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Writing Better SEO Page Titles For SERPs

   
5:34 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

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We all know how to write great page titles, don't we? :)

If you're learning, as I do every day, you might want to read this Google piece on titles. [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com]

I don't think it tells us a great deal we didn't already know, but, it does remind us to take care of your titles.
7:33 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I appreciated the second, more detailed page that this article linked to. The two together can make a good reference to send to clients.

Here's a good example of the kind of retail that rang the bell for me:

For larger database-driven sites, like product aggregators, hand-written descriptions can be impossible. In the latter case, however, programmatic generation of the descriptions can be appropriate and are encouraged. Good descriptions are human-readable and diverse, as we talked about in the first point above. The page-specific data we mentioned in the second point is a good candidate for programmatic generation. Keep in mind that meta descriptions comprised of long strings of keywords don't give users a clear idea of the page's content, and are less likely to be displayed in place of a regular snippet.

[support.google.com...]
7:50 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



One thing to note:

sometimes it MIGHT be a good idea to change the title of a page to reflect what search terms are actually leading people to the page.

I had a page that was NOT drawing traffic for the targeted keywords, no matter what changes I made to the page.

So, I decided that the philosophy of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" might work, and I changed the page titles and H1 tags to better reflect what actual terms were leading to traffic.

End result; traffic increased significantly to that page, and to pages that were linked to by that page.

For what it's worth.
8:03 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Even if you write a perfect title (totally relevant and descriptive), Google might change it. They change some of my titles even when they exactly match the search term. Their new titles are nearly always less relevant and less descriptive. They claim that it's done to increase clicks, but for most of my pages it obviously does the opposite.
8:34 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



aristotle, can you see any patterns to those title changes? In other words, what kinds of titles seem to trigger the changes which are not productive for the keywords where Google uses them?
9:56 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Tedster - it's hard to give meaningful examples without revealing the names of a couple of my websites, which I don't want to do even if it were allowed under the forum rules. But there is a pattern - Specifically, if I have an article with a title of three words or less, Google will often append the title of the site's home page to get its SERPs title. For example, if the home page title is "All about Widgets", and the article page title is "Antique Widgets", then Google will use "Antique Widgets -- All about Widgets" as its generated title for the article page.

But that example doesn't really show the extent of the problem, because for my two affected sites the home page title sometimes doesn't "fit" the subject of the article very well, with the result that Google's generated title looks odd and illogical.

What especially annoys me is that Google makes this change even when my page title exactly matches the search term. So if someone searches for "Antique Widgets" and I have an article called "Antique Widgets", Google still changes it anyway.
1:34 am on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Specifically, if I have an article with a title of three words or less, Google will often append the title of the site's home page to get its SERPs title.


In situations like this, I try to include a "subtitle" the way that so many books do nowadays.

So I would change a title like:

"Antique Widgets"

to something like:

Antique Widgets: Identifying and Valuing

Actually, I would probably do what I mentioned before, look at the search terms that people are actually using to find the page and, if applicable, include them after the subtitle.

there is also something to be said about including synonyms (or what google considers synonyms) in the title, at least for increasing click-through rate.

Remember that the keywords AND synonyms (as defined by google) are BOLDED in the SERPs. I think that influences searchers' behavior.

