Many content management systems are terrible for SEO purposes. The
words at the front of the page title are the most important. If the first
few words of every page are not very descriptive, it does not give
engines much to determine the difference between pages. Many spam
site generators start page titles with the same words in every page title.
Make sure your page titles are unique to each page, with the most
descriptive words at or near the start of the page title.
First of all, people probably have no idea what Fred’s store is. Is
Fred’s store a hardware store? A discount shoe store? A Viagra store?
You just don’t know. Neither do search engines.
Placing salutations or unnecessary document references in the title kills
the keyword weighting of the title. I always say “Welcome to…low
rankings.” Just for fun, I did a search on Yahoo! to show how many
sites had the following in their page title:
“welcome to…” (close to 30 million)
“home page” (over 15 million)
“wecome” & “welcom” (thousands of entries each)
Notice there is no difference between example #4 and example #5. A
title should be a page title or document title. The title should not be
the site title. If, for branding purposes, you feel you should place the
site title in the title tag of every page, it is advisable that you place it at
the end of the title—that is, unless you are so big that people are likely
to search for your name already (Nike, Pepsi, Coke…). The page
itself is a fundamental unit of data, not the website!
Page Title Tag Done Right
Since different algorithms look for different things, there is no such thing as a
perfect title, but there are signs of a good one. We saw how to do it wrong, so how
do you do it right? Well, your title should have your keywords in it, it should be
readable to prospects, and should evoke an emotional response.
Your target keyword phrase should be near the beginning of your page title. Let’s
pretend this e-book is a page and we need to title the document. Using the
keyword suggestion tools above I would look up some relevant terms.
All searches were performed on Yahoo! search term suggestion tool and results are
for September 2003:
search engine optimization 56,947
search engine marketing 14,448
search engine marketing news 267
The page title is a page by
page thing, not a site by
Usually you want to lead
your page title with your
primary keywords for that
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seo book 0 (update: within a few months of creating this domain,
Yahoo! started serving hundreds of ads a month for this name due in
part to me heavily branding the site name)
seo tutorial 70
search engine optimization tutorial 59
Remember that search volume alone does not tell you whether or not the term
would bring in targeted traffic. Seo, for example, is a generic term also inflated by
rank checkers and is a common Japanese name, so the number of targeted and
potentially profitable seo searchers is not as high as the number indicates.
Some SEO experts frequently compare the page title to the title of a book. All
major search algorithms place more weight on the page title than on other page
content. Adding unique page titles to a trusted site that did not have them
can easily double search traffic.
Page Title Length
Google shows the first 65 to 70 characters from your page title in their search
results. You should be able to get your entire page title or almost your entire page
title in 70 characters. If you run slightly past that you are fine, but the words near
the start of your page title get more weighting placed on them than keywords at the
end of the page title.
Chose Multiple Keywords
I was not in much of a rush with SEOBook.com to achieve top rankings, as I
already had other well ranking sites. I was going to think big with the title.
Eventually I wanted to rank well for search engine optimization and SEO. I knew that
would take a while though (a year or a few years). I should have been able to
almost immediately rank well for SEO book. (By the time I was done writing this
book, I already did.)
A Good Title for This Page
A good page title for this book would then be “Search Engine Optimization
Tutorial e-book: SEOBook.com.”
This e-book page itself will never rank well in search results, since I do not want
search engines to spider it. If Google gave you a free link to my e-book, then you
probably would not want to pay for it. I used a robots exclusion tag on it, and
move it anytime anyone links to it.
SEOBook.com covers news topics daily, too. The page title of my home page
initially was “SEOBook.com - SEO e-book, Search Engine Optimization Tips, &
Search Engine Marketing News Blog.” In this title I am actually trying to do a
good bit of branding. Since the domain name matched exactly what I wanted to
rank for and I spent thousands of hours and dollars branding that name, I push it
The domain name also matches exactly my keywords without being repulsively
long and dash- or comma-ridden. It is easy and simple enough to remember, plus,
if this book does well enough, more and more people will search for SEO Book.
