necessarily think there is a universal right or wrong answer to it. Many believe that the real estate in the title is just too valuable to waste on a company name. Others believe that the branding you get from placing your company name in the title is just too good to pass up.

Let's dissect this a bit and then I'll let you come to your own conclusions.

Why use your company name in the title tag?

<title>Business Name | Movie Posters, Collectibles and Memorabilia</title>

<title>Movie Posters, Collectibles and Memorabilia| Business Name </title>

The single best reason to use your company name in your title tag is to brand the searcher with your company name as they scan through the results after a search. Many argue that there is no branding effect unless you already have a well-recognized brand name, but I disagree. I think this is how you get a well-recognized brand name, especially on the web.

Let's say that you've branded all your title tags and have gotten yourself pretty firmly established in the search results for a number of core and long-tail phrases. Many people don't perform just one search. They search, scan through results, maybe click on a few links, then go back and further refine their search. Each of these searches is an opportunity not to just get a click because you're ranked well, but it's an opportunity to get your company name in front of some eyeballs. The more search refinements performed the more opportunities you have for your name to be branded in the searchers mind, just by being there in the search results.

It may be only two searches, or maybe it's five, but if you are ranked, and your title tags are branded with your company name, then that's several opportunities for someone to see your name, regardless if they click or not. Sooner or later, they will click. Your name will be ingrained in their mind. Search after search, they'll have begun to associate you as an authority on that topic, possibly without ever having visited your site.

You can make the case that the URL can be used for branding, therefore save the Title tag for a clickable message. That's certainly true. I tend to look at URLs more than I look at titles when searching. But remember, branding is all about repetition. Putting your company name in your title is one more instance that your name appears!

Where to place the company name?

So the question begs, if you are going to brand your title tag, where do you put you company name? Should it go at the beginning or at the end? I showed you two examples above illustrating each. I've had people tell me that they would absolutely never place the company name at the beginning, but I'm not all that convinced that it's a bad thing.

If you're going for the branding effect, then the beginning is absolutely the best place for your company name to be. Putting it at the end just doesn't have the same impact. Often people will only look at the first few words of a title and then the bolded words (the words used in the query that also appear in the title) as they scan down the list. If your business name isn't found at the beginning of the title tag then there will be no real branding going on.

But this is also the reason that many propose putting your company name at the end instead of the beginning. Since searchers scan only the first few words (and the bolded words) of the title, you'll want to make sure your most important keywords are at the front. Why would you ever give up that real estate for a company name?

I don't disagree with that logic. But if your company name says enough about what you do, or is keyword rich, then there is no reason not to put it at the front of your title tag. If you need those first few characters in order to out rank your competition then by all means use it for specific keywords you are targeting. But if you company name is compelling, uses keywords and/or provides the visitor with enough information about what you do, then get it there where it can, and will, be seen.

Why not always brand your title tags?

<title>Movie Posters | The Dark Knight One (1) Sheet </title>

If you're a proponent of always using your company name in your title tags I still think there are times when you may not want to. Or if you do, to use it after the 65 characters that the search engines will display in their search results.

Looking at my example above, you can tell that the page in question is a very specific page, looking for a very specific product. The search that brings that page up is performed by a searcher that is ready to buy. They are no longer researching or shopping, they now know what they want and they are ready to put money down for it now..

This is the time to give them exactly what they want. You don't necessarily want to fog up the issue with company names or any other information that isn't necessary in getting them to the information they need.

That's not to say, in this case, that having your company name in the title is bad. In fact, if you've already established your name via other searches and search results it could come in handy here, but the most important thing is the keywords in the title. And with specific searches like this you'll often run out of room before you get a chance to use your company name, unless you put it at the front. What you don't want to do is run out of room for your most keywords that will adequately describe your product. They take priority here.

Over the years I've fluctuated back and forth on where to use the company name in the title tag. Ultimately, we look at it on a page by page basis. To see what the needs are for SEO and for the visitor. Hopefully I've given you some food for thought.