(Note: including synonyms can, of course, confuse google about the subject matter of the page. Use with caution.)

~~~~~~

Also, one thing is to remember what differentiates your page from other people's pages, and include that in the title.

My informational pages have a lot of information but are designed to be easier to read than wikipedia pages. so I include words like "made easy" or "introduction" or "for beginners" or "101" or something like that. I can't compete withwikpedia on breadth of content, but I can compete in terms of clarity and practicality.

So if wikpedia ranks above you, maybe change the title to:

Antique Widgets: A Practical Guide To Valuing Ancient Widgets

Or something along those lines.
1:54 am on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Planet -- I think you're right that I could stop this by increasing the number of words in my titles. But most of these pages haven't been touched in at least three years, and I don't want to jeopardize their rankings by suddenly making changes, especially title changes.
Also, when I originally chose my titles, I tried to pick the best and most appropriate title for each page, and I'm not going to change to worse titles now just because of something that Google does.
5:23 am on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Don't forget the visitors, they expect your title to be accurate (regardless of what pleases Google).
5:31 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Anybody got any thoughts on whether to include business name/ domain in title?

I started doing this post panda, because I figured it might be a positive? I mean Amazon and other brands do it, whereas junk and MFA often usually don't. I figured it shows you're serious about your brand or at least have nothing to hide?!
10:19 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Check out the link I shared in the second post of this thread. Google recommends it - with some cautionary comments.

Brand your titles, but concisely. The title of your site's home page is a reasonable place to include some additional information about your siteófor instance, "ExampleSocialSite, a place for people to meet and mingle." But displaying that text in the title of every single page on your site hurts readability and will look particularly repetitive if several pages from your site are returned for the same query. In this case, consider including just your site name at the beginning or end of each page title, separated from the rest of the title with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe...
11:30 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Hi Tedster

Yes - saw that after I posted - but any real positive benefit rankings-wise?

I mean, lots of Google's own advice is a wish list rather than stuff that's actually making any difference in the SERPS.
10:25 pm on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)



aristotle, can you see any patterns to those title changes? In other words, what kinds of titles seem to trigger the changes which are not productive for the keywords where Google uses them?


@tedster - FWIW I seem to see google forming their own titles to macro focus the page. I usually do not see rewriting of client titles unless the page is going from specific to broad e.g., a page on making bread to a search for [bread]
11:24 pm on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Anybody got any thoughts on whether to include business name/ domain in title?

For what it's worth:

When I modified some page titles and shortened them Google responded by using my new title AND they also added my domain name to the end of the title that showed in the serps.

[My domain name matches my business name]
.
3:14 am on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Once we know the userís query, we can often find alternative text from a page that better explains why that result is relevant. Using this alternative text as a title helps the user, and it also can help your site.

Or, then again, contrariwise, it can hurt your site.

If I, as a user, see the real title I can deduce that the snippet is taken out of context and the page as a whole is about something else entirely. If I see a g###-manufactured title intended to justify their search results, and go to the page based on that title, I'll come away remembering it as a useless and misleading page. If I remember it at all.

And if I, as the site designer, also can't see the search terms (?q= ...and that was all she wrote) I'll never know why someone came to the page and promptly left. Maybe it wasn't a stupid user. ("Why on earth would they think the page is about that?") Maybe the search engine deliberately gave them a mistaken idea of what the page is about.

Sigh.

G### does seem to like my meta descriptions, though. Cross your fingers and hope they don't start rewriting those.
11:53 am on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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When I modified some page titles and shortened them Google responded by using my new title AND they also added my domain name to the end of the title that showed in the serps.


Were your shortened page titles an exact match for the search term and were there any other pages in the SERPs with the same title ?

I have seen this with my site and assumed Google was amending the title results in order to avoid returning a results page with lots of identical titles.

I have subsequently changed my titles to include my domain name at the end of the title. I don't check my rankings that closely so can't really tell if it has made a difference either way. However I figure it helps with branding and even if I am at position 8, for example, and I don't get the click at least my brand name gets an eyeball.
2:15 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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suggy, I have always used my business name in my page titles, but I also use something to identify my target customers:

Blue Widgets for [target group or use] from Acme Company

Other companies sell some of my widgets (the ones I don't make). By adding something to identify my target customers or what they use the widget for, I figure I can get a little step above others who are selling the same widget but not targeting my customers or the particular use. Also, I believe it helps pages to rank when people search on the use.
5:21 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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...[brand name in title]..any real positive benefit rankings-wise?


I've been attempting to build a "brand" for about 18 months and I would share an observation as to why I believe there is a ranking benefit.

If your site has content that encourages repeat-visits, then the more users see results with your brand in, the more they will include your brand in their search term. My top 5 referring phrases (4-500 uniques daily) now *all* include - or are - my brand name (domain name = brand name btw).

