Monday, January 12, 2009

Simple web page title tips for search engine optimization

Web page title tag is the most important single factor when it comes to optimizing natural search results.
You can check out this excellent SEOmoz post how professionals think about other factors. This article is made in April 2007, but I think it's still very relevant today. This is the longest post ever, but you can read these independent parts one by one if you like:
What is the web page title tag?
How you can easily test your website titles?
How to edit title tags?
Script for automatic titles with Blogger
An example how title editing has increased traffic
What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
Why you should optimize natural search results?
How to measure your SEO efforts?

January is for search. We have an awesome search engine marketing workshop/seminar coming up with Naviatech and Kalle Heinonen. I will be speaking about same topic in a networking event arranged by Helsinki Chamber of Commerce. Finally I'm attending eZ Publish partner conference in Barcelona and I have asked a presentation about SEO. Don't hesitate to email me if you have question and feel free to comment here.

What is the web page title tag?

You can easily see a web page title tag on top of your browser (click the picture to see it bigger).

Or you can find it also from a web page's source code.

How you can easily test your website titles?

You can easily check out all your website titles by a simple search query: Now you get a list of all the pages the search engine has indexed. If you know how many pages are live, you can count search index rate: pages in the search engine index divided by total amount of pages online.

Best scenario for search engine results is that every page has a unique title tag. With the search query above, you can check if you have same page titles. No titles at all is your worst case scenario. Back to content

How to edit title tags?

If you use basic html-coding for updating your pages, you can just write whatever page title tag with notepad or other text editor.

This is not the case anymore and companies tend to have some kind of content management system (CMS). For search engine optimization purposes the CMS should support customized title tagging by end users or at least automatic page title tag creation from page names or titles for example. Changing titles is more or less pure technique. The hardest part is to decide what would be the best keyword or search term (several keywords) to start with? Back to content

Script for automatic title tags with Blogger

If you use Blogger like I do, you can insert this simple script to your page template as follows:

Now you will have automatic and hopefully unique web page title tags right from your post title.

An example how title editing has increased traffic

I did very simple search engine optimization trick to my blog on October 22nd. All my page titles used to be: “Petri Mertanen's blog – web analytics and Internet marketing”. Thank you Tero for helping me out. Now the title tag is automatically same as my post title is.

Before the trick I got 109 visits with 69 different keywords from organic search results. After the simple title tag change I got 200 visits (+83,48 %) with 157 different keywords (+127,53 %). This can not be just a coincident, although visits has an overall increase of 14,5 %.

What is search engine optimization?

You can find my holistic view about search engine marketing (SEM) and think what search engine optimization (SEO) might be as a whole.
“It's very common that search engine optimization is counted as optimizing natural search engine results.”
It means that companies try to be on top of the natural search results with certain keywords. Keywords which somehow relate on company's business: people, products and services. Back to content

Why you should optimize natural search results?

You can find statistics about Internet usage in Finland from my previous post to find out potential related to search. During the recession people spend more time comparing products, prices and reading other people's comments to get confirmation before buying (both b2c and b2b). So maybe we are consuming little less money, but definitely spending money much better.
“If company doesn't appear on top of the search results it's possible that you don't end up in the short list of possible candidates where to buy. I guess you don't have a choice.”
There are several studies, eye movement heat maps etc., showing that you have to be within top three search results to get more visitors to your website. Sad news is that getting the visitor to your site isn't enough, because all that counts is how you convert visitors after acquiring them first. You have to measure visitor actions and optimize your landing pages constantly. Back to content

How to measure your SEO efforts?

Probably the most common measure for SEO efforts is the search result ranking. It means that what is your search result position with selected keyword. Remember to benchmark your search engine result against worst competitors, this is the one which drives action in most companies. You can also conduct a deeper competitive analysis by visiting competitor's website and checking out their content, calls to action and so on.

You can always measure the amount of visitors by optimized keyword (non-paid traffic). After you have improved your search result ranking, amount of visitors should increase as well. Google Adwords keyword tool shows us nowadays the search volume approximately for certain keywords, not all though. If you have search volume for your keyword 10 000 in December and you had 250 visitors from Google at the same time, your approx click through rate (CTR) for natural search is 2,5 %.
Click through rate (CTR) = total number of visitors by optimized keyword divided by search volume (impressions)
This is a good key performance indicator (KPI) for search when you test different titles, snippets and call to actions. Landing page is the first page visitors see after they have clicked the search result. Bounce rate is a good metric for landing page and it tells you how "sticky" the page is.

Bounce rate simply tells you how many visitors (percentage) saw just one page and then left the website. You can decrease the bounce rate by optimizing and testing (A/B or multivariate) the landing page. Another good KPI for any visitor acquisition project is cost per click (CPC).
Cost per click (CPC) = total cost of SEO project divided by increased amount of visitors (optimized keywords)
I hope you have already predefined goals for your website. Whether it is purchasing a product or a contact request, you can and you should count the conversion rate for these actions.
Conversion rate = amount of actions / goals visitors have reached divided by total amount of visits.
After your first SEO efforts you can compare the conversion rate by an optimized keyword to overall conversion rate or a conversion rate for that keyword before optimization. When you have measured amount of actions you can also count very good conversion metric: cost per action (CPA).
Cost per action (CPA) = total cost of SEO project divided by increased amount of actions (optimized keywords)
You should be able to measure final outcomes from your website. If you have online shop, it's quite easy to measure sales. If you do the sales work off-line, you can still measure leads and how much they generate sales. If you are measuring sales, you are one step closer measuring the return on investment (ROI) regarding to any activity or development work you do on your website. Return on investment could be calculated for search engine optimization project as follows:
Return on investment (ROI) = increased sales by SEO project divided by all SEO project costs.

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