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Middle of the title tag gets a bigger boost than the beginning?
MLHmptn




msg:4212658
 11:45 pm on Oct 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Is it just me or is anybody else noticing a boost for keywords in the middle of your title tag? For the last month or so I've noticed the middle keywords in my title tags have recieved a ranking boost in SERP's, where before I always tried to make sure the first word in the title tag was exactly the term(s) I was targeting. Now it seems like putting your exact target phrase as the first words in your title tag is some kind of OOP. Nothing on any of my pages has changed as far as on-page body content nor have any pages acquired any additional inbound anchors.

Strange to say the least.....Anybody else noticing this?

 

tedster




msg:4212721
 2:08 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Not the middle exactly, but I'm not surprised to hear your report. It has been several years since I saw any data to convince me that keyword prominence in the title element was still a ranking or relevance factor.

I think that "keyword to the left" has become one of those SEO myths that just lives on and no one tests it. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying ignore the advice. I am saying its not a true ranking factor. But, since western languages are read left-to-right, keyword to the left is an eye magnet and does help click-through.

What still matters is single keywords in the title, obviously. But if you're after a phrase and not a single word, and if that phrase is not a strong, stand-alone semantic entity, then proximity of those phrase words is even weak these days.

So now comes the next factor. I wonder if you have some keywords to the right titles you can compare. My sense of it is that you may be seeing a keyword-in-the-middle correlation mostly because that's where your keywords happen to show up.

incrediBILL




msg:4212784
 3:43 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think that "keyword to the left" has become one of those SEO myths that just lives on and no one tests it.


Regardless of whether it appears to be a myth or not, I still wouldn't recommend people stuffing their company name and motto/slogan on the left of every page.

Why I say this is because in languages where PEOPLE read from left to right you're blocking people from getting to the useful information with all the branding crap. People assume the most important thing is at the beginning of a sentence or paragraph and get annoyed when they have to visually skip over stumbling blocks to get to the meat of the text.

Therefore, it makes sense that in the beginning a search engine *might* assume the left most part of a title is the most important, just like a human reader. However, years later, it might be safe to assume a search engine can also analyze the entire site and filter out the recurring branding theme from the text and index the real content with more dominance.

Then again, are we talking about Google, Bing, Ask or some other SE?

When you look at the "big picture", I'd recommend erring on the side of safety with leftmost title text just to make sure the less sophisticated search engines also properly understand your intent.

tedster




msg:4212790
 4:13 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

it seems like putting your exact target phrase as the first words in your title tag is some kind of OOP

Has that kind of URL consistently lost ranking for you recently?

MLHmptn




msg:4212791
 4:15 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)


So now comes the next factor. I wonder if you have some keywords to the right titles you can compare. My sense of it is that you may be seeing a keyword-in-the-middle correlation mostly because that's where your keywords happen to show up.


Regardless of whether it appears to be a myth or not, I still wouldn't recommend people stuffing their company name and motto/slogan on the left of every page.

Good advice Tedster/incrediBILL even though I do not always follow this as I tend to end every title tag with @ "company name" so title tags to the right is hard for me to analyze because I have always used this method. This would be interesting to discuss as well if anybody is noticing keyword boosts for the right side of the title tag keywords.


Then again, are we talking about Google, Bing, Ask or some other SE?

I am only noticing this on Google as I have witnessed major spikes from Google on most of my sites. Secondary keywords in the middle of the title tag are getting a ranking boost without any additional anchors targeting the secondary synonyms and/or keywords.

It really makes me think that Google is dampening and/or penalizing the SEO'd term(s) if inbody content and anchors match the left hand most keyword(s) and to me this would make sense as most SEO's follow the left side title tag theory and to cut down on spam they could surely target this as a known "spam technique".

MLHmptn




msg:4212797
 4:26 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)


Has that kind of URL consistently lost ranking for you recently?


A majority of my keywords and/or URL's are ranking well and have not lost any rankings though I do have some URL's (as most everyone does) where I continue to try to rank better and it could only be OOP causing their decline. This is really only concerning my secondary keywords though that tend to be synonyms of the targeted keyword(s) and their receiving some kind of boost.

The main reason I bring this up as well is because there have been many, many of times that I try everything in my power to boost the targeted keyword(s) and no matter what I do it just doesn't happen (sometimes it actually deteriorates the ranking if I go too far, OOP assumingly).

It's just striking me that these secondary keywords are getting these boosts without any inbound anchors targeting these secondary keywords whereas before they weren't anywhere in the top 10 results and now they are #1 or #2. My competitors must be scratching their heads as well because I surely am!

