The SEO Secret Weapon: Title Tags

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Title tags are the most important factor in on-page SEO, after overall webpage content. Many people don’t know this, and they don’t know how to edit their title tags even if they wanted to. For those who don’t know what a title tag is, it is the line of characters, usually words, displayed at the very top of a browser window above the URL, while viewing a webpage. For example, on the homepage of Nike you can see that the title tag is “Nike – Home”. This is actually a very poor title tag–it contains no keywords, except for their company name, and the word “home” which does nothing for the page’s Google rankings. When Google bots are scouring a webpage for keywords to rank it under, the title tag, followed by the page’s heading and first paragraph, is the most influential location for keywords. And commonly the title tag of a webpage is shown as the search engine result description where it appears. So the next question is, what makes a great title tag? And most importantly, how do you change your title tags?

A well-written title tag is a description of the webpage, in 70 characters or less, that includes your top keywords. It’s important that your title tag is not a string of keywords, but a sentence or fragment. It should include your company name and a few top keywords in such a way that it reads smoothly and doesn’t look spammy to viewers or the search engines. A tip to remember is that the closer a keyword is to the beginning of the title tag, the better that page will rank for that keyword. So as you write, use your top keyword first, followed by your secondary keywords in order of importance. So for example, say you have a website for a local pet store in Riverside, called ‘Pets and Beyond’, and you’re writing a title tag for the pet beds page. Say your top targeted keyword is “pet beds”, and your secondary keywords are “dog beds” and “cat beds”. Your title tag should look something like: “Pet Beds, Dog Beds and Cat Beds in Riverside, CA – Pets and Beyond”. Or if you were selling mainly to online customers, then you could take out the location and replace it with more keywords, remembering to keep it readable. You can separate words or phrases with hyphens, dashes or vertical bars. Note: You can list your company name first or last, depending on the popularity and recognition of your brand. If you are a considerably unknown brand, list your keywords first. If you are a highly recognized brand, list your brand name first. The reason for this is because your brand name should only be given so much weight in your title tag if it would make a difference in click-through rate by having your brand name listed first.

Now that you know how to write your title tags, how do you go about changing the ones you have right now? Most content management systems set title tags for you, usually in the form of “Website Name – Page Name” or “Website Name – Category – Post Name”. This usually does little for your rankings, for page/post titles are crafted to be witty and short-and-sweet, where title tags should be descriptive and keyword-laden. It is highly recommended that you write your title tags yourself, including at least 2-3 keywords in each one. You may be wondering what keywords you should include, which you will only find out through keyword research, which I will go over in another article. I recommend using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. So back to editing your title tags—there are several ways to do it. You can either: edit them in your HTML documents, download a plugin that easily allows you to edit them, or edit them in your theme options if it provides a user-friendly way to do so. If you are editing your title tags via HTML, remember that the title tag is the text between the <title> and </title> tags which are between the <head> and </head> tags. You would need to edit each page individually, which can be a pain, so it is recommended that you download a plugin to edit your title tags. If you use WordPress, then you are in luck! There happens to be a fantastic title tag plugin, called SEO Title Tag, which I use myself. Just install and activate the plugin, then follow the directions for embedding the necessary code into your ‘Header’ HTML document. And voila, you are now able to easily edit your title tags in one place, under your Tools tab. If you use a different CMS, such as Blogger or Tumblr, do a quick Google search for title tag plugins designed for your CMS. But before doing any of this, make sure your theme doesn’t provide an option for you to edit your title tags, either in the edit mode for pages and posts or under Appearance/Theme/Edit sections. If it does provide the ability to change your title tags in an easy manner, then you are all set, no plugins or HTML tweaking needed.

And your title tags are now on the way to success!


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