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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
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.
All my pages are information pages and where possible I am trying to convert to gramatical titles made up of keywords and stop words, identical meta tag titles, identical text in links, and keywords in the file names.
Title: "Politician1 and Politician2 at Camp Whatever"
Meta title identical and links to the page identical
I think the SE should drop the stop words, and see the title and file name as identical. The only thing that worries me is if this could be seen as keyword stuffing.
I would like to add another point of view. Mostly this thread looks at how to get to the top of the listings. I would say that you should be aiming for the front page with the best description for a given search term.
What I mean by this is that quite often when carry out a search on google, I won't blindly click the results at the top of the listing, I will read the descriptions that are returned. This helps me to decide which links I want to follow. (This may be why the longer grammatical approach is preferred.) I find that short descriptions do not always make me want to follow that link.
After all at the end of the day the SE is only presenting the best results for a given search term. It is a human that chooses to follow the link to your web site. Making a good description all the more important.
You are right, at least as far as I am concerned. I know when I search I dont just pick site 1# I read the title and description. How much I represent the average web surfer I dont know. But I think that makes a big difference to whether Joe Schmo clicks your link.
I won't blindly click the results at the top of the listing, I will read the descriptions that are returned.
I'd wager that most searchers do likewise--actually I browse through the first four or five pages, and at the very least the top two serps--which turns one of the basic SEO tenets on its head.
Maybe we should start another thread to do an informal poll of how forum users approach serps. Do they take the top result(s) at face vaule and stop there, or do they browse and go deeper into the serps than the first couple pages?
But if all the search results had good titles, wouldn't the differentiating factor (for click-throughs) be any additional non-kw text? So maybe a good title would consist of the kw phrase at the beginning, followed by a "what" or "why" statement, like:
- Fuzzy Blue Widgets at discount prices
- Fuzzy Blue Widgets on Sale
- Fuzzy Blue Widgets - large selection
- Fuzzy Blue Widgets Info and Resources
- Fuzzy Blue Widgets FREE Next Day Delivery
- Fuzzy Blue Widgets from $11.95
(...and in this example if the searcher was looking for info rather than a store, title #4 above would stand out like a sore thumb. Position wouldn't matter at all as long as you were in the first few SERPs.)