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Give every page its best title

January 8th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

The most effective way to create a Web page that’s well-optimized for search engines is to give every page a unique, descriptive title. Give it a title that would apply to no other page on your site. Even better, give it a title that, of all Texas A&M Web pages, fits your page the best. And ideally, the title should distinguish your page from every other page on the Web.

Your home page can describe your site generally (“College of Engineering – Texas A&M University”) but pages deeper in your site structure need titles that describe them specifically (“Nautical Basket Fabrication – College of Engineering – Texas A&M University”). Remember that titles show up in bookmarks too, and long titles get cut off. Put your most unique keywords first, which is why I recommend putting department and college names last. If the page applies to a particular time, such as a 2008 report, include the date in the title.

Writing unique titles (and unique meta tags) for every page can be monotonous. Database software can make it easier. For a real estate client, I copied ASP code to automatically include the city and state in the title, since they already appeared in the body of the page. But if you want people to find your pages when they search, no other activity gives a greater return for your effort than choosing good titles.

The process of writing a title starts with accurately describing the page, but of course, the title has to include keywords that people are looking for. Google Analytics or even Google’s Keyword Tool can help you find the most popular search terms for your site. The more popular a keyword is, the hardest it is to get high search engine rankings for it. Don’t expect to get high rankings for more than one popular keyword or keyword phrase per page. If your page is the top authority on a less-popular subject, you might find your page at the top of the search engine results for several related keywords.

Make sure you’re describing your website in the same terms your visitors are. One of the more challenging search problems on campus involves e-learning. Professors are still sending students in search of the e-learning software “WebCT,” a company which was bought by Blackboard more than two years ago. Blackboard doesn’t even use the WebCT name anymore. Neither does TAMU eLearning, who prefers to call their system, “Blackboard Vista.” To try to get around the problem, we’ve tweaked our Google Search Appliance so that floundering fish can find the right site.

How long should a title be? Using a title that includes the keywords that describe your page might give it higher ranking for those keywords. But the fewer the words, the more weight each word can carry. Unnecessary words will dilute the strength of your title. So it’s a balancing act. Google will display only about 66 characters. though it may index more. Spammers try to squeeze in a lot more. If there’s room, after your descriptive page title (which should go first), add the name of your Web site or department, and “Texas A&M University.” If you feel you’re leaving out important keywords… well, use them in the title of another page.

Good Information:
Payroll Services – Division of Finance – Texas A&M University
Health Policy Research – Bush School of Government and Public Service – Texas A&M University

Too Much Information:
Payroll, Paychecks, Taxes, Benefits, Forms, FAQs, Training, Make Money While Sleeping, Cheap OEM Software, Replica Designer Watches, More Random Keywords

Too Little Information:
New Page 1
form form forms, form form form

Google itself offers a great analysis of your meta tags through Google Webmaster Tools, under Diagnostics – Content Analysis.

Tomorrow’s post: Meta descriptions – the search engine result you write yourself

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 Search
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4 Comments to Give every page its best title

  1. […] your page title, your meta-description tag won’t force search engines to use certain words to describe your […]

  2. Meta descriptions - the search engine result you write yourself | Aggie Webmasters on January 9th, 2009
  3. […] short anchor text. Sometimes it can be the first part of the page title, which you’ve already carefully crafted, right? You shouldn’t use the URL as the anchor text, unless you want to promote the URL […]

  4. The link magic of anchor text | Aggie Webmasters on January 29th, 2009
  5. […] Create unique, accurate page titles Good practices for page title tags […]

  6. Search Engine Optimization according to Google | Aggie Webmasters on February 5th, 2009
  7. […] for long tail keywords, just be real and natural. For every page on your site, provide a title and heading that uniquely describes that page. You will automatically be optimizing that page for […]

  8. The long tail of search | Aggie Webmasters on February 19th, 2009

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