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Title Tags: A badly written title will sink your site
How to sabotage your web site without even knowing it.

 6:59 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

A title tag is very important for nailing your web site to the top of the serps. Yet so many folks are unsure of how to construct a proper title.

I don't claim to have a lock on Title Composition, but I do have my views. Feel free to criticize or take it apart, if you wish.

The first 7-9 words of a title tag are the most important. Many folks, however, put their company name as the first part of the title tag. What a waste. It's like sending your son off to school with no shoes and no books.

The second area to look at is the syntax. I have noticed that Google likes titles that have a grammatical structure.

The serps, when influenced by the Title Tag, seem to avoid the List Title. The "List Title" is the one that is a list of keywords:
Widget Mania! Widgets, blue widgets, green widgets, widgets with...

If you study the Title Tag Influenced serps (serps that are influenced by the title tag), you will notice that they are structured as sentences.
Find the right widget here, whether it's blue or white. WidgetMania!

There's also the Partial Seeding strategy, where you throw in two parts of your keyword phrase in the title, then drill the third part in the body text.

If you have enough web pages, you can mix and match these strategies. For instance, the Hard Optimization:
Widget Keyword Phrase can be found at Widget Mania

Soft Optimization:
Keyword is the place for Widget Mania keyword phrase.

And the partial seeding (as noted above).

The title tag isn't the end all be all for getting you to the top of the serp, but a properly written title can make the difference.



 7:09 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>The first 7-9 words of a title tag are the most important.

Okay, you said feel free... :)

First off, if you have 7-9 words in your title, it is probably too long. That means 7-9 words in headers, metas and anchors. Too long for me. I prefer short focused titles that come as close as possible to what people type into search boxes. From several studies I have seen or conducted, 3-4 word phrases top the list unless they are searching specifically for a person.

>>Google likes titles that have grammatical structure

Maybe, but I know people like grammatical structure and many of them search for phrases that make sense. The don't search for "socks, white, large" they search for large white socks. Go figure.

>>The title tag isn't the end all be all for getting you to the top of the serp

Yep, yer right. But the title is the starting point. The title should dictate the content of the page, that's it. Doesn't get any simpler than that. Headers, metas, first para and anchors that support the page shoudl all contain those keywords and nothing else. Page focus. It is all about focus.

<added>Except of course for the first para, which should mention the keywords as soon as possible. </added>


 7:21 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have to agree with dg on this. A short highly focused title the way to go. If you are SEO’ing for a 2 word phrase use a 2 word title, if your SEO’ing a 3 word phrase use a 3 word title etc. Any more words and you dilute your title tag.

Robert Charlton

 8:05 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>If you are SEO’ing for a 2 word phrase use a 2 word title, if your SEO’ing a 3 word phrase use a 3 word title etc.<<

Yes, shorter is better, but I think this oversimplifies how you should consider page content in relation to your title. You also need to consider what your inbound link text is likely to be, and to look at your competition and why various phrases rank, and then figure out a title tag that will enable you to build longer phrases around the phrases your title contains.

Simplistically, a title of "big red widgets" might let you also optimize on the page for "big widgets," "big red gizmos," and "repairing red widgets," as well as for "big red widgets" and "red widgets."

Some interesting discussion in this thread about title length, word proximity, word repetitions, etc:



 8:10 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>Simplistically, a title of "big red widgets" might let you also optimize on the page for "big widgets," "big red gizmos," and "repairing red widgets."

Maybe, but why not create specific pages targeting those additional phrases?

After you start pulling traffic, check your logs and start optimizing for the unexpected phrases that your initial optimization pulled in.

I just can't see any detrimental effects for optimizing one page for one phrase, ever.

Make it complicated and it is wrong. :)


 8:16 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Personally I mix it up, some pages with just a few focused keywords and some with long titles with the key word/s in it a couple of times. In other words, what works one month may not work the next.

Robert Charlton

 9:00 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>why not create specific pages targeting those additional phrases?<<

Actually, I do that too, at least with my most important 2 and 3 word phrases, and I didn't mean to suggest that you shouldn't. When I want to make sure that the optimizing for a phrase is rock solid (at least the on-page optimizing aspects), I build dedicated pages.

But it's limiting to think that all you can target on a page with a 3 word title is that 3 word phrase. There are a great many peripheral phrases, as I call them, that bring in traffic but probably aren't high on the radar, that perhaps don't need a dedicated page.

I generally target longer, more specific, phrases deeper down in the site... but some short phrases can be caught higher up.

Also, on some types of sites, it's hard to just keep adding pages. If you're building pages only to target phrases, surfing your site can turn into a very unsatisfactory user experience. I feel that it's not possible to build an interesting site composed of pages targeting lots of variations of phrases without substantial interesting content to motivate them.

There's also the question of flow of PageRank... you need a lot of it if you're going to start building pages very many levels down. The top pages are often able to grab a few phrases, so why not use them that way, as long as you're not diluting other phrases?

