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Monday, January 23, 2006


Title tags: SEO by any other name

Title tags are SEO through name calling.

Okay, that was a bad pun.


One of the fastest and often forgotten techniques, to move a blog or web page higher in the search rankings, is to change the page’s title tags.

Title tags are the words that appear at the very top of your web browser, and they tell the search engine what the page is all about.

Often ignored in race to add more incoming links, and to create other more glamorous on page copy, the title tag is a powerful tool and should be utilized to its fullest advantage. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The title tag helps the search engines decide the topic and theme of the web page being crawled for indexing. When a search for keywords is conducted, the title tag is given heavy consideration by all search engine algorithms.

Google considers the title tag to be extremely important for keyword searches, and gives strong emphasis on the title tags. TheYahoo and MSN Search algorithms place even more importance on the title tags than Google.

Unfortunately for many website owners, the title tag is often neglected, or worse is used to simply highlight the business name. By failing to properly implement the page’s title tag power, that prime real estate at the top of the browser window is left undeveloped.

Don’t let the title tags become vacant lots on your website, turn them into important projects that will pay huge dividends for your site.

When considering title tag changes and improvements, it’s important to remember that every page is unique, and requires a different title tag. We have all visited websites where the title at the top of the browser was the same for every page on the site.

Usually on those web pages, the business name was featured prominently, and was providing little or no help in the search engines. If that problem is really describing your website title tags, help is on the way.

Why title tags are important

The purpose of the title tags is to describe for the search engines the content of page being indexed. If the title tag doesn’t accurately describe the page content, then that page will be downgraded by the search engine algorithm. In other word, that page gets a lower search engine placement than it might otherwise deserve.

When a searcher types the keywords and phrases into her search engine interface, the search engine algorithm uses over one hundred variables to determine the most relevant returned pages.

It’s up to the website owner to help the search engine in that sorting process. The easiest place to start, and one that also provides the most bang for the buck, is the title tag for each page.

Along with keyword rich theme relevant on page copy, and abundant incoming links featuring keyword laden link anchor text, the well worded title tag is a powerful leg up on the competition. The title tag is also one of the most neglected optimization tools available to the webmaster.

In Yahoo and MSN Search, it’s possible to gain page one rankings for low to moderate competitive searches with improved title tags alone. The coveted top place on that first page in Yahoo or MSN Search has been a regular result of improved title tags as well.

In Google, similar if somewhat less dramatic results have also been achieved with improved title tags. Clearly, the title tag is a powerful optimization tool.

Changing the title tags

The title tags for a website are found in the header portion of the website code. The coding in html is usually written as simply:

< t i t l e > Page Title < / t i t l e >

Remove the spaces, of course, as they are only placed in the example because they won't work in Blogger if written without spaces.

As with all text, the wording between the > < arrows can be changed with ease. Simply enter the template for every page in the website, and replace the existing page title text with the most important targeted keywords for that page. For large sites, the task is often daunting, however. There are simply too many pages.

One option is to change the pages in groups, by theme, targeting one set of targeted keywords at a time. After a few sessions, the job will be completed.

The problem often lies in some mistaken ideas held by the website owner. The urge to prominently display the company name, as CompanyName.com is often more powerful than the idea that better wording could achieve higher search engine rankings. Don’t laugh. It’s a more common phenomenon than many people believe.

Since most internet surfers don’t check the line at the top of their browser, the company name as page title often goes unnoticed. That failure on the part of many human visitors to glance at every page title they meet is not shared by the search engine spiders.

Search engine robot spiders read each and every page title tag, for better or for worse. If the company name, rather than the page’s most important keywords are displayed, the search results for that page are indeed worse.

If your SEO client or your pointy haired boss, insists that the company name appear on the page titles despite your eloquently worded reasons to do otherwise, use this alternate configuration:

< t i t l e > Keyword1 Keyword2 - CompanyName.com < / t i t l e >

The resulting title tag then emphasises the keywords being targeted, and places the company name on the page. Note that the configuration pushes the company name farther back on the title, placing the more important keywords at the front.

Search engine spiders will rank the title wording in this order: from the first title word to the last word placed in the title. For that reason, the use of words like “the” “an” or “a” are best avoided, as they would become the first words in the title tags.

While search engine algorithms are written to ignore those words, it’s best to simply avoid them entirely. It’s a case of when not entirely certain of the consequences, avoid even the small possibility of problems completely.

In moderately difficult to competitive keyword situations, using only the keywords directly, might be enough to raise the page’s ranking a few places. In other words, skip the “an”, “a” and “the” from the title tags. There is no reason to take any chances on losing rankings when it can be avoided. Use only the targeted keywords when writing the title tags.

More title tag considerations

When writing a title tag, be sure to only use a keyword a maximum of two times. Any more use of a keyword in the title tag might be considered keyword stuffing, especially in the sensitive Google search algorithm.

Keep the keywords limited to one or two per title tag, and better results will be returned. In fact, in highly competitive keyword situations, the best way to compete is to target only one keyword or phase per page.

Any attempts to double up and use the same page to target more than one keyword or phrase is likely to fail. Keyword stuffing the title tag will do little or no good, and potentially harm to the page’s search ranking.

A controversial consideration for title tags is the length of the tag. Many search engine optimization experts recommend longer tags. Others suggest a shorter and more targeted tag is better. The best concept is to consider the competition level of the targeted keywords.

In low to medium competitions, it’s possible to use the same page to rank for more than one search phrase. The title tag is then able to reflect that lower competition status. In that case, a longer title tag is no problem and can include more than one keyword phrase.

In highly competitive keyword situations, a more targeted approach is essential. The title tag should only reflect the most important targeted keywords for that page. Any other title tags and additional keywords could dilute the effect.

