The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

On-Page Optimization

Creating a Healthy Website

A website can do just fine online without SEO. PPC, social media and other properly implemented off-line marketing efforts can really help a site succeed online with little or no SEO. But unless and until you begin to SEO your site it will always under perform, never quite reaching its fullest potential. Without SEO, you'll always be missing out on a great deal of targeted traffic that the other avenues cannot make up for.

So where do we start? SEO can be so broad and vast that we often don't know where we should begin, what will give us the greatest impact, and how to move forward. That's what I hope to answer here.

Building Good Title Tags

Title Tags

The title tag is the single most important piece of SEO real estate on your site. A title tag can be as long as you want, but you only have about 63 characters before the search engines cut it off. So use it wisely.

Since the title appears as the clickable link in the SERPs pages it has to be able to meet a couple of different demands.

Keyword rich

Searchers type in specific words into the search engines and they expect the engines to provide results that match their original query. We know that the search engines look at over 200 different signals to determine the relevance of any page against the keyword searched. The title tag one of them, but a very key one at that. You don't necessarily need your keyword in the title tag for it to come up in the search results, but it helps a great deal.

Titles in SerpsBut what about the visitor? What does the searcher see? Let say a searcher types "how to be beautiful" into the search engine and two results are displayed. One reads "How to Look Good and Feel Great" and another reads "How to Look Beautiful Even When you Don't Feel Like It." Which of these two is more likely to be clicked by the visitor?

It's entirely likely both pages address the same concerns, but only one uses the searched keyword. More than likely, the second result will get far more clicks than the first, even if it is in a lower position in the results (which isn't likely, but lets pretend anyway.)

Compelling

The next thing your title tag needs to be is compelling. We looked out how to make it more likely to be clicked simply by putting keywords in it, but that itself is only part of the issue. Going back to our example above if we put the first non-keyword using headline up against a third keyword rich headline of "Sexy and Beautiful, Today's Hottest Stars." which do you think will gain more clicks? My guess is the first one that doesn't use keywords because it is far more compelling and speaks more toward the searcher's intent. So in this situation the third headline is likely to rank higher but will receive fewer clicks.

The trick is to make sure that the title tag is both keyword rich and compelling. This will help move your site to the top of the rankings, but also ensure that visitors are more likely to click on it into your site.

Common mistakes

Title TagsImplementing your title tags properly is crucial to ensuring they are effective. There are a number of easy mistakes that you can make if you don't take the time to do it right. It's easy to want to blast through your title tags, especially if you have a lot of pages. But because the title tag is so important, you want to take care in developing them properly. Here are a few common issues:

Same on Every Page: Each page in your site is unique, or at least it should be. This means your title tags should be unique on each page as well. On a lot of sites you'll see the same title tag across all the pages "Welcome to My Site, or something like that. That hardly describes the page at all. And show that in the search results, you're not likely to get any clicks. Go through the site and customize each title, ensuring it uniquely and accurately describes the content of the page.

Leading with Business Name: There are good reasons to have your business name present in your title tag, but that should not be by default. If you use your business name be sure to think through the reasoning and make sure it's sound. The limitations of the title tag make using your business name something you do only with great care and consideration. I'll discuss this more in a bit.

List of Keywords: Wanting to get your keywords in the title tag makes it tempting to just try to throw as many in there as you possible can. "Beauty | Makeup | Makeovers | Diet | Healthy Skin." Sure that gets all your keywords in there but does nothing to make someone want to click on the result. This means that (gasp!) you have to use keywords sparingly so you can also make the title something worth clicking on.

Lack of Description: Aside from getting your primary keywords in the title, and making it compelling, you also have to make sure the title tag provides enough of a description of the content to ensure it gets a targeted click. No sense having someone click into the site only to find the information on the page isn't what they expected. Make sure that the title describes the content in a compelling and keyword friendly way.

Branded titles

Branded titlesSo let's address using your business name in your title tags. As I said earlier, sometimes its wise but that shouldn't be the default position.

In general, you can place your business name either at the front or the rear of the title tag. My rule of thumb is that you don't want to put your business name at the front of your title tag unless you have a highly recognizable brand name that the visitor will know and will likely be a click-generator from the search results. If that's not the case then you simply don't want to give up that real estate.

Branding at the rear of the title tag is a far better solution for most businesses. This helps moderately known or even unknown companies build brand name recognition. The downside of branding your title tags this way is you are still using up valuable real estate that might otherwise be used making a keyword rich and compelling headline. Also note, that if the title goes too long, your business name will be cut off in the search results.

Most of the time you don't need your business name in your title tags at all, however there is one time when I would suggest leaving it off almost 90% of the time. This is on product pages. It's so crucial to get important product data into the title tag that there often simply isn't room enough for your business name. Again, I might make an exception for well-known business names, but default to showing product info first and foremost.

