Page Titles and Meta Tags

Page titles

Your page naming convention for both HTML title and URL/filename is a Search engine result page listing displaying html titlesimple, but very important consideration for search engine ranking and enticing users to choose your page from the list.

Firstly, you should bear in mind you have around 60 characters to work with. Search engines only show and take notice of the first 60 or so characters from page titles in the listings. So you have this much space to sell your page.

Consider these 2 key requirements:

1) How well your title matches what your target user is searching for – remember search engines have to compare one against the other. The better the match, the more relevant the ranking (although there are several other factors that influence this).

2) What will tempt a user searching on your target key phrase to click on your page. Obviously this has to be representative of the content

When defining your information architecture, you should consider using the Google Keyword tool to define the page topics you choose based on your preferred audience’s popular search terms. These keywords should be present in the title.

The words towards the beginning of your title will catch readers’ attention and be seen as most important by search engines, so organise your title with your preferred keywords at the start.

My current preferred method is to use the title to represent the hierarchical structure of the page within the site, so: Primary Keywords (article name) < Secondary Keywords (section name) < Brand Name or Brand Name | Primary Keywords (article name) < Secondary Keywords (section name), depending on how important you brand is to you and users. In the case of blog entries, you can either use your primary category in place of the section name or leave that out altogether in favour of a lengthier post name.

The URL/filename is important for similar reasons, so it should be either the same as the page title or in the case of a longer title, a shortened version. As described in the CMS for SEO article on this website, in the case of a dynamically generated system, URL rewriting should be employed to ensure URL’s are ‘friendly’. Aside from the fact search engines will use the URL to match relevance with searches and users will see the pagename in the search engine result page listings, the URL will sometimes be used as the anchor text in referring websites, which means it can carry additional weight with search engines.

Meta tags

Within the HTML for each web page, meta tags contain further descriptions that can’t necessarily be seen by website users, but are read by search engines. Many years ago, before search engines developed into the clever beasts they are today, they looked at meta tags, along with keyword density to determine the relevance and importance of pages, but this is only a part of the equation nowadays. Nonetheless, meta tags have their place in SEO and should not be ignored. Meta tags with regard to CMS  are also discussed in the CMS for SEO article on this website.

search engine result page listing showing meta description tag contentsMeta Description Tags

These don’t have any direct bearing on ranking/importance, but search engines generally use this text as the summary text for your page when listed. If a meta desription is not present (or if the search engine decides it’s more appropriate to do so) it will select some body text from the page. Like the title, this is another piece of potential real estate that can be used to tempt users to click on your web page. If your description is captivating enough, you stand a good chance of stealing clicks from sites ranked slightly higher, so sell your page content being short, snappy, but descriptive.

Meta Keywords Tags

Once upon a time, meta keywords were one of the main ways of identifying relevance, but due to unscrupulous owners of some websites trying to achieve higher rankings by repeating words & phrases and including keywords not related to the content of the page, they’re now given little weighting by search engines. It’s still worth including them though – quick tips are:

  • Use only 10-15 words or short phrases accurately representing the text for your page
  • Consider using the highlights from your title/meta description
  • List most important words first
  • Don’t repeat keywords, although you can use alternative spellings (e.g. search engine optimisation/search engine optimization) or derivations (search, searching) if you think each is important in its own right

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