The 7 Essential Title Tag Strategies of High Ranking WebPages in 2006
…and how to apply them to each of the three major search engines
Perhaps you remember the days when cutting-edge webpage design boasted animated gifs and focused on keyword density for top search engine rankings. These days, however, standard fare often combines flash animation with a heavy incoming link campaign. But through all the changes, one element remains constant—the importance of the HTML <title> tag. This little tag was, and still is, the single most important onpage element of high ranking webpages.
To lend perspective, let’s wander back for a moment to the late 90′s when all this SEO work really got started. The <title> tag was, to put it mildly, tantamount to success. At that time the immensely popular, but now-defunct, Infoseek search engine bestowed top rankings on pages with the highest number of keyword repetitions within the title. This foremost strategy, combined with page freshness, was key. Bear in mind that, at the time, Infoseek was king and Google didn’t even exist!
Many an SEO worked around the clock constantly reformatting and resubmitting pages to see what they could, frankly, get away with before Infoseek would finally ban the domain. In many cases the SEO would then just begin anew the whole trial-&-error, push-the-limits process with a new domain. Personally, I remember submitting pages with over 100k worth of text in the <title> tag—and then sat back and basked in the glow of success as my pages rocketed straight to the top in a mere 5 minutes after submitting them. Boy, was that fun!
Alas, such a simplistic approach to SEO didn’t last too long; the engines evolved, got much smarter and in turn, SEO work has proportionately increased in difficulty. But one thing that hasn’t changed, regardless of which search engine you’re targeting, is the importance of getting your <title> tags right. By the way, just to be sure we’re on the same page, a <title> tag looks like this…
<title>Your Keywords Go Here</title>
Title tags 2006
Today the <title> tag remains a critical component of top scoring webpages. While it’s true that inbound links can cause a webpage to rank very well even if the keyword is missing from the body of the page, you’ll seldom find a page without the keyword in the <title> tag that ranks highly for a competitive search.
These days, there persists both myths and confusion about the role the title tag actually plays within the ranking formulas. So, for that reason, let’s take a fresh look at what actually is helping pages score well in the year 2006.
The 7 Essential Title Tag Strategies of Today’s High Ranking WebPages
Now that you know how important the <title> tag really is, you’ll want to incorporate these top seven strategies to allow your titles to work at maximum power, search-engine-wise…
1. Length of Your Title: When creating titles for your webpages, remember that anything more than 63 characters is mostly superfluous.
Although Yahoo will display up to 112 characters and MSN up to 70, by limiting your <title> tags to Google’s limit of 63 or less, you’re increasing your chances you’ll get your entire <title> tag displayed on all three major engines.
From a search engine ranking perspective, you should limit titles to only your best keywords while remembering that, typically, pages rank better when there is more than one keyword within the <title> tag.
Don’t be afraid to use so-called stop words (words that are ignored by engines), such as the, is, of, a, and, as well as punctuation. You will find that, if you do some test searches with and without your stop words, in most cases these common terms are simply ignored.
This means that you can confidently use stop words to make your <title> tags more palatable for human consumption without running the risk of diluting the importance of your target keywords.
2. Word Proximity: Search engines actually do pay attention to the distance between words for multiple keyword searches. For example, in a search for Chevrolet Corvette, a webpage <title> tag that contains these two words grouped together will typically hold a ranking advantage over another webpage with a <title> tag such as Corvette, a legend by Chevrolet.
As for punctuation in the eyes of the search engines, Chevrolet/Corvette is on equal footing with Chevrolet Corvette, since the slash is regarded as just an empty space. Therefore, the engines view the distance between these keywords as exactly the same.
3. Keyword Location: As a general rule, the closer you place your keyword to the beginning of the <title> tag, the better the ranking advantage. However, bear in mind that we’ve seen fluctuations on this element from engine to engine and even from month to month. Regardless, on the whole, you can expect better results by placing your keywords first in your <title> tag.
4. Word Order: Consider the search dell computers. This will generate far different results than a search for computers dell. The search engines do pay attention to the linear order of your keywords, so be sure to position them in the most likely order that real people typically use when expressing them in everyday language.
However, be aware of the opportunities that may also be available when you switch the keyword order around. There may be instances where you’ll find that reversing the keyword order sends good traffic with less competition. By all means, explore this possibility when doing your research and be prepared to construct ancillary pages designed to make the most of such opportunities whenever they’re available.
5. Repetitions: Should you use the keyword more than once in the title? The answer is… it depends. First, let’s talk about what not to do. Do not repeat keywords one after the other as in keyword, keyword, keyword–however, there is no denying that a few pages that score well in specific keyphrase searches do, in fact, repeat keywords. An appropriate use of repetition might look something like:
Las Vegas – Sites and Attractions in the city of Las Vegas
Regardless, you should keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of the top scoring sites do not repeat keywords within the <title> tag. Once is usually enough.
Certainly you should take into consideration the typical search-phrase usages as well as research the top scoring pages before you decide. Just be sure to bear in mind that simplistic duplication of words without regard to human readability will typically work against you.
6. Titles for Human Consumption: There is one enduring constant of <title> tag content creation that must remain a top priority–how well the text appeals to a human.
Because the <title> tag is displayed as the headline for your page in the search results, its role is to motivate people to click your link. Therefore, the <title> tag becomes the headline for your page. Its job is to reassure the searcher that, indeed, your page’s content is all about exactly what they are looking for. Otherwise, why would anyone bother to click your link?