Missed a part of this series?
Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About SEO
Part 2: Everything You Need To Know About Title Tags
Part 3: Everything You Need To Know About Meta Description and Keyword Tags
Part 4: Everything You Need To Know About Heading Tags and Alt Attributes
Part 5: Everything You Need To Know About Domain Names
Part 6: Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links
Part 7: Everything You Need To Know About Site Architecture and Internal Linking
Part 8: Everything You Need To Know About Keywords
Part 9: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Core Terms
Part 10: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Qualifiers
Part 11: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Copywriting
Part 12: Everything You Need To Know About Page Content
Part 13: Everything You Need To Know About Links
Part 14: Everything You Need To Know About Link Anatomy
Part 15: Everything You Need To Know About Linking






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(13)

Very intesting, hope you'll talk about the way of linking between pages next :)

It's not next but it's coming.

Assuming you can make it interesting, what do you think about repeating keywords in title tags? (Or is that an oxymoron?)

Carolyn - Proceed with caution. There is nothing wrong with using a keyword twice, but make sure it's done in a way that reads properly.

Wow! I'm looking forward to read your upcoming SEO 101 post. You have given me a different point of view on SEO. Thanks for sharing!

Stoney-

An excellent start to a series and I'll be interested to read the next two million four hundred thousand sixty-two parts. ;-) There is always something to be learned or re-jogged by visiting the basics.

I found a two things intriguing:

1. You titled the article SEO 101, but then immediately said that a better way to look at it was really, "SEO Essentials." Why not name it SEO Essentials then? I just raised an eyebrow and thought, huh, that's strange. If he thinks it's more like SEO Essentials, why didn't he go that way. And how is 101 different than Essentials? In short, you immediately diverted my attention from the topic at hand.
2. Instead of labeling each section clearly with the topic area (i.e. Why SEO is important?) in the title, it was labeled "Part 1"? And then down at the bottom of the article, you did provide a keyword laden link. But, I got to the article and thought, "Hey, it must have been a broken link because it sent me to a different page."

Was there an SEO reason that you treated the material in this manner (you were writing for SEO Essentials and SEO 101)? If there was, then this is a classic example where User Experience (in this case, "scent") was trumped for traffic.

Thanks again! I'm looking forward to the rest.

Jerry, you bring up a good point. I'm not sure that I can explain satisfactorily but I'll give it a try.

First, I had the series titled as it was presented at L'Oreal, which was SEO 101. I think I chose that because people instinctively understand that we are talking about basics. 10 minutes before posting the first article I performed my last proofread which is when I added the "essentials" line. It briefly dawned on me that perhaps I should change the title but then the wheels were in motion having already written the first 12 parts.

Second, the links at the bottom are added as I go along and I've given each a name so the reader can easily find the area he's interested in (part 2, 3, 4, etc. don't have much meaning in this case. Ideally I would give each post a title that is a bit more revealing. But the danger of doing long titles as I did here is it becomes difficult to do that. The title becomes too long. I could truncate the original title "SEO 101 Part II - All About Title Tags" but then I feel I lose a bit of the continuity.

Maybe I'm wrong. It's not too early to change. I'm open to suggestions.

"The title tag is the single most important piece of SEO real estate on your site. A title tag can be as long as you want, but you only have about 63 characters before the search engines cut it off. So use it wisely."

search engines are easily index title tags up to 70 character with spaces. So use 7 extra letter word on title. :)

Here is the proof and Google is also indexing upto 70 characters.

Google indexes the entire page and may display up to 70 characters. But the key is "up to". I wouldn't want anything past 63 characters that I wanted displayed in the search results OR that I wanted to make sure Google factored for rankings.

Hi Stoney-

Thanks for the response. I understand the pressures of producing articles on an ongoing basis and completely understand how last-minute changes can affect the whole process. I wasn't sure if this was something that occurred as a result of your process (and something to take in) - or something that happened onto the piece along the way and probably could have been tightened up.

I appreciate your frank feedback. If I was the author, I would tighten the titles to provide more immediate relevance for the consumer of the information. Bust out a title that puts us all on the same page straight away. To me, there isn't really anything you discussed (so far) that I would have been "afraid to ask" and so it becomes gimmicky (as well as tired) instead of useful. Perhaps if you were talking about advanced SEO techniques that could be considered "gray hat" if executed improperly, then you would have reason for "afraid to ask." I don't sense that is where you're headed.

Again, thanks for the information. Since details are what make the difference at the highest levels, I appreciate the opportunity to think and review the information from top to bottom. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Cheers!

You have certainly giving me something to think about. How do I subscribe to posts?

Good post. I agree that title tags are not only for the search engine bot but to real visitors as well and play important role in clickthroughs. your Title tag must be crafted to encourage click-throughs. You need to be more than a technical expert,you need to be a marketer. In Google, the maximum number of characters allotted for the Title tag is 70. When it gets down to it, there's not much difference between the PPC ads on Google and the organic listings. They both represent marketers using text to engage the users and encourage them to click-through to their Web site.Give a unified, complete message that fits in that space.

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Andy

Interesting topic. As a novice I think this would be very useful for me. I heard that using title multi times wont affect but I may be wrong.

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