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SEO and the Title Tag - finer details
MonkeyFace




msg:4259956
 5:58 pm on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am fairly aware that the title tags is the most important SEO element on a webpage. However I some queries regarding the finer details of the tag. Namely:

1. Though 70 characters is the recommended max length of the title, will additional keywords beyond 70 be discarded completely. I have a feeling keywords even in a 120 chars long title might have some positive affect on SEO. I see many top ranking pages with more than 70 character title.

2. Will the case of the title affect SEO? "This is a Keyword Title" vs. "this is a keyword title" vs. "THIS IS A KEYWORD TITLE". Recently AdWords rejected an ad of mine for containing an all-uppercase word, so maybe SEOwise it applies too - too many uppercase, not good.

3. Additional tips on optimizing the title tags most welcome? Like the use of "|" etc.

 

tedster




msg:4259983
 7:21 pm on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'll give it a start. Yes, characters in the title element are indexed well beyond the seventy or so that make it into the visible display. Sometimes, if the truncation point would hide a keyword in the query phrase, I've seen Google place a dieresis (...) in the middle of the title somewhere so there is room to display the important keyword.

Planet13




msg:4260020
 10:33 pm on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a feeling (no proof whatsoever) that it is a good idea to use a synonym for your main keyword in the title as well.

And the other advice people often give to me is don't make it spammy - make it as clear and concisely related to the content on that page.

aristotle




msg:4260068
 12:43 am on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

I try to choose titles that will stand out on the SERPs page and attract clicks from searchers.

Planet13




msg:4260076
 2:15 am on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

I try to choose titles that will stand out on the SERPs page and attract clicks from searchers.


would you mind giving some examples?

aristotle




msg:4260124
 11:02 am on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

would you mind giving some examples?


Well it's hard to give examples without revealing what my sites are about, which I don't want to do because they concern controversial social and environmental issues.

But a general example would be a newspaper headline that's intended to attract attention at the newstand. Of course it also needs to be closely related to the search term and contain the main keywords.

tedster




msg:4260194
 4:49 pm on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

Newspaper headlines are a good source of inspiration. I also like to study cover headlines on magazines - and they need to "work" on the newsstand for four weeks at least, so the cover "titles" get a lot of attention.

There's a funny tension involved - short titles can grab the eye and stand out on the list, but they don't always get the best words into a title element. Print headlines can succeed at times even if they ignore important keywords.

If its for a very competitive SERP, I like to study the top URLs first, to see how I might stand out if I make it to page one. It's better not to be tweaking titles after the page is indexed, so I want to start with a great choice.

MonkeyFace




msg:4260228
 7:45 pm on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks a lot guys.

I had some vague feeling about synonyms in content, but never though about it for titles; good idea. And yes, studying magazine headlines indeed looks like an excellent place to look for inspiration.

What about the case effect? "blue widget discussion" vs "Blue Widget Discussion". I think, the latter might be algorithmically better, of course the clickability looks higher too.

Planet13




msg:4260239
 8:02 pm on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

I also like to study cover headlines on magazines...


I would just like to point out that in book titles, the colon has become ubiquitous (at least for non-fiction / biographical books).

They usually follow the format:

Controversial Statement Here: Boring Explanation Here

or

Play On words Here: Boring Explanation Here

I wonder if people are being "conditioned" to expect these types of titles for "serious" (or educational) web pages as well...

aristotle




msg:4260290
 9:33 pm on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

had some vague feeling about synonyms in content, but never though about it for titles; good idea


In my opinion substituting a synonym for an important keyword in the page title is more likely to hurt than help in most cases. I prefer to put synonyms in the main header and the content. I believe that the title should contain the keywords that you're targeting.

Robert Charlton




msg:4260319
 11:44 pm on Jan 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

The title isn't a monolithic entity that stands by itself. It very much interacts both with inbound links and with text on the page. This interaction will be influenced by how competitive your most likely search targets are, and there's no simple one-way to do things. Your different pages will probably need different approaches.

Getting back to the original question about length... because the visible part of the title also motivates click-throughs, I try to stick to less than seventy characters, and in fact to less than about 64 (roughly what Google's cutoff point is), at least for important information.

I feel that while you can and perhaps should target multiple phrases in a title, a limitation in title length helps you focus your page content and user attention, which is a good thing. Words beyond this cutoff in longer titles do get picked up, and it can be extremely helpful to include some of your less competitive specifics towards the end of a title. For the right searches, particularly with supporting onpage content, including these can get you rankings for queries that might otherwise miss you.

It's perhaps an open question, though, whether having a long title will dilute the effect of other targeting in the title... or now, with phrase-based indexing, perhaps change its meaning.

With regard to traditional keyword matching, word-proximity within a title is a strong factor, so you definitely don't want to separate words that might be included in likely queries with too many intervening words. Obviously, you shouldn't break up main target phrases at all.

synonyms

As I read Planet13's comment, his thought wasn't to substitute synonyms to for the main keyword, which I agree would be a mistake, but rather to include them as extra vocabulary. I sometimes do this, if it reads right and doesn't seem spammy, and if I think it would help to target additional related phrases. I consider the other factors noted above when I make this kind of decision.

