I think that people completely underestimate the importance of the title tag in their website development and subsequently in search engine optimisation. In some ways the title tag can make or break the success of a site.
Firstly, the title tag is given very high weighting in search engine algorithms (Google included).
Secondly, like the title of a book the title tag tells the user what the page is about – it draws the user in. Looking at two options: “Fletcher Living at Jacks Point, Queenstown” versus “Your next home at Jacks Point, Queenstown”. Which one would you be more likely to pick up and read? Clearly, the second one not only appeals to an emotion (or in other cases has a call to action, e.g. book your hostel online here) it also explains quite clearly what the page is about – finding your next home in Jacks Point.
Getting your book picked up or in the case of the web and search engine results, your web page selected for visiting, is an important point that I think most website publishers/owners overlook. Focus tends to be so driven toward the search results without then taking that extra step and focussing on actually turning those search engine rankings into real customers. The title tag plays an essential role here. In the search results it is the title tag that appears at the top of the result. It is here that a user say staring at a page of results for a search, say, Auckland hostel, has to make a decision on which they are going to click on to get the information they want. If your title reads “cheap Auckland hostel”, “book your Auckland hostel here”, “the best rates on Auckland hostels” “Auckland hostels rated and booked” and so it is going to do one heck of a better job at attracting the user to your site than the page that says “Bobs Backpackers, Auckland, New Zealand”. Notice, I switched in that latter title example to “backpackers” – I did this on purpose; it is essential that you know what search terms users are using to get to your site, or not as the case may be, and match your title tag accordingly. (For more information on selecting keywords read this article).
As a rule of thumb, in most cases stay away from using your company name in your title tag. The example above for Fletcher Living being casein point. Instead try and use your main keywords; and whatever you do don’t stuff your title tag with keywords – what a waste of time and space.
Thirdly, analyse and fine tune your title tags. If the goal of search engine optimisation, internet marketing or even simply having a website is to attract more customers then you should be continually trying to etch a few more visitors from your search results. Rather than becoming obsessed with search results and how can I get a site from position 4 to position 3 in Google for a search term I prefer to focus on how can I increase the number of visitors clicking through to a site relative to the number of searches being made. I believe that this results driven strategy leads to faster results and better overall long term sustainable search engine rankings. Who knows, perhaps Google even puts a weighting on click through rates from search results – they have the quality score on keywords for cost per click campaigns!
One of the most important tools I use in measuring the effectiveness of title tags is Google webmaster tools and the top search queries, under the statistics menu. On this page you see a table of all the top search queries that you site featured in on the left hand side and the top search queries that generated clicks through to your site. I firstly look to see what terms the site is generating alot of search volume for and if there any terms that appear high in that list, but are not generating matching actual visitor numbers. Ongoing, I will rework title tags ever so slightly monitoring both the search volume and the click through rate continually trying to etch out a higher number of visitors to the site. This process should be never ending.
A final note here, and probably the subject of a second related post. Along with the title tag, the meta description is the text that appears beneath your title tag in search results. Once again select this content carefully to attract your customers to your site against the 6 or 7 other sites that appear above the fold around your site in the search results page.