So what’s a title tag?
A title tag is a line of text between the tags <title></title> in the header section of your website that is visible in the browser bar and the browser tabs. It also appears as the title in most search engine results when you run a search. Your title tag should be 72 characters in length or less to be “search engine friendly”.
To illustrate this, I ran a search in Google for the phrase “boston webdesign” and looked for my website. You can see in image 1 where the 72 characters in my title tag show up. The top red arrow shows the browser bar, while the second red arrow shows the title in the browser tabs.
So what does that mean to you?
What it means is that the most important search words and phrases need to be in your title tag or you are losing potential visitors. Look at your own website. If you see the words “Welcome” or “Home page” you’re losing valuable traffic to your website. Just think about it, how many people looking for your website would search for “Welcome”? Note in the illustration below how the search results bold the words used in the search. Search engines are looking for the words used in a search in the title, description, and domain name of the websites.
Why not just use the name of the business?
You shouldn’t need to worry about your business name in the title if your domain name already encompasses that. A properly optimized website will naturally do very well with the words in its domain name. For example my business is Blue Iris Webdesign and so is my domain name. If you run a search in Google for Blue Iris Webdesign I am #1. When configuring my title tags I do not need to use up any of these valuable characters with my business name.
How do you know what search words to use in the title tag?
Start searching… search as if you were a potential client of your business trying to find your product or services. The more you refine your search and get closer to competitors of yours the better the search phrase is. Come up with 3 solid phrases that do not exceed 72 characters. There are many resources available online to research the popularity of different key phrases. Once you’ve narrowed down your search phrases, look them up and see if there are more popular alternatives.
Another consideration is if your business is trying to break into a new market or a specialized area. You may want to change your title tag around and emphasize this new service or product first.
What about the description?
The description which you see in the search results just below the title is also found in the header section of your website code. It is a “meta tag” and should not exceed 160 characters in length. This description should be well crafted so potential visitors know what your site is about while also being rich in key words and phrases.
What’s next? The H1 tag and the home page content.
H1 stands for heading 1 and your page heading should be wrapped in this tag. Search engines look to this tag to see what content you have weighted as most important to your visitors and if this content correlates with your site description and title tag. If the title of your page is “About Us” that doesn’t tell the search engines much. If you use a more discriptive heading for your page you can incorporate some of your key search phrases. If your page doesn’t currently have an h1 tag the search engines will naturally seek the next most dominent text on your page. It may be an h2 or h3 tag or simply content that is bolded. These are all elements you can control and work with to improve your search visibility.
If you’d like to know more about SEO read: Did Your Website Forget to Show up for the Interview?