>>Make it complicated and it is wrong.<<

Targeting multiple phrases on a page does in fact make my head start to swim almost more than anything else I do in SEO, and I'm in emotional agreement if nothing else.... ;)

I completely agree with you that the title is the core of the page. That's where I start, anyway.

creative craig

 9:07 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

I personaly aim for 8 words max, and just keep it on topic with anchor text, alt text and the url of the page.. well if I can ;)



 9:11 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

IMO That Strategy of using pages optimized for multi keyword combinations will work with the less competitive areas, but once you get into highly competitive words/phrases that dilution of keywords is going to hurt you.


 9:20 am on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>Also, on some types of sites, it's hard to just keep adding pages

I agree, totally, in fact, I disapprove of creating content when the sole purpose of creating that content is to grab another phrase.

What I prefer to do is make short, focused pages that lead into other short, focused pages. This gives me the ability to add perfect anchors at the bottom of a page, and lead into the next content segment. This is where I think a lot of people quite frankly, screw up.

The pages scroll on forever and they miss the opportunity for natural content and phrase breaks. Rather than one long droning page, create three, with different, focused titles. Go past 3-5 paragraphs, unless they are short ones, and you lose the surfer.

Which brings me to another point. Keep paragraphs short. The introductory sentence of a paragraph should dictate the content of that paragraph much like the title dictates the content of the page. Wander too far from the idea of the paragraph and you're leading your reader down a path they won't follow.

Eventually, this leads to web-ready copy versus copy and should be the subject of another thread.


 1:42 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

very interesting thread guys, it’s valuable for people like me who haven’t SEOed their sites yet.

what do you think of dynamic title tags [webmasterworld.com]? they seem to be a good idea. daamsie says google can spider those dynamic title tags with no problem. i haven’t tried it, but it may work…


 1:57 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>>what do you think of dynamic title tags?

Dynamically created title tags are fine, because the bot will still see it as a <title> tag whether it's created from a db or not. The title tag is created server side before the bot gets it.


 2:52 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

A short focused title works fine. I should've mentioned it.

However, I prefer to work with the extra words. I find that you can then go for bonus combinations with keywords that are seeded in the text. By eliminating those extra words, you are unneccesarily limiting the scope of your seo net.

You can still reap the benefit of drilling that keyword phrase if you keep it at the beginning of your sentence.

What I rarely, if ever, see in "title tag influenced serps" is a keyword phrase all by it's lonesome, sitting there like a shopping list.

A keyword phrase that works grammatically as a sentence seems to work better. The reason I prefer grammatical structure is simple:

1> Observation.

2> A grammar filter will weed out title tag spammers (widgets, blue, clean, hot widgets, cold widgets, widgets widgets).


 3:12 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

>and I laugh when I find "untitled"

He, he, he, just did a quick search on G for untitled ;)


 3:18 pm on Jan 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

I guess it would not harm to follow some of these guidelines:



 9:22 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Many folks, however, put their company name as the first part of the title tag. What a waste.

You make a good point but sometimes a short company name can help for branding purposes. For example:

WidgetWorld – Professional blue widget services
WidgetWorld – Affordable red widget tools

When people conduct multiple searches they well begin to see WidgetWorld everywhere and maybe begin to think that WidgetWorld may be the way to go. It is all about striking the ideal balance because I agree that taking out WidgetWorld in the title would be better from a purely SEO perspective.

Regardless, I agree with you that it can be a big waste with titles like:

WidgetWorld International Marketing Internet Sales Team Inc. – Blue Widgets
WidgetWorld International Marketing Internet Sales Team Inc. – Red Widgets

<added: Unless of course you were targeting keywords in your company name.>


 11:03 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

BusinessName - Widgets, and widget things, for blue widgets

having name first is good for quick identification in a long bookmark list.


 11:20 pm on Jan 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

I utilize a varied approach to the title tag. If I were to average it out, I probably end up with 5-7 words in the title. I've got some pages with 3 word titles, others with 8-9 and they all perform well for their targeted phrases.

Brett has a chart around here somewhere that shows how many words were in titles of the top positioned sites in various SE's. I'm on my way out for a bit so don't have the time to dig it up, anyone else care to locate it?

I enjoy working with clients who were wise enough to utilize their main phrase in the company name. This makes for some very creative title combinations. Name at front, in the middle and at the end (various combinations, not strung together). Titles should be short, descriptive and I feel without commas, ampersands and any other unusual characters. I use hyphens to separate distinct terms in the title.

I've noticed that my titles where the main single term is mentioned twice (not together) perform extremely well. Sort of contradictive to the common assumption that once is all you need.


 6:10 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

Let's not forget the idea that the Title tag not only serves an SEO function, but also serves a selling function.

