SEO FUNDAMENTALS LESSON 1 PAGE TITLES AND META TAGS
At WebSight Design, Inc., we manage the search engine optimization and search marketing initiatives for many clients, big and small. Quite often we inherit web sites built by someone else, and most of the time when that happens, I almost cringe at the keywords and page titles used. Too often someone didn’t understand the importance of properly selecting the best possible keywords or properly seeding page titles and meta tags for search optimization.
PAGE TITLES AND META TAGS
Keyword selection is VERY important nowadays – how you choose the keywords, and how you apply them on the site needs to be done in accordance with the current methods by which Google and Yahoo evaluate the importance of those keywords as they relate to the descriptions and the text on the page they are embedded, as all are then related to the actual search phrase used to find the information.
Here’s some very important rules to go by when choosing keywords and implementing them:
1.THE BEST KEYWORD PHRASES
The most frequently searched phrase is not always the best. For example, if 25,000 people searched using the word “map” and only 500 people searched using the words “map of Houston” then you are much better off using “map of Houston” because it’s a more refined qualifier – just getting tens of thousands of site visitors is not the goal – getting qualified visitors is. (See my page on White Hat SEO to learn more about how to choose the best key word phrases.)
2. SEEDING KEYEWORDS IN THE META TAGS AND TITLE
a) PAGE TITLE
the most important “off-page” element is the page title. You should always include the company name in the page title, followed by the top three, four or five keyword phrases FOR THAT PAGE. This is very important to understand – just stuffing any keywords in the title tag is useless if those same phrases are not the primary focus for that page. Never have any single word repeated more than THREE times in the page title. SO if you have Houston Map | Texas Map | Harris County Map then you have the word “Map” three times.
The best way to put a title on a page is to have the company name, followed by the top phrases for that page, separated by the “pipe” symbol like this:
Key Maps, Inc. | Houston Map | Texas Map | Harris County Map
Note how the word Map appears 3 times and the word Maps appears 1 time in my example – this is okay.
The reason we use the pipe symbol is commas and other special characters can confuse some search engines and the pipe symbol gives visual clarity to someone looking at your listing in the search engines.
There are some people who say the Title should never be more than 65 characters long, or less. This is not true, however some search engines will only display the first 65 characters.
For some of my sites, Google displays up to 68 including spaces.
And Yahoo displays up to 118
So the most important phrases are all that should be in the title, but you can go up to 100 characters or more if you need to (the tail end just won’t show up to a search results page).
b) META KEYWORDS FIELD
Google no longer uses this field, but Yahoo and other search engines do! My policy is to just take the exact words in their exact order from the page title, and put that into the Meta keywords field but replace that “pipe” symbol with commas. That’s all there is to it. Never put a comma between two or more words in a single phrase – so the phrase Houston Maps should not be “Houston,Maps” because this tells the search engines that these are two separate phrases!
c) META DESCRIPTION
This should be a descriptive paragraph up to 200 characters including spaces. Some search engines will only display the first 150 characters so you may want to stick to that limit, or at least get the most important content in that portion.
You can have your keywords for that page in the description, however it is most important to remember what this element is for…
When someone does a search, and they see your listing in the results, you’ll see either that page’s Meta Description field, or just what appears to be some text that’s extracted from the page itself. If you write a well formatted natural sounding Meta description, it’s more likely that this is what you’ll see on the search results page. So the best practice here is to write something that will motivate that person to click on your link instead of someone elses…
If you do include any of the keyword phrases in your description, they don’t have to be in the same sequence as the Title tag – again – it’s about what sounds the most natural and enticing, or what you think will draw that click.
(Personal admission – for a long time, I insisted in the practice of getting every phrase into a description field. And many of my client sites still have those. Google sometimes shows those, and sometimes not. Since the description field apparently doesn’t affect our client’s rankings at Google, and those clients all have great click-through rates, I haven’t gone back to change those just for the sake of doing it…)