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WEB DEVELOPMENT

All About Title Tags
By: Developer Shed
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    2004-05-04

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    All About Title Tags
    by Jill Whalen

    What Is a Title Tag?

    The title tag is one of the most important factors in achieving highsearch engine rankings.

    A title tag is essentially an HTML codesnippet that creates the words that appear in the top bar of your Webbrowser.

    The HTML code for a title tag looks like this:

    <HEAD>
    <TITLE>XYZ Company Home Page</TITLE>
    </HEAD>

    The title tag belongs in the <HEAD> section of your source code, andis generally followed by your Meta description and Meta keywords tags.The order of these tags is not critical, so don't worry if your HTMLeditor places them in a different position.

    Some Web site design tools and content management systems (CMS)automatically generate the title tag from information you provide. Youmay have noticed Web pages that are labeled "Page 1," "Page 2," or"Home Page" in the browser title bar. You'll often see titles likethese being used by beginning Web site designers who simply don't knowhow to use their software or their title tag for maximum benefit.

    Search Engines and Title Tags

    All search engines use title tags to gather information about your Website. The words in the title tag are what appear in the clickable linkon the search engine results page (SERP). What you put in this tag isa key factor in which search queries you will rank highly with in themajor search engines. Title tags are definitely one of the "bigthree" as far as the algorithmic weight given to them; they areequally as important as your visible text copy and the links pointingto your pages.

    Do Company Names Belong in the Title Tag?

    For years I was adamantly against "wasting" precious title tag spaceon company names. However, now that I work with many well-knownbrands, I've altered my thinking on this. I've found that it's fine toplace your company name in the title, and *gasp*, even to place it atthe beginning of the tag! In fact, if your company is already awell-known brand, I'd say that it's essential. Even if you're not awell-known brand yet, chances are you'd like to eventually be one. Thetitle tag gives you a great opportunity to further this cause.

    This doesn't mean that you should put *just* your company name in thetitle tag. Even the most well-known brands will benefit from a gooddescriptive phrase or two added to this tag, as it will serve toenhance your brand as well as your search engine rankings. The peoplewho already know your company and seek it out by name will be able tofind you in the engines, and so will those who never heard of you, butwho seek the products or services you sell.

    For example, if your company is "Johnson and Smith Inc." and you are atax accounting firm in Texas, you shouldn't place only the words"Johnson and Smith Inc." in your title tag, but instead use somethinglike "Johnson and Smith Inc. Tax Accountants in Texas."

    Title Tags Should Contain Specific Keyword Phrases

    As a Texas tax accountant, you would want your company's site toappear in the search engine results for searches on phrases such as"Texas tax accountants" and "CPAs in Texas." You would need to be evenmore specific if you prefer to work for people only in the Dallasarea. In that case, use keywords such as "Dallas tax accountants" inyour site's title tags. This is a key point: If you're only seekingcustomers or clients in a specific geographical region, your keywordsneed to reflect that. People looking for a tax accountant in Dallasmay begin their search by simply entering "tax accountant" in thesearch engine. However, once they see that their search is returningaccountants from all over the world, they'll narrow the search byadding "Dallas" to their search terms. When they do, you want yoursite to be right there on the first page of new results.

    In our Dallas accountants example, you might create a title tag asfollows:

    <TITLE>Johnson and Smith Inc. Tax Accountants in Dallas</TITLE>

    or you might try something like this:

    <TITLE>Johnson and Smith Inc. Dallas CPAs</TITLE>

    However, there's more than enough space in the title tag to includeboth of these important keyword phrases. (In fact, search engines willdisplay 60 to 115 characters of your title tag.) Here's an example ofan approach I like even better:

    <TITLE>Johnson and Smith Inc. - Dallas Tax Accountants - CPAs inDallas, TX</TITLE>

    Today's search engines are not case-sensitive; therefore I generallyuse initial caps in this tag because it looks the cleanest. I used tooften use ALL CAPS in parts of my title tag because when the engineswere case sensitive, it would give me a different variation of myphrase. However, ALL CAPS looks somewhat spammy in the SERPs, so Igenerally avoid this practice these days.

    As for placing the word "Dallas" twice in the title tag, I have foundthis approach to be both permissible and effective. Just make surethat you don't put the same words right next to each other. Forexample, a tag that reads "Accountants in Dallas -- Dallas CPAs" maytrigger a red flag with the search engines, possibly making that wordignored entirely. (Search engines see hyphens and commas as spaces,which is why they would count that example as the same word next toitself.) In order to play it safe, it's probably a good idea to notuse any given word more than two times in the title.

    Use Your Visible Text Copy as Your Guide

    I personally would not be able to create a title tag for any pageuntil the copy on the page has been written and optimized. I need tosee how the copywriter integrated the keyword phrases into the visibletext copy to know where to begin. If you've done a good job with yourwriting (or better yet, hired a professional SEO copywriter), youshould find all the information you need right there on your page.Simply choose the most relevant keyword phrases that the copy wasbased on, and write a compelling title tag accordingly. If you'rehaving trouble with this, and can't seem to get a handle on what themost important phrases are for any given page, you probably need torewrite the copy.

    The optimal approach when writing copy for a Web site is to think ofthe main phrases that best reflect your business, and then compose thetext around them. When you write your title tag, you simply revisitthese same phrases, and compose your keyword-rich title accordingly.I recommend that you *don't* take an exact sentence pulled from yourcopy and use it as your title tag. It's my preference to have aunique sentence or compelling string of words in this tag.

    So what if a keyword phrase you want to use doesn't actually appearwithin your visible copy? Does this mean you shouldn't use this phrasein the title tag?

    Well, yes and no. Since the title tag is given a lot of weight in theengines, even if you're not willing to change the text on your page,you may be able to rank highly simply by placing your phrase in thistag. Just note that for any phrase that is even slightly competitive,having it in the title tag and not the copy will generally limit itsoverall effectiveness. You'd want to be sure to gain lots ofkeyword-rich links to your site in these cases, which can also work inconjunction with your title.

    You'd be better off still if you'd rewrite the text on your page sothat it utilizes the phrases that are important to you. This doesn'tmean to just stick keywords at the top or bottom of the page. Itdoesn't mean to hide them in the background. Nor does it mean to putthem in a tiny font so that no one will notice them. If certainkeyword phrases are important enough that you want your site to befound under them in the search engines, they are certainly importantenough to be elegantly incorporated into the body text of your page.

    Once you've incorporated your phrases into the text of your site,you'll find that creating brilliant title tags that help with brandingas well as with getting found in the search engines is truly ano-brainer!

    Contact Jill Whalen by e-mail at site@highrankings.com.

    Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

    She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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