MLHmptn




msg:4212802
 4:44 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Also if you look at Google results these last few months you'll notice it seems like 50% of the top 10 sites don't have the keyword to the left of their title tag, its in the middle and also in the middle of their content somewhere(though I don't think content has anything to do with this). A few months ago it was like you were hard pressed to find a top 10 result that didn't have the keyword to the left of the title tag or any sentences that didn't start off with the keyword in the content.

Have any of you noticed this as well?

indyank




msg:4212861
 7:31 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google has made major changes to "titles".It is altering the titles by prepending a page title with the "keyword or keyword phrase" that was searched for, if the page shows strong signals of relevancy for eg. pages on a brand. I am seeing very good examples for this.

Mark_A




msg:4212867
 7:46 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sheesh ... I am just trying to get coherent targetted key terms into the title tags at all.. and now you say they should be in the middle :-)

Robert Charlton




msg:4212890
 8:32 am on Oct 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Have any of you noticed this as well?

I have noticed that there's no monolithic alignment of target terms on the left as there once was... but no, I don't see any pattern of the highest ranking sites having targeted terms in the middle.

That said, on highly competitive searches like some [cheap widgets] or [cityname widgets] queries, there is a tendency toward the left side because high stakes might make for some conservatism of SEO technique... and perhaps because placement first in the title makes some sense in terms of human perception.

Sites that feature company or brand names up front would tend to push the target phrases more toward the middle. It's not too likely that target phrases would be at the end, but that might happen on a page targeting multiple terms.

If the company name has keywords in it, that further affects where the target terms might be positioned.

jwolthuis




msg:4214591
 1:56 am on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

keyword prominence... relevance factor... monolithic alignment


Make your website a work of art, invest in high quality imagery, engage in social networking, become an expert in your niche, and forget these title tag theories.

Robert Charlton




msg:4214652
 8:25 am on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

jwolthuis - I understand where you're coming from.

I love the way you put this...
Make your website a work of art...

...have followed this path with many clients...
invest in high quality imagery, become an expert in your niche...

...have been coming around to this one for a while now...
engage in social networking...

...but I feel that it would be silly not to pay attention to the specifics of the algorithm as well....
and forget these title tag theories.

It's a social, technical, artistic medium we're in here, and, like it or not, some particulars of the algorithm are part of the mix. You might call them the rules of composition.

jdMorgan




msg:4214720
 3:24 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Another factor here may be that G is apparently getting quite good at showing results where the title and page body rank strongly for synonyms of the primary search terms. I've gotten visitors to well-focused pages who did not search for a term that appears in the title or on the page, but rather searched for synonyms of those words -- and even for words that are frequently mistaken for synonyms of those words.

We first saw this several years ago with stemming, but now it's apparently been extended further to synonyms and even to these "quasi-synonyms."

Therefore if the primary search term is centered in the title, but a synonym or quasi-synonym appears prior to it, the "centered-keyword effect" being discussed here could instead be a "synonym effect."

This theory may not apply to the case at hand here, particularly because it says nothing about the reported "demotion" of keyword-on-the-left, but it's something to look out for as a possible complicating factor of the analysis.

Jim

indyank




msg:4214736
 4:19 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I still don't buy in this "demotion of keyword on the left" theory as it is obviously not universal. Rather, other factors are at work to strongly push up pages, who don't have the keyword to the left of the title...and I infact find the results of this change to be good...

tedster




msg:4214799
 6:39 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Agreed. I don't think it's a demotion of any factor at all. Instead I propose it's a whole different way of measuring relevance - it takes ANY specific position or prominence of "keyword in title" out of the formula. Any correlation we might think we measure is no longer causation.

Petrogold




msg:4214877
 9:48 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks all to bring the subject. I tried every way, but I am still not sure what matters most. Some time "title", some time "kw" or "description". I saw ecommerce type site ranks well than plain websites.
Some times saw sites without meta tags ranked better than with meta. No one will know the clue from G or other SE as they keep on changing or testing..their startegies.

tedster




msg:4214888
 10:28 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Description doesn't impact ranking - but on-page content and title does, most definitely. However, there is a lot of semantic analysis going on now, so it's not just matching text strings these days,

mhansen




msg:4214893
 10:59 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

In my opinion... this thread is missing the context of the words in your titles that have changed. Can you provide more info about the page titles? (Nothing exact, just the types of words, etc)

- Are the pages information or transactional commerce pages?
- Are the first words primarily brand names, or product names?
- Are the middle, or meat of the titles, general descriptive phrases?

I DO understand that you are seeing decay or loss of the leading words in your titles, but without knowing the relevance of those words, the discussion is moot IMHO.

I think the Mayday algo changes were meant to be favorable to brands, so if your titles started with, or had brand names near the beginning as most ecom or transactional pages would, it would actually make sense.

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