7. What Words to Use: By now it should be obvious that you should carefully select your best targeted keywords as your <title> tag (duh!). However, it’s surprising to see how many sites are apparently unaware of this very basic and simple fact of search engine marketing and optimization. We are still seeing many, many web sites that use the same <title> tag on every single page of their site—usually the company name or domain name. And, that’s a huge mistake.
Now, if your site is guilty of committing this error, then you should probably jump up and down for joy! …Why? Because your traffic is likely to substantially increase once you correct the error. By inserting descriptive, keyword-rich <title> tags into your webpages you’ll be giving the engines exactly what they need to better index and rank your pages.
Remember that it isn’t difficult to rank well for your company or domain name. After all, such names are usually relatively unique and consequently have little or no competition. In many (if not most) cases, it isn’t even necessary to include your company name in your <title> tag to rank well in a your company name search.
And also be aware that your SE-knowledgable competitors will be rolling on the floor laughing (ROTFL) at you if they ever see Untitled Document as your webpage title within the search results—a mistake caused by neglecting (forgetting?) to give the page any <title> tag whatsoever!
How Each Specific Major Search Engine Utilizes the Title Tag
Considering how important the <title> tag is to your ranking success, let’s focus on the top three engines and break down exactly what they’re responding to in terms of high ranking <title> tags…
Google — Believe it or not, we’ve recorded Google indexing up to 1,137 characters within the <title> tag as of January 24, 2006. While they’ll typically display only the first 63 characters in the search results, our tests have shown the page’s search description will display the otherwise truncated portion of the <title> tag contents where the keyword is found—with the queried keyword emphasized in bold text to make it stand out.
Regardless, we do not recommend using <title> tags of such great length. However, it is good to understand that even extremely long title tags are, indeed, indexed by Google—but we see no evidence whatsoever that long titles are a cause for higher rankings.
Also bear in mind that Google does not respond to embedded HTML tags within the <title> tag.
Re: The <Title> Tag Trick?
A note on the embedded HTML Tags we were testing in this report: This is an old trick that was used successfully many years ago. Search engines have occasionally been found to respond to embedded HTML tags within the <title> tag. This might enable the SEO to Bold the title text or change the font size with the intention of creating emphasis within the search result links. These days, however, most engines have programmed their systems to ignore embedded HTML tags within the <title> tag so that the “trick” no longer works.
MSN — Like Google, we know that MSN will also index at least 1,137 characters deep into the <title> tag contents. However, MSN only displays approximately the first 70 characters found in the <title> tag in the search results for the page title.
Unlike Google, MSN does not display any of the title contents in the search results description area. They, instead, show just the first 196 characters of body text content regardless of keyword query. Again, we do not recommend using <title> tags of this length at MSN in spite of their apparent willingness to index such exceedingly long titles.
Also good to know: MSN automatically stops displaying the remainder of a <title> tag within their search results whenever it encounters another HTML tag embedded within the <title> tag. For example…
<title>This will show <i>This will not, but it is indexed</i></title>
We suspect this idiosyncrasy is an oversight by the MSN programmers. We doubt that they intentionally programmed their system to allow SEO’s to hide indexed text within the title tag. But, effectively, that’s what this idiosyncrasy enables us to do.
Please be aware that we aren’t recommending that you try to exploit this loophole. We suspect that by the time you’ve gone to the trouble of changing your <title> tags, MSN will have updated their system and the loophole will disappear. Just file this information under the headers of dubious usefulness and good to know about.
Yahoo — Our test page is not currently indexed at Yahoo although our previous testing indicated that Yahoo indexes approximately 1,100 characters in the title. And, the fact that our long-title test-page has now vanished indicates that excessively long <title> tags should be avoided.
Currently we are certain that Yahoo displays up to the first 112 characters of the page’s <title> tag in their search results. We also know that Yahoo strips away whatever embedded HTML tags it finds within the <title> tag. This effectively removes the SEO’s ability to add bold or italicized emphasis to webpage titles within the search results.
Less is more…
Even though most search engines will index far more of the <title> tag than what they display in the search results, we recommend that you apply this knowledge with common sense and restraint. We see no evidence that long titles are key to high rankings. On the contrary, long <title> tags actually dilute keyword density within a <title> tag. By adding additional text you reduce the influence that each keyword has in relation to the overall interpretation of what the title is actually about.
Simply put, shorter titles (i.e. less than 70 characters) are what we have found lead to the best results, ranking-wise.
Clearly, the <title> tag is an extremely important part of your SEO toolkit. It influences both your rank and your traffic. But don’t try to fit everything including the kitchen sink between those two little <title></title> tags! Simply follow our guidelines and your titles will be well-poised to play their role as one of the critically important elements that cause webpages to get ranked toward the top of the search results.
Here’s to getting everything you’re en<title>d to,
John Heard – Head Researcher
Courtesy of Planet Ocean Communications, the top rated source of search engine marketing information.
Tips and Strategies
Google launched local business ads BETA
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How it works as explained on Google’s website:
“Whenever a user enters a query that matches advertisers’ chosen keywords and business information, up to three local business ads may appear as “Sponsored Links” below the user’s Google Local search results. The ads display in two parts: a highlighted listing in the search results column and a map marker that expands to show additional business details when the user clicks on the ad title or the marker itself.
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