First of all, lets get this straight - the whole point of optimization is not to baffle or trick search engine crawlers. Optimization of the title tag is not just a way to get a high ranking for your keywords. It is your announcement to the world of what you are about. From your own experience if you were searching for 'fishing rods', would you click on:
That may seem like a fairly simple question but it is surprising just how many web site’s listings on search engines look like this. You don’t see them any more (well, except on the outdated Lycos search engine) because search engines have placed very strict spam filters regarding titles. Symbols such as $$$, &&&, ****, £££ etc. will not be getting very high for competitive keywords as they make listings look untidy.
Google don’t allow such symbols in the AdWords program – the boxes at the side of their results – so what makes you think they allow it in their regular search results? Neither do they allow ‘excessive capitalisation’ such as NOW, SAVE or FAST which are normally followed by excessive punctuation such as !!! or ???
So tip one, not just for optimization but also for visual preference: no visual nonsense.
Now that we’ve got the junk out the way lets solve some other problems - what to put in the title. You may think that placing low prices, special offers, discount statements or ‘once in a lifetime deals’ in the title will lure people to click on your listing. Yes, but you’re not thinking ahead. Search engines only update their data every so often. Although many high traffic sites may have their web pages refreshed on a daily basis, many small sites may only be refreshed once every 4-6 weeks. While writing this article Google are currently performing a very serious algorithm and data update which has meant that the majority of the listings have not been refreshed for almost 8 weeks now. Most smaller search engines don’t even update high traffic sites more than once every 3 or 4 months. This of course means that if you create a title of:
Special discount today of only $9.95! So Hurry!
then 8 weeks down the line customers will be clicking your link to get the ‘special deal’ only to be told it finished two month prior. Trust me when I say that they will not really be interested in your product after being let down in this way and will most likely click back to the search engine to find a company that won’t lie to them.
No, it’s not your fault it hasn’t been updated but you have to take this into consideration.
So, tip two: don’t place anything in your title that can go out of date.
I realise that most of you have come to this page to try and find a magical formula to generate an ‘optimized’ title meta tag that will shoot you to the number one spot. Please note that keyword density, keyword repetition, latent semantic indexing and so on will be covered but if you don’t follow these first few tips to start with it’s worthless. Which leads me to tip number three in preparation – Select the right keywords to start with. If you are a small time credit card processing firm, don’t bother trying to optimize for ‘credit cards’ – face it, it’s just not going to happen. Also, recent figures show that now the web is better understood, searchers are typing more 2-3 keyword phrases into search engines.
Whereas everyone used to just type ‘credit cards’ into a search engine expecting to see the exact company they want to sign up with, they have now realised that they should type in a more specific search query such as ‘uk credit cards’, ‘platinum credit cards’, ‘no fees credit cards’, or ‘online credit card application’. Make sure that your title contains a good solid keyphrase that is specific to your product or service. Keywords are covered in depth in the keyword selection article, if you already have your keywords … lets move on.
Now then, on to actually getting the right proportions. Your title should ‘not be more than 100 characters’ is the usual statement thrown at webmasters by search engines and search engine optimization firms. This is completely useless as a guideline. The amount of characters is not relevant for optimization purposes, what should limit your title is the size of your chosen keyphrase, the extra descriptive wording and the keyword density.
Try and avoid ‘stop words’ in your title, this is important now but will become even more crucial for working out keyword density in the future as search engines move to latent semantic indexing. ‘Stop words’ are words that search engines do not use for ranking calculations such as ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘of’, ‘it’ and ‘is’. Also note that it has been a long time since a search engine has shown great weight for plurals. Meta Crawler search engines used to display different results depending on whether you typed in 'fishing rods' or 'fishing rod'. This is no longer the case for the majority of search terms where the plural and the singular related to exactly the same product. Use or disuse plurals for presentation only in your title, they rarely affect the ranking of a page. The only time plurals affect ranking is in anchor text.
For this example we will create a title for a web page selling ‘fishing rods’.
Step 1. Select your keyphrase for the title. Using keyword selection tools (for this example we have used Overture’s) we type in ‘fishing rods’ and see several listings:
remember, for this example we are creating a title for a page selling ‘fishing rods’. Optimization for various types of fishing rods is not the point of the title, you should optimize for specifics in the web page content, the title should give a general overview of the page but contain your main keyphrase which in this case is ‘fishing rods’. Therefore we select non-specific variations to expand our reach:
The phrases that stand out as non-specific are ‘cheap fishing rods’, ‘fishing rod store’, ‘fishing rods shop’, ‘fishing rods for sale’, ‘second hand fishing rods’ and ‘fishing rod supplier’. Now you sit back and think:
Thought process - I don’t sell ‘second hand fishing rods’, so that’s out as even if I got ranked for it the conversion rates would suffer and it would hamper my rankings for other keywords. Also, the phrase ‘fishing rods shop’ probably means that particular person is looking for an actual land based fishing rods shop that they can go and visit so again they are not likely to buy from me online and it is a waste of my keyword density. The phrase ‘fishing rod supplier’ implies that the searcher is an actual fishing shop themselves looking for a manufacturer to supply them and I sell to the general public so that just leaves ‘cheap fishing rods’ (which mine are) and ‘fishing rods for sale’.
Sitting back and thinking can save you a lot of problems in the future when you realise that the keyphrase you just optimized for brings in people who aren’t actually interested in your products.
Out of these selections then we are going to have our title keyphrase as ‘cheap fishing rods for sale’ as this covers the keyphrases ‘cheap fishing rods’, ‘fishing rods’ and ‘fishing rods for sale’ which are completely relevant and will obtain people interested in what is being sold.
Step 2. If you have chosen your domain name well it should reflect your chosen market. Our (made-up) domain name for this example is MikesFishingRods.com but BobsFishingGear.co.uk or Bills-FishingStore.net will do just as well. The good point is that searchers are more likely to click on a listing where the domain name reflects the product or service they are looking for as it is more likely to give them what they want rather than just tell them about what they are looking for or be a shopping network offering links to relevant sites.
So, placing your domain name in the title will actually attract people to your listing. And if your domain name contains keywords you’re even better off! Make sure to capitalise the different words in the domain and leave out the www. bit like so: MikesFishingRods.com but whatever you do, don’t use long domain names or spammy keyword stuffed domain names like Fishing-Rods-Reels-Gear-Equipment.net as this will just put people off and this type of domain rarely gets a high ranking these days based on the domain name alone.
Step 3. We have our chosen keyphrase as ‘cheap fishing rods for sale’. The keyword density must be around 20% to succeed in high rankings. This means that if a searcher types in ‘cheap fishing rods’ then there can only be fifteen other words in the title, if you take away the other keywords already in our keyphrase ‘for sale’ that leaves thirteen. Then take away the domain name we are going to add ‘MikesFishingRods.com’ which is two (.com stands as it’s own word) and that gives us eleven more keywords maximum we can add.
Note: I did state to avoid ‘stop words’ such as ‘for’ but if they are part of a recommended keyphrase that is searched for you should include it as the searcher will want to see the full phrase ‘fishing rods for sale’ in the search listings. Stop words should also be included when working out your keyword density. This will ensure you stay above the minimum required amount.
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