Use of synonyms also raises questions about co-occurrence effects of additional vocabulary beyond your core phrases in a title. I've tended to think they help, but it's actually possible (now that Google is using titles to reflect concepts as much as words) that some kinds of additional vocabulary might change the focus of a title enough that the core phrases are weakened. I'd love to get some thoughts on that one.

Planet13




msg:4260403
 6:05 am on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

As I read Planet13's comment, his thought wasn't to substitute synonyms to for the main keyword, which I agree would be a mistake, but rather to include them as extra vocabulary.


Exactly what I MEANT to say, Robert. Thank you for clarifying.

Just in the very limited studies I have done over the last few months, I have seen where a synonym in the title FOLLOWING the main keywords has done quite well - and I have seen some pages rank for two- and three-keyword phrases where the synonym appeared in lieu of one of the main keyword. (An example of this was where the three-word keyword phrase had the word dress in it but the #1 result had the word gown in lieu of dress in the title).

What I was looking at were product pages where the content was more or less the same because several retailer web sites were using the description provided by the manufacturer - hence many sites with extremely similar content.


Use of synonyms also raises questions about co-occurrence effects of additional vocabulary beyond your core phrases in a title.


Again, exactly what I WOULD HAVE said, if I were more articulate.

But one other thing, besides the importance of co-occurence effects, is that sometimes people just use different vocabulary.

In the States, one famous example is that lots of people out West say "soda" when referring to a carbonated soft drink, while in the North East, it is common to use the word "pop" where referring to a carbonated soft drink.

So using both words in the title just seems like you are casting a bigger net to catch more fish. And hopefully, because of the co-occurence that Robert mentioned, it wouldn't dilute the influence of the main keyword.

Maybe my idea is too simplistic. I realize that lots of SEO folk spend a lot of time finding that ONE KILLER KEYWORD that is searched for often, has little competition, and has lots of sites where they can get links to it.

topr8




msg:4260438
 6:34 am on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

and in fact to less than about 64 (roughly what Google's cutoff point is)


i have a max of 64 for my own database efficiency, the title field will either be CHAR(64) or VARCHAR(63)

MLHmptn




msg:4260461
 7:24 am on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

And don't forget to use special characters in your title for an eye-catcher in the SERP's. I personally use the @ symbol suffixed on every title. I've also seen plenty use of unicode special characters to put symbols in the SERP's and yes it's an eye catcher as well but it surely doesn't help you in positioning in SERP's.

Biggest thing I've ever learned about titles is to use synonyms in every case for co-occurence if you can and if your product/topic doesn't have synonyms use the smallest title you can and NEVER use words like "THE", "AND", "OR", "AT", "HOME", colors, etc. Also never use your company/store name except on the home page and even then it's iffy anymore because 99 times out of 100 your domain is enough to find your store/brand/company.

MonkeyFace




msg:4260474
 9:12 am on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

topr8, is it performing well? I can't help but wonder I could increase the probability of scoring by increasing the title length.

serenoo




msg:4260480
 9:40 am on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

Are you sure that NEVER use words like the, and, or ... is correct?

MLHmptn




msg:4260510
 11:52 am on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)


Are you sure that NEVER use words like the, and, or ... is correct?


Do you EVER search for any of those as keywords? 99.99% of the population doesn't so why waste precious character space using non-descriptive words when Google will generally strip them from search results anyway?

serenoo




msg:4260518
 12:11 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

you are right, but I noticed that adding those words inside the title, I improved the ranking.
Probably google thinks that writing such words could help the user to read better the title.
Did someone else realize that too?

jakegotmail




msg:4260613
 4:31 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm inclined to say that making the title more readable is preferred by Google, but that's opinion based and not fact-checked. If it's most appropriate for you to have and, or, the, etc. then go ahead and do so. If you can get away with a list, do that.

As for lists, what about list separators and their affect? Commas and colons take up a space less than a dash, but are they all equivalent? (similar to how Google says that they prefer hyphens in URL's but underscores are acceptable)

Does the repetition of the terms in the list weaken their effect per page if they are found on multiple pages on a domain?

ex: you have pages for all kinds of widgets ... red, blue, square, round, etc. ... but each title has the same format of "red widgets, history, reviews, information"

Are you in essence telling Google that every page is about "history, reviews, information" instead of the appropriate widget's?

TheMadScientist




msg:4260629
 4:52 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

As for lists, what about list separators and their affect?
...
but each title has the same format of "red widgets, history, reviews, information"

Personally, I usually try to use either proper English or programmatic separators depending on the situation, and that usually determines how I do it.

Here are some examples:
If I have Product Info Business I would probably do something like:
Product: Info | Business

Product = "Keyword"
: = 'Defined As'
Info = 'Expanded Definition of Product'
| = OR in Programming
Business Name

So, the above title would break down to:
Product Defined as Info or Business Name

If I have a list of words rather than Info I would do something more like:
Product (KW1, KW2, KW3) | Business

Using () for grouping a list of definition words is basically the same as : for the information listed, only different.