Consider the title tag to be a targeting mechanism zoomed in on a single keyword or phrase. Scattered approaches might be effective in less competitive searches, but even there, a single minded effort will gain superior search rankings.

As for the length of the overall title tag, if more than one phrase is being used, make certain that the tag doesn’t get cut off by using too many characters for the browser. While there is not really a magic number of characters for a title tag, let common sense and the concept of keyword targeting be your guide.

If that approach is taken, then the title tag will be compact, and no extra wasted words will be used. Less is more in the world of title tags, especially in highly competitive searches.


Every web page needs theme and topic specific title tags. The tags tell the search engines about the page content, thus helping the search.

By placing the most important keyword phrase for that specific page in the title tags, the page will get a certain boost in the search engines. Yahoo and MSN Search are especially influenced by keyword rich title tags. Google considers the title tags to be extremely important as well.

It’s not uncommon for Google, Yahoo Search, and MSN Search to rank a page at the top of page one, in low competition searches, based on the title tags alone.

Be certain that the title tags reflect the content of the targeted page. Title tags are page specific, and therefore the common practice of using the company name should be avoided.

The company name can be placed after the keywords, if the need to have the company name on the page remains. Simply keep the most important keywords at the front.

The number of words in the title tag should be kept to the minimum number necessary to help the search.

In competitive keyword situations, use only the most targeted phrase for that page. In low competition searches, more than one phrase can be safely used to get the page into several search results.

Look after your title tags, and they will keep your page an open book, on top of all of the major search engines.

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"Search engine spiders will rank the title wording in this order: from the first title word to the last word placed in the title. For that reason, the use of words like “the” “an” or “a” are best avoided, as they would become the first words in the title tags."

How well substantiated is this? I don't want to come across as insulting, but your blog doesn't follow this either. Or is there a reason for this as well? I've seen both iterations on a variety of blogs, and it would be interesting to know the reasons for both alternatives.

Good post. I have over 2000 posts on Makovision.com and my rankings shot thru the roof when I moved the site name to the back of the title tag and put the title of the entry at the front of the title tag. -DM
This brings up the question of Title Tags on blogs.

Would it be better if the beginning of the tag is the actual title of the blog entry with overall blog keywords following, or visa versa?

Another method that I have read about regarding keywords is to separate them with commas with no space after them (ie. keyword,keyword,keyword,etc. as opposed to keyword, keyword, keyword, etc.) The idea behind this is that search engines view the spaces as part of the spelling of the word.

I have read alot about SEO and feel I have done a proficient job at it. For the recent reworking of one of my websites I made sure and put detailed titles, HOWEVER I did fall to the trap of putting the buisness name at the front of each one. After reading this article I went and changed all the pages titles and went from page 4 on google to #4 in my desired keyword! THANKS!
One of my pet peeves is when people say things about blogger that are wrong. I don't know why it bothers me so much it just does.

Your statement about:
Remove the spaces, of course, as they are only placed in the example because they won't work in Blogger if written without spaces.

please see my example below...


These characters are done automatically with the word add-on.
One thing you can do in Blogger if it is blogspot hosted is modify your template so that post titles are permalinks (like in WordPress and TypePad). You have to figure Blogger's not going to do anything bad for Google (well, except for allow splogs to proliferate, but I digress), so when you look at blogspot hosted single post pages, what you see is a directory structure created out of the post date and what you typed as the post's title as the filename. The spaces between the words are hyphenated.

Great post. I'm going to change my templates to put the page title before the blog title in my Blogger blogs.
Great tips! I spent so much time on META tags that I neglected my TITLE tag.
Aloha Wayne,

What a great overview of a simple yet powerful SEO technique. From a business coaching and true business blogging standpoint, it amazes me how many business owners get caught up in the "professional" blogging side of blogging. Misled by potential revenues from adsense, adwords, etc. they forget about why they're using blogging to begin with -- to get targeted traffic and build their prospect list.

When you stack dozens of simple SEO techniques (like the one you've shared here) together, you get awesome results in rankings with relatively few posts. The right SEO strategies teamed with good content is what gives small business and professionals the results that count. Something that appears simple is really an exponential multiplier of all else you do on your business blog. Great job helping focus business owners and profesionals back on what's most important in marketing with business blogs.

Make it an awesome day!

John-Paul Micek
You can show us the real title tags without worry of it disppearing by using the HTML entities < and > (meaning less-than and greater-than).
I meant & l t ; and & g t ; without spaces.
Hi, nice blog and thx for the info.

Does anyone know where I could find THE BEST search engine optimization guide online? I am mostly looking for a guide that shows how you can SEO your site or blog without spending a fortune. I need the info to create a similar step by step guide on my website, Web2earn.com – online moneymaking opportunities

Another question: does anyone here have success with automated link exchange websites?


Michael Rad
Thanks for a great article!
I just launched my site and learning about SEO...SEO has now become a fulltime job for me!! Ill be making the changes on my site this week starting with the title tags...

Best regards,
I have added code to this blog that generates automatic title tags, individually, for every post. Since every post creates a new page, that is a huge number of separate title tagged pages to aid in searches.
My blog post titles are also permalinks, as well as the little # being changed to the post title as well. With a little tinkering, a Blogger template can provide some good SEO power.

I hope Blogger may even add these modifications to their templates in the near future. :-)
I would add that if local search is important, like you seek business from customers in your area, add city and state.

My new flagship blog Pluperfecter does this.

My title tags are:

Pluperfecter: web usability, online marketing, music promotions, social media, Peoria, Illinois

Am wondering if city and state should come first, and if spaces after commas are hurting my SEO?

I suggest you kill the captcha, unless you get hit by spambot floods, and just use comment moderation with delayed posting and email notification.
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