SEO for Beginners #1: The Elements – Title Tags

The Title Tag Element

The Title Tag

Title – Importance: Infinite – Unique to each page

There are four basic areas SEOs are concerned about when looking at your website. The first and most critical of the four is the Title Tag.

The title tag is the first piece of information, aside from the URL of the website, a search engine receives when it examines a page. It is also the first thing a search engine user will see as it is frequently used to form the text of the reference link from the search engine to the page.

In source code, the page title is placed in the <head> section which is generally found at the start of the code. It would be expresses something like this,<title>The Title Tag :: Search Engine and Social Marketing :: Digital Always Media</title>

Google and Bing both expect webmasters to use page titles to inform search engine users and page visitors about the content found on the page. The Chicago Tribune provides excellent examples of how to structure page-titles for two primary readers, live visitors and search engine spiders.

The page title of the home (index) page of the Chicago Tribune reads:
<title>Chicago Tribune: Chicago breaking news, sports, business, entertainment, weather and traffic –</title>

Please note how the Trib’s SEO guidelines place some keywords in front of others while excluding mention of entire sections of daily content coverage due to the relative number of times search users enter specific words into search engines when seeking news information.

Every page in the website has target keyword focuses which tend to move from general to specific the further into a website one goes. For instance, the INDEX or HOME page requires a fairly general spread of keyword targets as that page represents the entire website.  A second level page (About, Contact Us, Sports, News, etc…) would have a slightly more descriptive page title tag as those pages direct traffic towards third level pages which contain information or articles that address very specific topics, ideas, events, or items. The third level and blog pages would thus have the most topically specific page-titles.

Keyword targets should be added to title tags in order of importance. There are two factors to consider when determining the importance of a keyword. The first is topical relevance; the second is frequency of usage by search engine users.

Topical relevance can be determined by the author or webmaster fairly easily for third and fourth level pages. A blog post about “Blue Widgets” is a blog post about a (fictional) object that requires little effort to define. The keywords used in the title of that page should be relevant to the subject, “Blue Widgets”.

For higher level pages, topical relevance can be a little more difficult to determine. In order to describe a website that represents several topics that might switch from week to week or month to month, we try to be as general as possible in describing content that is likely to remain constant over long periods of time. Our selection method here would be to choose the most frequently searched individual descriptive words and work to make keyword phrase combinations out of them, or, failing that, place those individual keywords close to each other in the title tag.

Effective use of page titles can make the difference between achieving strong rankings and languishing out of the Top10.  They can also help search users differentiate between two sites carrying similar information. If your title is more descriptive or better worded than your competitors, your site is more likely to earn the search user’s click.

Jim Hedger

Jim Hedger is an organic SEO and digital marketing specialist. Jim has been involved in the online marketing industry since 1998 and a SEO since 1999. Best known as a broadcaster, interviewer, content writer and search industry commentator, Jim is a frequent conference speaker and organizer. He hosts the search focused radio show Webcology on WebmasterRadio.FM and is a WebmasterRadio.FM conference interviewer. Jim brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, passion and creative thinking to each project. Preferring a teamwork approach, Jim strives to inform and train his clients and their staff to run and maintain their own search and social media efforts.

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