In general I have seen gradual ranking increases across the site. I can't be sure how much impact this has but my gut feel is that it does have some effect. All of what I do is in-content/on-page stuff.
8:06 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I can see how it would benefit some websites to include the brand or site name in the individual page titles. But in my case, I don't want the site name in the page titles, but for two of my sites, Google puts them in on its own.

This is the type of decision that the site owner should be allowed to make, and I think it's unethical for Google to impose its own titles on an author's articles.
8:24 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I think it's unethical for Google to impose its own titles on an author's articles.


Google is not changing the title of your article, they are simply choosing the anchor text they use to link to your article.

If you had a page on your site which linked to 10 articles about Fuzzy Green Widgets would you link to them all using the anchor text "Fuzzy Green Widgets" or would you try to find some way to make the link text unique ?
8:34 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Were your shortened page titles an exact match for the search term

Not usually. They used a more general term that covered all the words I took out when I shortened the titles.

and were there any other pages in the SERPs with the same title ?

Not exactly the same, but two or three other sites use titles that vary only by a word or two. Mostly we are talking synonyms there.

The shortening was not productive for me, rankings actually got worse (not sure if the continued fall was related to the title changes or Panda). I was hoping to offset the Panda effect, didn't work, so I changed the titles back after a month or two (I forget the exact timing).

After returning to the old style titles Google stopped modifying them.

Gradually there has been some recovery in those page rankings, can't say why with enough confidence to matter.
8:45 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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mark_roach -- You completely misunderstood what I said. If I'm the author of an article, then it IS unethical for Google to refer to it, or link to it, by a different title than what I gave it. As for your point about similar articles, that doesn't apply to my case.
10:28 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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aristotle I am afraid I have to disagree with you.

Does every external link on your site use the title of the linked page as the anchor text ?

I doubt it and I would fully expect you to choose appropriate anchor text so it made the best possible experience for your visitors. Google is simply trying to do the same thing.

Just because search engines have traditionally used the title as the anchor text doesn't mean they always will, times change. Remember back in the good old days, before they created their own snippets, they used to use your meta description verbatim. That was a far bigger change than the addition of a site name at the end of a title.

It seems to me Google no longer likes to display exact match titles in the results, particularly if there is more than one on the page. If you don't like the additional words they are adding to your title it is straightforward to work around, just choose some of your own.

I know you can argue you shouldn't have to change your titles to suit Google, and I agree you have a point, however unfortunately it is their site, their game and their rules.
11:18 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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1. The vast majority of searchers assume that the anchor text shown on Google SERPs pages is the title of the page. So in the real world of the internet, there is effectively no difference.

2. Just because my web pages or your web pages sometimes use different or varied anchor text, that's not an excuse for Google to do it. Google has a responsibilty to the public, and that includes not using deceptive titles in its SERPs.

3. SO as I already said, it's unethical for Google to display anchor text that doesn't match the HTML page title.
11:24 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I like my titles to be the titles I intended. I don't abuse those titles by inserting SEO (just me), but I can be riled if a search engine re-titles my serp link to something different. Fortunately I don't have that happen very often: I don't over SEO, rarely have "higher ranking" anchor text than the title, etc. It is tempting to do, of course, but if implemented one shouldn't complain for having made that serp rename possible.
11:47 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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It is tempting to do, of course, but if implemented one shouldn't complain for having made that serp rename possible


I always choose what I think is the best title for my visitors. I would never intentionally choose a worse title just because Google might be less likely to change it.

The best solution for this entire problem would be for Google to stop changing page titles.
12:58 am on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



The best solution for this entire problem would be for Google to stop changing page titles.

+1 (whoops!)
1:51 pm on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

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The best solution for this entire problem would be for Google to stop changing page titles.


+2

That's when I'll start taking advice from Google about page titles. Fail!
4:55 pm on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Any thoughts on the frequency of updating titles? For example, lets say you sell widgets and have a Rare Blue Widgets page. What if you put the inventory count in the title and updated it as inventory changed? For example:

Rare Blue Widgets (4 available)
Rare Blue Widgets (3 available)

and just "Rare Blue Widgets" when the product is sold out. This is useful information to the user because they know that you've got rare blue widgets in stock. You could also do something with the price, for example:

Monday Title: Rare Blue Widgets for $19.99.
Tuesday Title: Rare Blue Widgets Special Offer - $14.99 Today Only!
Wednesday Title: Rare Blue Widgets Extended Sale - $14.99
etc.

Thoughts?
7:54 pm on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

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... for instance, "ExampleSocialSite, a place for people to meet and mingle." But displaying that text in the title of every single page on your site hurts readability ... In this case, consider including just your site name at the beginning or end of each page title, separated from the rest of the title with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe, like this: <title>ExampleSocialSite: Sign up for a new account.</title>


Anyone give me a better word than "delimiter". I don't understand. Does Google treat the words either side of any "delimiter" differently?
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