You can spend untold amounts of time on the content of your web pages—writing and rewriting (and rewriting!) your text, taking perfect photos, experimenting with just the right way to ask for the sale—for the singular goal of making that all-important conversion. All of your website’s components contribute to encouraging a visitor to take action…or not. One area often neglected on a web page, however, is the page’s title, which is the first thing a visitor sees when coming from a search engine.
When someone searches in Google or Yahoo, results are presented with the page titles prominently displayed. Since they can be the first thing someone sees about your website, and since search engines use what’s in them to help determine page ranking, it’s important to spend some serious time on each page’s title.
To be sure that we’re talking about the same thing, know that the title is not the same thing as the heading on the page. The title is actually what appears at the very top of your browser’s window, above the address bar, above the browser’s menus and buttons; it’s all the way at the top and usually ends with the browser’s name, e.g., “Mozilla Firefox,” “Safari,” or “Internet Explorer.” (In HTML code, this is what’s inside the
To help us think about effective page titles, let’s take a look at a sample retail gift business. Here is the first common kind of page title you might expect to see:
Mary Ellen’s Fine Gifts: Home
The first item that needs improvement is the word “Home.” It’s not a very descriptive page title. While it may indeed be the home page of the website, there’s no need to indicate that in the title. Web surfers aren’t searching for home pages and seldom need to know if the page they’re about to click on is indeed the home page. You could do worse, however. Have you ever seen web pages with the titles, “Untitled Document” or “New Document”? Not only is it not helpful at all, it’s also very tacky: whoever made the website didn’t even set the page title in the first place!
Mary Ellen’s Fine Gifts: Elegant Choices to Show You Care
Well, it’s better, but certainly not by much. Taglines are good for marketing, but they don’t serve much of a purpose in a web page title unless they specifically name goods or services. The reason this kind of tagline doesn’t work well in a page title is because people won’t be searching for a tagline. They’ll be searching for particular goods or services instead, so this title is wasted valuable web page real estate!
Mary Ellen’s Fine Gifts: Lalique Crystal, Waterford, Vera Bradley, Lladro Sculptures, Hummel Figurines, Lenox, Jewelry, and More
We’re moving in the right direction. But this page title is a little overkill. It’s important to keep in mind that most search engines won’t display anything past 60 characters, so you’ll want your most important words to come in under that. If your website has specific pages devoted to particular items or services, say Lladro Sculptures, then include that name in that page’s title. But don’t weigh down a title with too much. Remember that in addition to being search engine-friendly, a title should be human-friendly. What’s friendly about a rambling title?
Mary Ellen’s Fine Gifts: Crystal and Porcelain Collectibles
This is much better, especially if you already know that some of your intended audience is searching for “porcelain collectibles” or “crystal” and “porcelain.” And it’s just under 60 characters, so it won’t be cut off in a search engine listing. (Remember, you don’t need to worry that the title doesn’t mention “Lalique Crystal” specifically; you can have a web page devoted to crystal or even Lalique that can have “Lalique Crystal” in its title.)
Crystal and Porcelain Collectibles: Mary Ellen’s Fine Gifts
Just switching around the keywords and the business name is better yet! Now what the web surfer is looking for is presented first and doesn’t risk being cut off in a search engine listing. In general, it’s a good idea to place your people-friendly keywords first; after all, that’s what people are looking for, right?
Crystal and Porcelain Collectibles: Mary Ellen’s Fine Gifts, Haddonfield, N.J.
So why have I added more than 60 characters to the title? Simple! If the business primarily serves a geographical area, you can include it in the title to help serve your site in targeted searches. It may not be displayed in a search engine listing, but if someone is searching for “porcelain collectibles in haddonfield nj,” you’ve just given your website a competitive edge in the search results. But be sure to put the location at the end of the title—it’s not the most important thing you need your potential customers to see.
To help catapult your website in search engine results, make sure that you know what your potential customers are searching for. Take those terms, and use them sensibly in some of your most valuable real estate—your title tags. If you create unique titles for each page that keep both search engines and real human beings in mind, your results can only improve!