Does Your Home Page Title Tag Indicate an Absence of SEO?
Nearly every business owner or marketing manager I speak to relates stories of being repeatedly contacted by SEO companies promising to get them to the top of Google. These companies are usually sending out thousands of emails without making any attempt to assess whether their services would be beneficial to the recipient. I should know because I get these emails myself. The emails are usually dreadfully worded, sent from a hotmail address, and attempt to explain to me the value of SEO and link building. Oh, really?
The spammers themselves may be a nuisance but this service, when done correctly, is the best form of marketing there is and the opportunities are real. So how do you know whether your business would really benefit and is missing out or whether you would just be pouring money down the drain – or into the the hands of an internet scammer?
There’s no simple answer to that question but any prospective service provider should carry out at least a brief feasibility review of your website, have a good understanding of your products and/or services and also know what function your website is designed to fulfil before making any ‘selling noises’. But let’s assume for the moment that the principal role of your website, like most business websites, is to generate sales or leads. Let’s also suppose for the moment that your potential revenue stream will justify some expenditure on SEO.
Whilst there is no single factor that can be used to determine whether your business will actually benefit from SEO, there are a number of ‘signals’ that any SEO specialist ‘worth his salt’ can spot, within a few seconds of arriving at your website, and which indicate to them that your website may be a good prospect for SEO.
The quickest and most obvious signal is the home page title tag. It is visible immediately on arriving at the website’s home page. It is vital to get this right if you want to rank well for your most important target keywords. One can often surmise, at a glance, from this alone that no SEO work has been done on the website. That’s not to say that’s all there is to it. Far from it. But if there were only one aspect of SEO you were going to carry out, crafting a well optimised home page title tag would usually be it. So if that hasn’t been done, then the chances are nothing else has been.
So what is the home page title tag, where is it and what can you glean from it?
Here’s an example. Please click on this image for a larger screenshot.
Search engines interpret the page title tag in a similar way as a human would interpret the main heading at the top of a newspaper article. A good title will declare precisely what the newspaper article or web page is about and encapsulate the subject matter in a few very carefully chosen words. The home page title tag should normally contain the most important keywords that you wish the page to rank well for in Google’s results. This tag is very influential in determining your website rankings. If your title tag contains nothing other than “welcome”, “home page”, “your business name” or even worse the text “untitled document”, then your website is probably underperforming. I had better quickly add the vital health warning which is that there are always exceptions but in most cases this is what it means.
The tag is so important and such an opportunity to hook some extra traffic that it is usually wasted if it contains only your brand name. Most sites will rank number 1 for their business name anyway so dedicating the precious title tag solely to this often achieves nothing in terms of rankings. The useful length of a title tag is really limited to about 60 to 70 characters and the space taken up by a business name, especially a long business name, might just be better devoted to one of your keyword targets.
The surprising thing is that there are so many websites that are under performing for this very reason. Some owners of these websites will not have paid for SEO services whereas others may have paid either their website developers or SEO service providers who have woefully failed to deliver. Google itself has pointed out on numerous occasions the benefits of paying careful attention to this aspect of website development.
Well, if it’s so obvious, why shouldn’t you just make this change yourself and be done with SEO? Well, that’s because (a) there is a real art to crafting a good title tag and it requires lots of research and testing before doing so and (b) because that is only one in scores of aspects of SEO, albeit an important one.
That’s not to say that you can’t read up on SEO and do a very good job yourself. But any business manager has to decide whether to try and handle everything themselves or stick to what they’re good at and outsource the non-core activities to specialists. It is critical to get not only the choice of words in the tag correct but also many other aspects such as the order of the words, the overall length of the tag and the punctuation within it. If you are a substantial business and dedicated one or two days entirely to designing optimum page title tags for the main pages of your website, then you would not have wasted a minute.
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