Branding Title Update
After about a year with the above title, I started getting more search queries for my
name and my site name. I eventually changed the home page title to “Aaron Wall’s
SEOBook.com” to make the site seem more official and for personal branding
The original title may have also been a bit longer than necessary. Usually it is best
to keep them at or under about ten words.
Keep in mind that the home page of a strong site can be more brand oriented, but
as you get deeper into a site it makes sense to place more emphasis on matching
keywords than on branding in the page titles.
Chose Terms of Different Difficulty Levels
My general rule for the page title is to include at least one competitive and one non-
competitive term. In less than a month, the home page of SEOBook.com was
listed #1 on Yahoo! (Inktomi back then) and #1 on Google for seo book. Ranking
for Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a much harder task, but I was ranking for
SEO within nine months and it took about 3 years to get in the top 20 in Google
for search engine optimization.
Another good trick for the title might be to use two similar overlaying ideas. If it’s
hard to list well for either of the components of the whole, you typically can still get
top rankings for the searches that mix the terms together. Eventually, as you build
your linking campaign, you can hope to pick up one or both of the original terms.
A good example of this might be a site that is selling Dragon Naturally Speaking
software. Dragon Naturally Speaking is medical transcription software. If you use
a title such as “Dragon Naturally Speaking Medical Transcription Software,” it can
help you rank well for the oddball mixed-up searches such as Dragon Medical
Sometimes you can also place a strong call to action in the title, which will help
boost click-through rate.
Think Along the Buying Cycle
While it might be good for me to rank at # 1 for search marketing, it is doubtful that
people searching for that term are immediately interested in buying. When a
person searches for search engine marketing service company in San Diego, there is much
more express intent implied in that search.
Longer search terms typically have less competition and convert better.
This is the real secret to effective on-the-page SEO. Use different pages to
optimize for different terms.
If you are using pay-per-click advertising, the long specific keyword phrases will
usually be far cheaper than some of the generic untargeted terms. That is why it is
important to focus different pages on different terms versus focusing your site on
one generic term. Not only is there less competition, and more stable income, but
there is better consumer appeal on each page, which leads to higher conversion
Page Title and Click-Through Rate
A good page title and URL can increase your rankings and double or triple your
click-through rate. You want to make sure your page title is especially made for
human consumption and not just some random ugly keyword-stuffed string.
Certainly get your primary keywords in there, but make sure the title is readable
Writing Titles to Spread Ideas
If you write an editorial website with many readers you may want to forgo placing
too much emphasis on keywords in the title and instead write a catchy or
controversial title that makes the story more appealing to read and easier to link.
Search engines follow people. If enough people link to your documents and give
signs that the document is important, then search engines will still rank it even if
the page title does not match the target keywords.
When people search they are in a rush to complete a task and process a significant
amount of information quickly. Most search queries tend to be research related, but
most commercial sites tend to focus on buying.
Creating comparision content and a reviews sections can help capture a large
portion of that keyword traffic while presenting a search result that better matches
user intent. Gord Hotchkiss published 2 eye tracking studies which show how
people interact with search results. They are on sale for $149 each at the Enquiro
Most sites do not usually have more than about a half dozen major categories. Just
how I gave the example of a theme pyramid earlier, your site should be broken
down from the broadest topic on the home page to covering more niche topics as
you work your way through the site.
You can break the site structure down into categories:
Product or service type
Problems you solve
Types of people who have the problems you help solve
Search algorithms rely heavily on internal linking structures to determine the
importance of documents on your site. The pages that you link to most frequently
are the pages you are telling search engines are your most important pages.
On your home page, you may want to strongly feature your categories in a manner
that helps prospects self-select their path through your site. Each category and sub
category should have local navigation that helps to support its structure.
If you have areas where one category or choice could offend others in that same
basket (for instance, gay dating and an option for a group of people who
traditionally hate gay people), then you should not show the options that might
offend one group to the other.
If you are trying to get your brand known, you may also want to consider creating
multiple brands if the friction between consumer sets is too great. It is impossible
for one site to appeal to everyone.
