Speaking of SEO – Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been paying attention to the way bloggers (and other websites) use their title tags (title tags are in your source code and are what determines what is shown in the top bar of your browser).
In your source code they are what appears between these title tags – <title> </title>
There are a variety of title tag options available to Bloggers. Here are some of the more common ones with a few comments upon their strengths and weaknesses:
Post Title | Blog Name
The article I referenced in my last post recommended that you should ‘show the title of the current post or page you are currently visiting’ which is great advice. The article that I referenced had it’s title tags set up as ‘Post title | Blog Title’.
This is good because generally the keywords that you’re writing about will appear in your post’s title and Search Engines seem to place a lot of weight on your title tags to determine what your page is about.
It also is good for reemphasizing the blog’s name/brand.
The downside of this approach is that some SEO experts believe blog’s name can actually take something away from the SEO power of the title tags. In the case of this example the blog’s name ‘The Undersigned’ is not a keyword that really relates to the post in any way.
Blog Name | Post Title
Another approach that I see a lot of newspapers take is to swap things around and to make the title tags ‘Blog/Site Title | Post/Article Title’. You can see an example of this at Melbourne’s Herald Sun Newspaper in this article which has the title tags ‘Herald Sun: School doughnut row [22jun06]’ (note they really have the format of ‘Site Name | Article Name | Date).
This has some pros and cons also.
On the upside it is good for branding. Highlighting ‘Herald Sun’ so prominently means that people will know what they are reading. It emphasizes the brand not only when people are on the site but also when they see the article in a SE.
On the downside they are not as well optimized as they could be for SEO. From what we know of how Google ranks sites – the first words in your title tag carry more weight than the last words in it. So The above article is better optimized for ‘Herald Sun’ than ‘Doughnut’.
Blog Name | Category | Post Title
Another variation upon this approach is what the BBC do on their individual articles – ‘Site Name | Category | Article Title’. It’s pretty similar to the ‘blog name | post title’ approach but:
- adds another useful keyword into the title (if the category names are good)
- pushes the post title back further into the title tags – not a great thing.
Another option that I see quite a few sites do is to use title tags on every page on the site that are ‘Site Name’.
I’m surprised by how many sites that do this. It is usually older style sites that do (most blog platforms come with a default that doesn’t do this so it’s rare to find blogs that do it) – but there are quite a few of them out there.
The obvious disadvantage of this is that effectively they are not using perhaps the most powerful on site SEO technique that they have at their disposal and a telling the SE’s that every page on their site is about the same thing (whatever the title of their site is).
Lastly there is another technique that some bloggers use which I think is one of the best from an SEO perspective. It simply makes the whole title tags ‘Post Title’ (ie no mention of blog name).
The reason I do this is because every word in your title tags carries some weight in determining what your page is about. Having the title ‘ProBlogger’ in the title tags of every post on his blog might make sense from a branding perspective but from an SEO one it risks watering down the power of the other keywords in my title tags.
I’ve used this on a lot of my blogs for a while now and find it to work quite well. Here at ProBlogger I’ve only just switched it in the last week and am a little unsure as to whether to leave it that way or not – I’m looking at it as an experiment which will take a few weeks to begin to see the results of. The reason that I’m not convinced about it here at ProBlogger is that the name of this blog is a strong part of the brand. While ‘ProBlogger’ is still visually dominant in the logo of the blog perhaps having it reemphasized in the title tags would be useful.
I also suspect that the impact of having title tags as post names alone will be less here at ProBlogger on SEO than it would be on blogs of other topics – but time will tell and I’ll update you on any changes I see.
Factors to Consider When Deciding Title Tag Configuration
SEO is not the only factor to consider when working out how to set out your title tags. Here’s are a few things to consider:
- Brand – we’ve already referred to it a number of times but your title tags can add to your onsite and offsite branding (offsite being both what appears in search engines but also other sites that will often link to you using your title tags).
- SEO – again we’ve talked about this heavily above but the SEO is not just about onsite SEO but as I’ve mentioned above is also important because other sites often use your title tags to link to you – this is another powerful SEO factor as the words used in incoming links tell Google what your blog is about.
- Usability – title tags are useful for your readers in numerous ways. For instance those using tabbed browsing will see the start of your title tags in tabs that are not open. Also don’t just stuff your title tags with keywords. While this might be good for SEO they become useless from a reader perspective and you run the risk of being penalized by the SE’s for being spammy.
- Selling your Post – remember that it’s a page’s title tags that are used in Google as the main title of search results. The reason I think the BBC would use their name first is because when someone does a search for a term and then sees ‘BBC News’ as the start of the search result that they would see it as a credible source. Having said that if your blog is unknown and has a more obscure name – highlighting it in your search results could have the opposite effect and to simply have the title might entice people to click it more. This is why choosing good titles for posts is so important – they become an advertisement for your blog in SE’s.
- Title Tag Length – consider the length of your title tags when designing them. Different Search Engines will show different length ones in their results but you need to also consider that long ones can be quite overwhelming and that the more words you have in them the more watered down the SEO value could be. Most experts say to keep them under 50 or so characters (including spaces). I try to keep my titles less than that.
There are numerous other variations of how to configure your title tags and I’m not saying that the above are the only (or the best) options. It comes down to personal preference and looking at the goals of a blog when making the decision.
What title tag format do you use? Is this a choice you’ve made or the default? If you’ve chosen your own why did you do it the way you did? What impact has it had?