Back to Basics – Writing Good Page Titles
Over the course of completing SEO audits, I consistently see SEO issues that are avoidable, even by amateurs. For example, improper page titles are a very important SEO component that still get overlooked for the value that they can bring. Page titles are one of the factors that will tell the search engines what a web page is about. Combined with meta description, on-page content and backlinks with relevant anchor text, these factors help Google determine how to rank your page or website for certain search terms. This of course is a simplistic view as many other factors apply, but just because this is a basic concept, doesn’t mean it’s not an important one.
Time and time again I see page titles written in a way that is inefficient and sometimes, just wrong. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, the best way to describe a page title is to go to a website/webpage and look up at the top of your browser. This is the title of the particular page and there’s a right way to write the page title and there’s a wrong way.
Page Titles – The Basics
The page title should be descriptive of what a particular page is about. If your website is selling “yellow widgets” on an individual page, using “yellow widgets” is a great start for your page title. You have about 60 to 65 characters to work with in a page title, so it’s usually a good idea to use up your available characters, if you can use them without looking spammy. Putting a location in your page title may be a good idea as well, especially if your website is targeted at a certain geographic area. It’s likely that people will type “yellow widgets in Toronto” into their Google search page, so adding the location may be of benefit.
Wasting Page Title Real Estate
Time and time again I see websites wasting SEO real estate by putting words or phrases in their page titles that do nothing but waste space. For example, if your company name is “The Blue, Green & Yellow Widget Company,” using that in your page title may seem logical, but it’s a waste of characters, since you only have about 20-25 characters left to tell your visitors and the search engines what that page is about. It’s common for websites to have their company title on every page title, but this isn’t a great title in many cases. Putting your company name on your index page can be a good move for some companies trying to build their brand, but not for everyone.
Some companies waste page title space by putting a slogan in the page title. This may work for your home page (maybe,) but it’s a bad idea for the bulk of your pages. This is another waste of space that should be avoided in most cases.
Duplicate Page Titles
It’s tempting when building a website to just put the same page title on every page of a website. This is a bad idea! Make sure every page has a unique title that is descriptive of what’s on the page.
“Home” is Not a Good Page Title
An unnamed, fairly high profile website in the city I live (London, Ontario) has a page title that makes me laugh. The saddest part of this is that the website was built by a big web design agency in London and they should know better. What’s the page title that I’m referring to? Here it is: “HOME – Company Name”
This page title makes me laugh. Yes, it is the “homepage” but it’s not really important for them to tell everyone that their index page is called “HOME.” It’s not a big deal in that it only uses up 4 characters, but it’s unnecessary.
Keyword Research Is at the Foundation of a Good Page Title
Your page titles should be determined after you have done thorough keyword research to find out what phrases and keywords actually get enough search volume to make them worth pursuing. There’s no sense using a page title that doesn’t get much search volume or one that isn’t descriptive of what’s on the page.
An Optimum Page Title
An optimum page title is goes something like this:
Keyword 1 | Keyword 2 | Company Name or Brand
Remember, you only have 60 to 65 characters to work with, so sometimes you have to make sacrifices with a page title, but the above is a general guideline that works well.
Choosing the right page titles should be done after some thought and research and not chosen in haste. Choose page titles that describe what service or product you provide, make them keyword rich and possibly include a geographic location if appropriate or maybe your brand/company name, but avoid wasting space with redundant information.