If you want to get it "right" you just need to consider your marketing goals for each page of your site, what you want to achieve and the best way to do that. There is no wrong way to brand your title tags, except to do so in a way that conflicts with your goals.


July 7, 2008





Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.





Comments(26)

Excellent article. I really like the way you look at it from a branding point of view. Added you to my reader.

Hey Stoney. Thanks for the post. I appreciate that you're not clinging to the black and white. Sometimes SEO is an art, and it depends on what you're trying to do. Sometimes you can even overrun the 65-75 characters if it serves your purposes. SEO has some science; but like you pointed out--it really depends on what you're trying to do. Thanks for the read.

It's always interesting to me when SEO, usability, accessibility and branding intersect :)

I've heard that often it's better to have the most salient information (i.e the page-specific stuff) first, so that when people bookmark it or if they have a ton of browser windows open, they can see in their status bar what each one is. I do think you mention of "grabbing eyeballs" does make a difference when you're scanning SERPs, however.

I recently changed my title tags for my blog to "{blog post} | Andrea Hill talks about .... at afhill.com". Because I want to promote my name as well as my URL, I wanted to be sure they were both out there. However, the flip side is true: people aren't very likely to see my URL and want to pick on it for that reason alone. So it's for introduction to the brand, not to try to leverage brand recognition.

As for your comment about it on a page by page basis, I do think it's important to be consistent across the site (the home page being perhaps the only exception). You should decide the relative importance of your company brand to the actual page content, and be consistent with that across the board. IMO :)

I do personally thing you should have your company name in the title of the homepage at least. I think it can look a bit stupid if you search for a company and the results don't have the name in the title.

I think it is still worth doing if you don't have an established brand just yet as it can help to establish that brand.

I am personally happy to go over the 65 char mark, as long as it massively over and the important parts are covered in the first 65 chars. I do try and keep it to the 65 mark for the homepage though.

I don't actually use it in my title at the moment, but it is more a hobby blog so I am not too fussed about branding just yet.

Great conversation on page titles. It just shows how important it is to get your major keyword in your branded name and domain name. That way you can brand and optimize at the same time.

Good article! One thing you didn't mention is the impact of the title on bookmarks. The default name when a user bookmarks a page is the page title. For that reason alone, I tend to put a company name in the page title, as leaving it out could could create confusion later when the user accesses his or her bookmarks. Yes, bookmark names can be changed. But I don't want to force users to have to change the name in order for the bookmark to make sense. Just one more thing to think about when developing page titles.

@ Hjörtur @ Josh
Thanks. I think SEOs are often shortsighted in seeing things in terms of SEO only. There is far more to marketing on the web than just keyword rankings.

@ Andrea I'm also a sucker for consistency, but sometimes you just have to break that and do what's best for each page (or section of the website). I can easily see how a site would do a tag one way on category pages and another on product pages. Just don't be haphazard about it!

@ Yossarian I agree fully that the business name should always be in the title tag of the home page. I should have made that point, but thanks for doing it for me!

Greg, Excellent point, and again, one I should have mentioned. That's lends to putting the business name at the very front of the title tag. I typically edit bookmarks to shorten them, but it's always nice when I just have to cut stuff rather than rewrite it!

Dang! I cold have gotten another 300 words out of that alone.

Look at amazon and overstock.com they both use there brand names as the first think in the title tag.

Another point is when you look at your tabs all you see is the first thing in the title tag about 15- 20 char. so its really important to think about your goals.

What Your brand in internet communication ?
I belive that it's Your URL, not traditional name like: "Business Name".

For me the best Title tag is:

BusinessName.com | Movie Posters, Collectibles and Memorabilia


Best Reagrds
Cezar

These are valuable insights, Stoney.

I am curious about somethng that appears to be inconsistent.

If the mere repetition of a business name can build a brand, and I don't think I agree with that generality, then more repetion would be better than less. Therefore, why not have the business name/ brand on every page title?

Unless the business name or the abbreviated brand is disproportionately long, it shouldn't take up that many characters.