Your title needs to be keyword rich and search engine friendly in order to pull those top rankings, but it also has to be intriguing enough to entice searchers to click on it. I view the Title tag as a site's first chance at conversion.

That said, I tend to go with slightly longer titles, in other words, my Titles are rarely JUST the keyword phrase that the page is optimized for. I'm on the side of

"Purchase Discounted Red Widgets"

rather than

"Discounted Red Widgets"

It depends on the phrase, the purpose of the site, the context of the page, etc... Sometimes, depending on the page and the engine, your description will work well enough to convert the searcher to a purchaser, but other times, you'll need to rely on your Title tag to do this. So, I tend to pay equal amounts of attention to the marketing AND SEO purposes of a title tag.


 6:38 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

I wish there was something defintive on titles. In my most important serp I am third, behind...

Bookmark this page
Press this link

SEO seems to me be a lot of voodoo and good luck.


 7:18 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

"Purchase Discounted Red Widgets"

I'll even do something like this:

"Purchase Discounted Red Widgets - Next Day Delivery"

Use whatever space you've got to sell!


 8:11 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

voodoo and good luck

Sometimes I call this PageRank.:) I would be surpirsed if those ahead of you didn't have a higher PageRank than your site. They may also have a lot of good keyword anchor text pointing to them. Those factors can go a long way to make up for a poor title.


 8:14 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here are the charts that POR was talking about (I think), but they are a little dated, they are from July 2000.


In my first answer in this thread, where I stated
“A short highly focused title the way to go. If you are SEO’’ing for a 2 word phrase use a 2 word title, if your SEO’’ing a 3 word phrase use a 3 word title etc. Any more words and you dilute your title tag.”
I was referring ONLY to the SEO aspect of title tags. The marketing aspect is IMO a whole different game.

The goal is two fold with title tags first you want to use them to help your SERP - Then you want the title tag to generate clicks. Getting the two aspects to work together is the key.

If I had a dollar for every title I have seen that had “Home Page” or “Welcome to” in it, I would be very rich. This is something to avoid IMO.


 8:47 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

And it's people who change those Title Tags that give domain owners like me absolute fits.

See this post:


There is a link at the bottom of that thread posted by rjohara.

I have no other choice but to name the site according to those Title Tags and if they look silly to my viewers (as they sometimes do me) the onus is on you...the Title Tag Switheroooer.

In my opinion, Title Tags should reflect the name of the page and nothing else.

Afterall, how else am I supposed to Title a site, if not for what resides within those Title Tags. That's what they're for. Furthur, it is not my responsibity to name a site if those Title Tags are crammed with junk.



 9:32 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

The marketing aspect is IMO a whole different game.

Marketing can be so very much at odds to what we, as webmasters, are trying to accomplish in terms of seo and usability. And it's the fault of the marketers, when they inject themselves into the design of the web site, for many of those non-performing title tags.


 3:16 pm on Jan 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

But aren't the aims of SEO and "marketing" one and the same? Isn't this why Search Engine Marketing is just as viable a term as SEO?



 6:32 pm on Jan 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

SEO and "marketing" one and the same?

Nope. In the main, Marketing is concerned about branding: the size of your logo, the look and visual appeal. These people will go in and wipe out your title tags, and replace them with the company name--- For the sake of consistency.

At worst, a marketing person's idea of improvements are at the childish level of matching the colors of your socks to your shirt. Brilliant ideas like, "Let's change the copyrights to 2003." (Like that's going to sell more toothpaste.)

Marketing departments have been the source of very bad web sites, too. There's the case of a local arts center that hired a Top Marketing Agency, and received a 10-second browser-crashing flash intro to a badly architected web site that dropped like a stone in the search engines! For this they paid thousands and thousands of dollars, (possibly in the over $100,000 range) as part of an identity redesign.

After six or so months their webmaster took back control and ditched the flash, and reorganized the web site in a saner manner.


 8:07 pm on Jan 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

Okay, let me rephrase this . . .

The end to both traditional marketing and search engine marketing are the same. Whether or not the two traditions talk the same language, or whether their respective methods are currently compatible is another issue.

The marketer's chief aim is to get his product, service, or company in front of targeted potential customers. This goal is the same without regard to the type of marketing collateral: A serp, a press release, a yellow-page ad, or a multi-million dollar Superbowl commercial.

And as for matching socks and shirts, what web designer assembles a client's site without having some concession to overall design scheme and consistency? Aren't patchwork websites a sign of poor design work?



 8:11 pm on Jan 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

Does it hurt to have a colon : or dash - in title and to use keyword twice?

Blue Widgets:Discounted Prices on Blue Widgets.
Blue Widgets-Discounted Prices on Blue Widgets.


 8:13 pm on Jan 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

as for matching socks and shirts

Absolutely agree. Color theory is the one of the most basic aspects of web design. That's why I used it as an example of the low level some marketing people are working at.

They can often have no clue about the Big Picture, which necessarily includes title tags.

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