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Title Tags and SEO

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of June 2006 Search Engine Optimization 0 Comments

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:

  1. adds another useful keyword into the title (if the category names are good)
  2. pushes the post title back further into the title tags – not a great thing.

Blog Name

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).

Post Title

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?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Another thing to consider is the effect that the title tag has on any contextual advertising you are running. If the name of your Blog is “Bob’s Motorcycle Blog”, and you use it in the title, there is a better chance that ads about blogs will show up instead of ads about motorcycles.

  2. I’m a big believer in readable titles. So ‘Title tags and SEO on Problogger’ or something. Going back to the root of titles, that’s what they should say I think. They say what kind of page you are looking at and where it is located. Simple.

    Well anyway… if I where a search engine I would like this :)

  3. I use Post Name « Blog Name »

    From an SEO perspective, I want my title to have the keywords from the post. My blog, Run to Win, has a pretty strong brand for a lot of what I am ranking for, and when people see search results I want them to see the Run to Win at the end of it.

    Also, if somebody bookmarks a page, they will be able to tell that it belongs to my site rather than just having the post name up there.

  4. I actually use the Blog Name | Post Title approach, with my case being a bit different since my blog name IS keyword rich and does contain good keywords for my blog. Another blog I’m starting will be the same way as I was lucky enough to get a domain with the exact keywords I would want to use, thus letting me have a blog name that’s great for keywords.

    For any blogs that I may create that don’t have a blog name that’s good for keywords, I’ll definitely consider removing the blog name from the title.

  5. I put Post Name by Blog Name simply because it is more likely someone will do a search in Google for keywords in my Post Name than in my title name. Google has a nice feature where they bold the search terms and so it makes it more likely that my result will have more bolded words than if I did the reverse (Blog Name feats. Post Name, or something to that effect) and thus catch more eyes.

  6. I have chosen to only use the post title. I have had excellent results in the search engines as I have gotten better at writing good title tags that entice the user to visit my site. I highly recommend just using the post title from an SEO standpoint. In a world where so much information is available from so many sources branding can be hard to accomplish unless you have a site of a considerable size with a good reputation. Focusing on SEO is the wiser choice for small to medium size blogs/sites as it will bring more traffic than a focus on branding.

  7. First thing: Darren, thanks for referring to my blog :)

    Second: I use “Post title | blog title” because e.g. on Google, people will see my titles (related to their search) instead of the blog name – you know it from yourself, quickly looking at search results, you don’t really read closely. Especially longer blog titles would hide the posts title on Google if you use “blog title | post title”.

  8. Page Titles are extremely important. I’ve seen dramatic SERP results on many different websites after optimizing the Titles. For the Sitening Blog, I tend to want to emphasize particular keywords and phrases, so I put what’s most important to me first. Personally, I believe that more weight is given to the initial words as opposed to how many words you actually have in the Title (as you suggested).

    The ideal set up for a blog and/or entire site is to have the most important keywords at the beginning of the Title, in the H1 element (if appropriate) and within the first and/or second paragraph. This has been a proven technique for me. Although the key here is appropriate use of keywords. You can’t just throw certain keywords on a page and expect good results if it doesn’t relate to your site, the page content, etc… Google is much smarter than that.

  9. Google is “much smarter than that” but they also sometimes turn us into dull, repetitive writers.

    As Jon Henshaw says above “The ideal set up for a blog and/or entire site is to have the most important keywords at the beginning of the Title, in the H1 element (if appropriate) and within the first and/or second paragraph.”

    But if we were writing for people rather than a half-dumb, half smart search engine, it would be the thought that counts: in other words, if my title is “Love, peace, and war”
    and my first paragraph makes it plain that I’m talking about marriage :-), a human is mart enough to see the relationship, while Google probably isn’t. I don’t know if Google is quite smart enough to grok the relationship of a title like “High Definition Video” and the sentence “New standards required for broadcasters should have required most of us to upgrade our sets by now, but the widespread adoption of cable and satellite dishes has delayed that need” but humans certainly are.

    I’d say Google does a pretty fair job even if you aren’t too careful about your form of address. Personally, I’d rather write for people but unfortunately I am always aware that Google is looking over my shoulder.

  10. Thanks so much, as always, for the useful information. Do you know if there is a way to customize this in Typepad using the Custom CSS option? What goes between ?

  11. I’m also big into making sure my titles describe the article perfectly. That’s not really an SEO thing but a person-reading-it thing. It’s a tease for me to write an article called “Paris Hilton’s Ears Explode” and then talk about her going to some club with loud music. Although that might be a good post…

  12. I noticed that by getting rid of the “branding” stuff like *blog title* is good for Adsense Targeting as well. At least for me I noticed a big difference.

    On one of my blogs, it has “blogging” in the title. It is a blog, but it’s not a blog about blogging – it’s about songwriting. But too often I would have “RSS Reader” and “How To Blog ads” showing up in my AdSense ads.

    Now that I removed the name of the blog from my title tags I get almost none of that.

    This is a good tip. Thanks Darren.


  13. The best thing to do is to pick your title carefully and put that in your title. So, if you are talking about title tags and SEO, then that should be the title. The name of the blog can be in the title as well however, it needs to be short.
    Remember there are restrictions on how long the title tag should be.

  14. Excellent ideas here. I have been using Post Name | Blog Title, but now I’m considering dropping the blog title and seeing what happens search-engine wise.

  15. When choosing your title you should always try to get your main key word / key phrase in the title tag.

  16. I like good title-tags and hate title spamming (word1, word2, word3…). Unfortunately they are so vital. I changed my title at May1st Reboot and added the two main keywords of my site to every title. This brought me up from page 5 or 6 to the top place. But it’s even important in which order the words are. I would really favour if Google would lower the importance of title tags as they should describe the content of the page and are not to be used for advertising or buzzwords.

  17. […]   近日Problogger的 Darren Rowse撰写了一篇Title Tags and SEO的文章,尽管其探讨的是Blog中网页Title的优化原则,但其中的策略对大多数网站均适用。 […]

  18. I found the code for Post title | Site Title

    and for Post title | Site Title

    What is it for just… Post title… on an individual page?

  19. Darren,

    I decided to try out the Post Title method instead of the current Blog Name | Post Title as I was getting high in the SE’s but thought that by changing this I might get a little higher.

    I updated all my individual archives and have had the Googlebot respider my idexes in the last 2 days. Since then I haven’t had one person come to me via Google and my keyword rankings in Digitalpoint have all dropped out of the default top 200 pages for specific keywords.

    Please tell me this is only temporary!

  20. I agree with you :)

  21. Don’t forget Bookmarks. When you bookmark a site its gonna use whatever is in your title tags.. so if there is no Blog Name readers won’t know where that link will take them.

  22. WOW Darren You are not just a Blogger, You are becoming a SEO Expert too :)

  23. I heard that the title tags acceptable by search engines are getting a bit longer, more along the lines of 70-80 chars, but I have heard many experts say no more than 60 chars. I personally try to keep them around 60 or so.

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