Now, let me disagree with the underlying assumption. With decades in marketing and branding, I have come to believe that branding, i.e. creating a "brand" that is not only memorable but generates preference, even loyalty, is about much more than the business name, or even the brand name.

For example, what makes CocaCola/Coke such a strong brand is not just name recognition but even more a perception of positive experiences and emotions.

So, unless your title also includes the fodder for perceiving your brand name in some positive way - not just as to attributes but more about benefits - it is an inefficient way to build a brand.

If that is the case, it can be argued that the title should address the needs and wants of the customer, i.e. the keyword search terms, and leave brand building to the content of the page.

Food for thought.....

If your brand's established, have the company name in the title tag, first. The brand name itself should be sufficient to make searchers click through. If your brand's new or you just aren't interested in branding, then your company name has no place in your title tag. Instead you should be stressing the merits of the service or product you offer in the title and meta description tags, contents of both of which should be visible in the SERPS.

BB

@ William

"why not have the business name/ brand on every page title"

Sometimes branding is a lesser goal than other more important goals such as making sure that the title is compelling and generates the click. Again, its simply a matter of the goals. While branding is usually secondary, to other goals, that doesn't mean you can't do it while still meeting the other goals sufficiently.

"For example, what makes CocaCola/Coke such a strong brand is not just name recognition but even more a perception of positive experiences and emotions."

True, in order for branding to be truly effective then there has to be a "there" there. But we're really only talking about initial perception. You see something enough you begin to build perceptions. In this case, the perception is that a particular site is an authority. Once the visitor clicks, its up to the site to back that up if they want that perception to stick.

"If that is the case, it can be argued that the title should address the needs and wants of the customer, i.e. the keyword search terms, and leave brand building to the content of the page.'

I agree with that 100%. And if you can do that while brand with your company name then I say do it.

See the same site name in search results will cause a branding effect, whether you like it or not. You keep seeing the same site, over and over for similar searches, sooner or later you're gonna associate that site as being authoritative. Studies have already shown that sites that appear #1 in results are considered the be the most authoritative is proof of this. Branding happens.

@ Bill

"If your brand's new ... then your company name has no place in your title tag. "

I disagree. If you have the opportunity to create a perception through branding of the search results then do it. That can be just as effective as any other form of marketing. Yes, show value, but no reason not to brand at the same time if you can.

Stoney:

Thanks for the comeback.

You make a good point about repetition of the name beginning to build familarity, maybe even a perception of authority.

This, of course, assumes tha tthe individual subjected tothe repeated exposure is the same person, leading to a cumulative effect.

OTOH, how many people make repeated searches on the same term(s)? I don't have the answer. Commons sense tells me it is not great many since one normally finds what someone searching for information is satisfied within a few searches.

Nevertheless, the point is well taken that, if you can do both, do both. This seems to me to be a testable problem.

Any thoughts on how one might test brand mention vs. keyword mention vs. a combination?

Sorry about the typos.

What I meant was that I presume that most searchers on any keyword are satisfied within very few searches.

Is there evidence to the contrary?

Again, do you have any thoughts about how to test what works best?

"how many people make repeated searches on the same term(s)? I don't have the answer. Commons sense tells me it is not great many since one normally finds what someone searching for information is satisfied within a few searches."

Depending on the industry, the person and the purpose of the search, often times research is process that takes several days to a month or more. This can be someone looking for a product or just information. Each time they go back and search, refine, search again, search differently, and refine differently, that is an opportunity to get your site in front of their eyes for branding... provided, of course that you're ranking well on many of those searches. But even just a few can help out a lot.

"Any thoughts on how one might test brand mention vs. keyword mention vs. a combination?"

Hmmm, not sure on that. I think PPC would be the best way to go for such a test. Run two ads virtually identical except one has the brand name and keywords the other just has keywords in the title. You'd have to run that on virtually all of you ad groups.

A couple of drawbacks, PPC doens't give enough room to put the business name and keywords in the title. Could try the description though. I'll see if we can give that a go.

