One of the single most important things you can do to market and optimise your site is to craft a well-written title meta tag. But what does that mean, exactly? It’s important for SEO…but what about your users?
We’re all familiar with search results that look something like this:
DISCOUNT SHOES – CHEAPEST SHOES – TRAINERS – SHOES UK – CHEAP SHOES UK
Cheap shoes, trainers, discount shoe store UK…
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t exactly push my buttons as a consumer. I may actually be budget-concious and be looking for shoes that won’t break the bank (no Manolos on this girl!), but I will still be more attracted to listings that read like ads, rather than keyword-stuffed impersonal messes.
There’s a balance between marketing and SEO that you need to find when writing good titles…and good page content, when it comes to that. The Golden Rule is:
Titles for users, Anchor texts for search engines (follow the link for a very good article on the subject).
Where a site falls in SERPs is definitely important. But I think that it is irresponsible to consider that the end of our responsibility as search optimisers. You have to consider conversion rates, and click-through, on those nice results. Once your site is there on the first page, will potential customers be compelled to click on it?
I generally pick one, two or perhaps three of the main search terms for that site, and write a headline. I also add the company name. I know (based on the search results I see day in and day out) that many people disagree with that. But isn’t it nicer for a consumer? Wouldn’t you rather deal with a brand, a person, a name – rather than a faceless “we’re flogging cheap shoes” type of business?
If you think of your display in search results as an ad, you think of your title quite differently. It has to say exactly what your business is and what you do, and it needs to contain your main search terms, but it also needs to sell, to intrigue people, to give them a sense that your business is what they’re looking for.
The description is the same, although it’s not as important for SEO. Think of it as ad copy for the company that you are optimising for. Tell people about the business, sell them on the brand.
In my opinion, we fall short in what we do when we write for search engines rather than for people. Optimisation is the craft, and conversion is the art.