For this: red widgets, history, reviews, information
I would probably do:
Red Widgets: History, Reviews, Information

OR

Red Widgets (History, Reviews, Information)

I would NOT do:
red widgets, history, reviews, information

I would use proper structure to communicate KeyWord (About KeyWord) rather than what is basically an equivalent list... You're trying to rank for KeyWord and present History, Reviews Information... You're not trying to rank for KeyWord and History (the word itself), etc. So, I would personally 'sub-set' the other words in the title in some way.

As far as special characters for separators, I do use them occasionally just to attract attention to the title as someone stated above... It's really situational for me and depends on what I'm trying to communicate to visitors and search engines.

I usually use | to define multiple options as in This Option OR Another Option.

I'm not sure if it helps with rankings to do it the way I do or not, I haven't really tested, because I don't like changing my title after it's set, so I came up with a system for titles and that's basically what I work with.

pageoneresults




msg:4260666
 5:50 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

Phrase Stacking - Read your page <title>s backwards. If you are using a hyphen as a separator, can you construct the title so there are phrases matched both forward and reverse? If not, move things around a little. For example, if you have two separators in the title, move the groups around to see if there is a better combination of forward and reverse matching.

Hey, it has worked for me over the years.

scooterdude




msg:4260726
 7:17 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

Funny world, I am finding that titles do have an impact as before for some folk and on some sites, but have resulted in definite keyword search opposite effect on other sites

Hugene




msg:4260732
 7:30 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

I remember reading an invaluable advice here on WW: never start your Title with your domain name.

And it makes sense: why waste title real-estate when the domain name is in the SERPS anyways.

So instead of this title:

MyWidgetPage.com: all the info on red widgets


do it like this:

All the info on red widgets, by MyWidgetPage.com


It might not even be needed to have your domain name in the title, but if you have keywords as domain name, I think it is good to have it.

Also I think titles should be readable, follow a correct grammatical structure, and thus include words such as "the" "a" "with" and whatever else you need.

Having synonyms, without the main keyword, are not a good idea. Ex: "Red widgets and widgets synonym info" is better than just "Red widgets synonym info".

Basically, make sure that you have the exact keyword you want to rank for as close as possible to the start of the title.

jeyKay




msg:4260773
 8:30 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's better not to be tweaking titles after the page is indexed, so I want to start with a great choice.


What makes you think this?

Hoople




msg:4260779
 8:43 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

I use my titles as a keyword rich natural sounding 1 second sale pitch type of headline. I try to front load (beginning) keywords when possible. I try to stay with the keywords (from click history of those visitors who actually bought) to determine what keywords get into the title. To me the other less directly related keywords only drain bandwidth and raise the bounce rate!

I then expanded on the title in the meta-description tag in a 'summary' writing style to providing more related keywords (information).

dailypress




msg:4260820
 9:52 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

It might not even be needed to have your domain name in the title, but if you have keywords as domain name, I think it is good to have it.


would you add YOURDOMAINNAME.com to the title if it contains keywords?

Your Title Here | Example.com

and if so, would you include it at the end or at the begining. Doesn't it look redundant adding the domain to every page title?

?

[edited by: dailypress at 9:57 pm (utc) on Jan 31, 2011]

tedster




msg:4260822
 9:56 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

>> It's better not to be tweaking titles after the page is indexed, so I want to start with a great choice.

What makes you think this?

The experience of quite a few webmasters as reported here. A change or two once in a while is fine - but repeated tweaking has led some to lose rankings for extended periods.

TheMadScientist




msg:4260825
 9:58 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

would you add YOURDOMAINNAME.com to the title if it contains keywords?

I do it sometimes even if it doesn't, just to get the site name in front of people more than you can with the little green text in the results...

freejung




msg:4260851
 10:54 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've been leaning more and more toward simplification of titles recently. Suppose "widgets," "doodads" and "wingdings" are basically synonyms for the same subject. Where I used to use titles like "Red Widgets | Red Doodads | Red Wingdings" I've recently just been using "Red Widgets."

So far my experience has been that the simpler title ranks just as well for all three phrases, seems to get better clickthrough, and may rank better for the main phrase.

This may be specific to my niche, and as always YMMV, but more and more I'm leaning toward the KISS principle when it comes to titles.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4260880
 11:57 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

Word of warning, titles can be duplicate too. If there are already 500 pages on Google with the exact same title, by people looking to score for a particular keyword, you'll only return a couple at most in the top 10 before Google wants to mix up the titles. A page full of the same titles would tell searchers very little.

So, mix it up yourself. Have a page with an exact match for a keyword? good, now go write a few about smaller aspects of that keyword and make sure it's an interesting read. Nobody wants to read something that starts with... "KEYWORD are sometimes sold online, especially in KEYWORD stores and are bought by KEYWORD collectors for their KEYWORD collections". Bleh!

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