Although it is beyond the scope of knowledge necessary for most SEOs or
webmasters, if you are interested in algorithmic research, BlockRank is a well-cited
research paper discussing internal linkage patterns for more efficient PageRank
When linking between your documents, you should use the words for which you
want to rank well in the anchor text.
<a href="page.htm">Anchor text</a>
If you cannot use descriptive anchor text, some search engines may still place some
weighting on link titles (although not as much as anchor text).
<a href="blah.htm" title="descriptive text">Click here</a>
You also can make up for slightly under-descriptive site navigation links by
providing descriptive footer text link navigation.
A large criteria in search engine rankings is the text used to link to a document.
Sometimes it is hard to control how others link to you, but you can always do a
good job of providing great links to yourself using internal site linking.
Descriptive internal text
links can help search
engines understand what
your site is about.
Use Descriptive Anchor Text
When possible, you want to refer to your documents using words similar to those
expressed in the title. Let’s say I have a page about 5 HTP that is linking to a page
about the history of 5 HTP. I would not use the word history to create the link. I
would use the phrase 5 HTP history or history of 5 HTP in the link as it would help
the relevancy of both pages.
Sometimes it is necessary to use a “click here” link, but most times you can get
around it. You cannot always write a link that helps the relevancy of the page that
it’s on, but almost always you can write a good descriptive link that contains a
keyword or keyword phrase that will help the page the link is pointing at.
Having a few click here links scattered throughout your site may make your linkage
profile look more natural, but most of your links should describe what is on the
other end of the link.
Images as Links
I believe it is usually better to use text as links than images, but if you use an image
ensure you place a descriptive image alt tag on it.
<img src="http://www.site.com/blah.jpg" alt="5 HTP History.">
If you use image navigation links, it is advisable to place descriptive text links at the
bottom of the page to help search engines figure out the relevancy of your pages.
Spamming Alt Tags
Image links are likely not weighted as heavily as text links because they are more
susceptible to spam. Examine the following:
<alt="5HTP 5-HTP 5 Hydroxytryptophan 5hydroxytryptophan 5
Using an alt tag incorrectly as done above can hurt more than help. The search
engines are generally rather liberal, but it also does not look appealing to the eye to
see that long string on when someone rolls over the image. What’s even worse is
that some browsers will read that random string to the computer user and your site
will confuse the hell out of ’em!
Yahoo! actively edits their search results. Google employs remote quality raters. If
either of them see signs of artificial ranking manipulation, they may remove your
site from their index. Some competitors can turn you in and get you de-listed as
Linking to Page Anchors
On longer pages you can use text to link within the same document. Frequently,
FAQ pages have links at the top of the page that link to the answers of the
associated questions. These links look like this:
<a href="#anchor1">FAQ Anchor Text</a>
You then place the anchor you are linking to somewhere else on that same page.
Broken Links in Your Site
Many directory editors and site visitors will quickly grow disinterested with your
site if it is full of broken links. Some directory editors will run a link checker on
your site in the background while they review the content. The Internet is dynamic
and ever-changing, and some of your links may break from month to month. I
recommend checking your site for broken links before submitting it to any of the
major directories. Xenu Link Sleuth is a free downloadable link-checking program
that alerts you to broken links and can even help you quickly build a site map.
I try to look through my site for broken links at least once every few months.
When Broken Links are OK
A good thing about the blog format of this site is that I do not need to go back and
fix broken links as they fall into the archives. If your site is a clearly dated news site
then you do not need to go back to edit all of your links as sites around the web
Broken Links as a Signal of Low Quality
If most of the links on your site are broken or link to spammy sites, then search
engines may place less authority on your documents full of broken links. If most
of the links are broken, then how well can they trust the current page content? A
document that links to bad neighborhoods or non existing pages probably offers
Most, if not all, of your pages should be linked to from other pages and link to
other pages on your site. If a page does not link to other pages, then it prevents
search engine spiders from being able to use that page’s link authority to help get
other pages indexed.
Relative versus Absolute Links
Some people link internally using relative links like this:
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