January 2009 Newsletter

Page Titles & Descriptions

**** The 4specs Perspective

One of the simplest ways to improve search engine visibility and results is changing the page title and description. The page title is typically shown in Google search results along with the description taken from the Description Meta-tag. For example the title and description for the 4specs Division 9 page can be seen here on Google:

Division 9

Google and other search engines give higher priority to (1) key words in the page title and then (2) key words in the description. Every page should have a unique title that includes the key words you want to emphasize on that page. You can see the page title at the top of your browser. Keep the title under 60 characters to ensure the search engine displays what you want to be seen. Descriptions also should be unique and can be up to 250 characters in length.

Eliminate duplicate page titles and descriptions. Google Sitemaps provides a tool to identify duplicate page titles. In the Sitemap diagnostic area you can find duplicate title tags. We had an newsletter in 2006 about setting up Google sitemaps.

Looking at the 4specs content analysis page recently, I realized I had several duplicate titles and quickly retitled the pages. For example the 03-3550 page was retitled "Polished Concrete." See screen shot of the content analysis information just below:

Duplicate Titles

Every month I download the first page on all 14,000 sites listed in 4specs. I manually scan all the index page titles looking for several types of problems. Every month I find duplicate titles - indicating that the company may have been purchased - and websites that may be all ads displayed on an expired domain.

I frequently see many titles that could be improved, or at least properly spelled. Examples of poor title tags are listed below with comments in bold:

Some sites do a great job. Here are some examples of pages with great titles - with name xxx'ed out:

If you are using a content management system, ensure that your most important pages have unique titles and descriptions. With many content management systems it may be difficult to get unique titles and descriptions if you have 1,000+ pages, so focus on optimizing the most visited 25 pages.

Start with your Google Analytics for each page and see which query words are used to find that page and think about the words you expect to be used. (Key words are the words you think will be searched for; query words are the words actually used in searched.) Add the most important words to your title - keeping to the 60 character limits. Add other query words to the description. Make the title and description easy to read in the search engine results so people will read the listings in the search engine results and click on your link.

**** 4specs Recommended Reading

The Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide is a good starting spot.
[link no longer works]

Clickz - The Sciences and Disciplines of Web Site Optimization

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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