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How to Write Title Tags

7:28 pm on Jun 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We hired an SEO company to look at how to improve search engine ranking of our site.

One of their recommendations is change the title tags of our papers.

This is just an example (not the actual one, but almost the same in style) of the current title tag and the SEO title tag:

CURRENT TITLE TAG : 10 Myths About Global Warming

SEO SUGGESTED REVISION: Global Warming | Climate Change | Environmental Regulations

Note that this is an example, not real articles we've produced but illustrative of the differences.

Our current style is to use keywords in a way that is editorially readable. We keep it under 65 characters, make sure the most important keywords in the title. We often change the longer titles preferred by our writers.

But the SEO company's suggestion is to change the title tags that just strings together keywords.

I've never dealt with an SEO company before (our first time to hire one), and truth to tell, I was not at all impressed with their suggestion of stringing together keywords. And for their $25K fee for a 6 month engagement, I was not at all happy with their suggestions.

BTW ... their first round of looking at our title tags are for web pages that do the best traffic wise. So that tells me our title tags are working. So why mess with success?

What do you guys think of the SEO's suggestion?
11:54 pm on June 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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From a purely search engine point of view, I can see their logic.

But these guys, like so many "SEOs" forget that the whole point of showing up well in searches, is so that human beings choose to visit the site.

They get obsessed with page rank (and other eight year old religions), and focus entirely on Google's Fine Software.

There is, as ever, a compromise.

You said: 10 Myths About Global Warming

They said: Global Warming | Climate Change | Environmental Regulations

Theirs is hardly inspiring, more eyes would glaze over than be impressed - but yours is minimalist and would only attract a percentage of people who might actually want what you have to offer.

Yes, you need a sentence, or at least something recognisably English - but you also want to stand out from the crowd as being interesting, original, informative and worth a click.

I haven't read your mythical text - that would better inform me ;)

But how about:

Global Warming: Ten Myths about Climate Change and Environmental regulations
12:58 am on June 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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They are correct. That particular title format is geared toward Bing/Yahoo search engine. For Google, you have a little more leeway. Bing/Yahoo has told webmasters what is the preferred Title format and your SEO consultants delivered it that way.

Your original title "10 Myths About Global Warming" can be kept. Move it to Description meta tag. It fits in with SEO guidelines for copy writing the description snippet. You can still keep the previous work that you have done so no one's feelings get hurt.

If you don't want to modify the webpages that are already getting traffic then tell them which pages they should be focused on. They are going after the low lying fruits. Nothing is wrong with that. You see results much faster, so you can decide whether if SEO is right for you.

Since they work for you, you can task them with more difficult webpages. To be fair with your SEO consultants, give them webpages that has excellent article content but poor search engine visibility ranking. That is something they can work with. Otherwise, you are tasking them to write contents for you which is a more time consuming job.
1:56 am on June 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've come to see that the majority of the visitors that come to my site via a search engine usually arrive as a result of a human orientated query.
Using the example above, I would tend to see visitors based on:
myths about climate change
myths about global warming
global warming myths
enviromental laws about global warning

I understand where the SEO company is coming from about having keyboard specific Titles, but depending on if you are already considered an authority in your area, with relevant inbound links using the desired anchor text from other authoratative sites, are you able to get the top positions for the 2 word searches such as:
climate change
global warning
enviromental regulations

Regardless, if you decide to change the Title tags, give it a little time to see how it performs. The alternative would be to start on the lower ranking pages and see what they can do to get those appearing higher.
12:39 pm on June 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks guys.

This is for a PR 8 site with a battalion of analysts/researchers, so I would say it is an authority site :o) It has another army of communications people so getting into the news (print, radio, TV, online) is never a problem. Hence, the papers (they don't write articles, but more research and policy papers) attract a lot of natural links.

I like the suggestion of starting with lower ranking pages, rather than start experimenting with the top-traffic landing pages. Too much risk there.

I've asked the SEO folks to send me some substantive evidence that a keyword string type of title generates more clicks than an editorial-type title tag on the SERPs. But of course, they can't provide that.

So we'll see with this type of experiment whether such type of keyword-stringed title can bring in more exposure to the papers.