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In this course, search engine optimization (SEO) expert Peter Kent walks step-by-step through the process of reviewing the content and markup of an existing web site to improve its ranking in search engine results. This course offers a consultant's take on how to analyze each component—from keywords to content to code—and determine what improvements are necessary to become more visible to search engines like Yahoo!, Bing, and Google.
This course was updated on 10/12/2012.
The title tag is perhaps the single most important component on a web page, from an SEO perspective. The title tag is intended to describe the contents of the page and it's short, so if the search engines find keywords in there, it's reasonable for them to assume they're important. The title tag generally appears at the top of the page's HTML code, as shown here. The text between the opening and closing title tags is used by your browser in various ways. It appears in the browser's title bar when that page is viewed.
It also appears in the tab for that page. It also appears in the history list. And last, the back and forward button lists. If I press Ctrl+D to bookmark a page, the title will be used as the default bookmark title. The search engines use the title tag in two ways. They use it for ranking purposes. They read the text and they use the text to help figure out what your page is about. They also use it as the link in the search results page when they provide an entry linking to the page.
So title text serves two purposes. It conveys information about the page to the search engines--so it needs good keywords--and serves as a sales pitch, in effect, to encourage people to click on the link when they see it in the search results. So, a few tips: First, don't just use the same title tag on every page in your site, your company name perhaps, as many web developers do. Each one should be different and should contain keywords related to the specific page.
Those keywords should be in the page content, too. The search engines only display a single link line for a search result entry, so if your title tag is longer than around 60 to 70 characters, including spaces, the search engine truncates the text and adds these little ellipsis dots. You can make your title tags longer if you want, with a couple of useful keywords at the end, but don't create huge title tags, hundreds of characters long. And be aware, of course, that the text over 60 or so characters won't appear in search results.
Many web sites begin their title tags with the company name. In most cases, that's a bad idea, as you really want to get good keywords in the beginning of the tag. There is a concept in SEO called prominence, that words at the beginning, or top, of the component are likely to be weighted more than words at the end, or bottom. Next, title-case your title tags-- that is, the first letter of each word is capitalized. From a grammatical standpoint, of course you don't capitalize articles--the, and, a, and so on--and short prepositions and conjunctions.
But forgetting the grammar for now, what we're trying to do is make the title easier to read or rather, easier to scan. The searchers don't read search results, they quickly scan through them. Strings of lowercase text are hard to scan, but title case words pop out. Also throw out fluff words, words that don't convey any real information, such as conjunctions. Again, people are scanning the results, not reading them. So you need to convey the information quickly. If the title tag is written like a sentence, you have words you can remove.
Compare these two tags. The new one has great keywords in it, Olive Oil, Face Cream, Hypo-Allergenic, PABA-Free, SPF. It's virtually all keywords. It's much easier to read because it's title case, and someone scanning it quickly knows exactly what the page is about. Even if the company name is not in the tag, that usually doesn't matter. After all, if someone was searching for your company specifically, they would used your company name and easily find the site. If it's important to you, you can always get it into the description tag, which we will look at next. And people rarely pay much attention to the browser's title bar. In any case, once they are on your site, they'll see the site logo, which is all the branding you need.
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