When it comes to the way you format your title tags, there really isn’t a “right way” to do it. With that being said, in order to be effective, your title must encourage clicks and follow some basic rules and style guides. These will be presented and explained in this series.

Today’s topic:

Keyword selection and placement

Specific keywords–or better yet, phrases

It seems obvious, but if you want your title to help your rankings, it has to include the keywords you want to rank for. Even better than words though, are phrases. There are two reasons for this: first, the phrase probably includes at least one broad keyword anyway, so it isn’t really hurting. Second, a phrase is more specific, so it targets your niche while filtering out other sites that are more loosely related.

For example: suppose you sell rock, sand, and other related products. One of your biggest markets is landscaping, but targeting the keyword “landscaping” is a pretty vast undertaking. Rather than competing in your own niche, you’re suddenly up against designers, greenhouses and nurseries, sprinkler companies, lawn care, DIY sites, and even a television network. Simply expanding to “landscaping rocks” narrows your field considerably, without throwing out any “landscaping” traffic. It’s a win-win! The same concept applies to adding local identifiers: if your business doesn’t compete with people across the country, why should your website?

No keyword stuffing

Something Google hates: keyword stuffing. Google wants relevant, useful results that make searchers happy. A site that just says the right words at the right times (or the wrong times for that matter) rarely fits that criteria. Plus, it looks cheap. Pro tip: one common side effect of keyword stuffing is excessive commas, so it’s best to limit their use to avoid being the victim of snap judgments. It’s just like people noticing symptoms like, say, your skin falling off; they’ll probably just assume you have a terrible flesh eating disease.


Excessive Commas: a symptom of a deeper problem

"God of Thunder" or not, you should probably see a doctor

Most important keywords first

There are two reasons for this. First of all, Google’s algorithm weights the beginning of the title more heavily. They assume that you will say the most important thing first. The second (and, in my opinion, more important) reason is user habits. Studies have shown that when someone looks over a list–i.e. search results–they tend to scan down the left side, and only actually read the first word or two. That means you want your highest traffic keywords right up front. Alternatively, if you’re brand name is easily recognizable, or many people search for your brand directly, it can be a good idea to put that at the beginning.

70 characters or less

Once again, there are multiple reasons for this. The most commonly cited is that after roughly 70 characters you run out of space, and Google just cuts it off with an ellipses. This is often interpreted as meaning Google ignores anything after that, but that isn’t entirely true; it just isn’t weighted as heavily in the algorithm (see above). Keyword density is another factor to consider. If a title is worth so many Google points, and each word gets a portion of those points, a little arithmetic will tell you that the more words in the title, the less each is worth. It’s like inflation caused by printing keywords not backed by real assets.


Keep your titles under 70 characters

Great, now I'll never know what to control it with!

Keeping your titles concise is also great for usability.  A long title can be overwhelming. Granted, the average user won’t ever see it–because it is hidden behind an ellipses or inside a browser tab far too small to contain it’s full girth–but on occasion it may be glimpsed, say on a Facebook link, and those occasions will be overwhelming. Okay, I might be projecting a bit on that one…

So, to recap: Keep your title specific and concise, with the most important keywords first.
Also, commas rot your flesh.

Keep your titles specific and concise

Even super flesh