Title Tags: SEO by any other name

    January 23, 2006

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.

Wayne Hurlbert provides insigtful information about marketing, promotions, search engine optimization and public relations for websites and business blogs on the popular Blog Business World.

Check out Blog Business World for yourself.