With search engine optimisation (SEO) continually evolving and Google constantly updating their ranking algorithm you might be unsure on where to begin when you are starting to optimise pages on your website. Business Advice SEO expert Paul Simms explains everything you need to know.
SEO is an increasingly complex topic but when looking at on-page optimisation in 2016 it is still possible to get back to basics and follow simple best practices for maximum success.
Create unique and accurate title tags
A title tag is the text that first describes a web page and is the first information the search engines read to understand what the content is about. The title tag will be displayed in three different places:
(1) Search Engine Results Pages
The page title you create will often be shown in the search results so it is important to optimise the text to fit correctly, otherwise it will be automatically truncated to end in “…”
Google calculates the pixel width of the characters used in titles with a limit of 512 pixels – this normally works out somewhere between 60 – 70 characters.
It is important to note that Google will still read and understand the characters after 512 pixels so a descriptive page title longer than 70 characters can still have an impact on ranking positions.
The title tag will be displayed in browser tabs. Most SEO experts believe that keyword prominence is a ranking signal – that is, the keyword at the start of the title tag is given more importance than those at the end. While this is true, it is also equally important for the user to instantly understand what the content is about, and having the primary keyword at the beginning of the title can help enforce this to users.
(3) Social media
Most social media websites, as well as other external websites, will use the page title as the link anchor text.
While the importance of keywords has declined over the last few years, the page title is still an important factor search engines use to understand what your web page is about. As search engines become more intelligent, they are becoming better at understanding relevance and context, but your page title should still be descriptive and use the keywords and phrases relevant to the content.
Click-through rates vs. ranking improvements
Having a perfectly optimised page title under 512 pixels can help users fully understand what the page is about and therefore increase click-through rates (CTR) – but including additional keyword variations will give the search engines more information and can help improve ranking positions.
We’ve carried out numerous studies to assess the impact of slightly longer, more descriptive page titles compared to increased CTR from shorter titles and my personal preference is to lean towards a more descriptive page title.
A good example of this is from an experiment for Aford Awards around “for sale” keywords. The site already ranked on the first page of Google for trophy keywords such as “golf trophies” but at the time ranked 92nd for “golf trophies for sale”.“For sale” was added to the end of the page title. This was the only change made to the site and within four weeks it was ranking on the first page – such a big improvement from such a small tweak.
Title tag format
A good simple formula to layout your page titles is:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword Variation – Brand Name
The inclusion of brand names in page titles is something that is often debated by SEO experts. Some argue that brand is a ranking signal and therefore should be included, though others argue that you are going to rank for your brand terms anyway (if you don’t then there is a wider issue to look at) so the title can be better utilised for descriptive optimisation. However, this is dependent on the strength and awareness of the brand, if the brand is well known enough the inclusion of the brand name in search engine result pages can help increase CTR and should definitely be included.
Don’t miss the second part of our on-page optimisation guide, which will be published next week and tell you everything you need to know about meta descriptions and heading tags.
Paul Simms is sales and marketing director at Reflect Digital.
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