In traditional branding terms, in the long run a brand is just a name. In the short term, the brand needs a unique idea or concept. It needs to own a word in the mind, ideally first in it's class (think Amazon, eBay etc.). After time that uniqueness disappears.(Esso verses Petro Canada, Seven 11 verses Mac's Milk etc.). Branding does take time. With the Internet's constant birth of the new, I'm in full agreement with putting it in the title if the purpose is building branding. Repetition as well as seeing that company's name together with the other title tags links the two in a persons mind. Many times you'll see a company name/logo with a positioning tag line underneath it, which sort of acts the same way a title tag would. Or on radio, linking the company name with a sound. Duracell, "the copper top battery" uses both.(Did you hear the ringing in your minds ear?)
I think there is a sort of battle going on as companies start moving more online. The algorithms creators (aka Google) are controlling the flow.Hence the comments, "why waste title tag characters". Many of the traditional marketing laws still apply on the web, so they need to be addressed as well. It comes down to purpose and balance. It always does.

Why not take the best of both and put it in the middle?

Product | Businessname | Description.

In your example:

Movie Posters | Business Name | Collectibles and Memorabilia.

That way you have your keyphrase and brandname up front in the tag.

Never used this though, just thought of it reading your post. Anyone got comments or experience on this?

I know it's not the highest priority, but what about designing page titles with tabbed browsing in mind. I usually keep several tabs open at the same time flip frequently between them. If I'm looking at the same product on three or four different sites, it helps to see the brand name on each tab.

Like I said, not the biggest priority, but a small usability issue. Thanks for the article, I really enjoyed it.

If I am unable to use the company name in the title then i use it directly as the first words of the description

I could not disagree with you more. I'll not waste page title space in a branding effort. We brand from the snippet field so we use the company name in the Page Description.

We target two keyword phrases in the page title. Why you would suggest this blows me away.

There is a rule that we live by "No Company Name IN Titles." This is search not branding 101.

So go ahead and brand in your titles if you want your competition to beat you in the SERP's. Absolutely a bad idea!

@ Hein I say if it works for what you're trying to accomplish for the page then go for it. Good thinking.

@ Andrew that's a good point. All these things are important considerations we have to make.

@ Chris that's en excellent solution as well, one that I've employed from time to time myself.

@ Tucson this must be SEO 101. Feel free to "beat" me in the SERPS and I'll craft titles that drive better traffic than the site's above me. Or, better yet I'll brand, increase click-thrus and get better search results.

Well, it's good food for thought I suppose, but your post really gave almost no concrete information, or relevant point. You said basically, it's sometimes good to put in the title, sometimes not. It's sometimes good to put it in front, sometimes bad. Sometimes good to put it at the end, sometimes bad.

That's the real problem with "SEO" these days, is that so many people just want to take the middle of the road approach, cover all the bases, never take a chance on being wrong, and really provide no definitive information.

I'd appreciate the information much more if it were a concrete approach (perhaps the underlying philosophy of why) and take a stance once way or the other.

I appreciate the effort, but I ended up being no more informed than when I started unfortunately...

@ Christopher

SEO isn't always concrete. Sometimes it's about trial and error. But this post was really less about SEO and more about branding. I laid out the pros and cons and from there any person can make their own decisions. There is no "wrong" answer, so for me to take a position on that would be somewhat foolish.

SEO don't have any hard and fast rule. But at present time Google reads 65 characters of the title. I am satisfy with the writer that we should use the company name in the title.So that we can make our company as a brand name and it should be at first of the title.

Just stumbled on this helpful site and appreciate all the helpful information. I've got a quick question just to clarify:

Our ecommerce's domain name (WholesaleBingoSupplies.com)contains two keywords (Wholesale Bingo Supplies and Bingo Supplies)so it would probably be best if we started all of our
title pages with "Wholesale Bingo Supplies |" and then added on specific products afterward.

So a title might should like this "Wholesale Bingo Supplies | Bingo Cages | Rubber Bingo Cages"

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