SEO FUNDAMENTALS LESSON 1 PAGE TITLES AND META TAGS

As people we manage the search engine optimization and search marketing initiatives for many clients, big and small. Quite often we inherit web sites built by someone else, and most of the time when that happens, I almost cringe at the keywords and page titles used. Too often someone didn’t understand the importance of properly selecting the best possible keywords or properly seeding page titles and meta tags for search optimization.

LESSON 1
PAGE TITLES AND META TAGS

Keyword selection is VERY important nowadays – how you choose the keywords, and how you apply them on the site needs to be done in accordance with the current methods by which Google and Yahoo evaluate the importance of those keywords as they relate to the descriptions and the text on the page they are embedded, as all are then related to the actual search phrase used to find the information.

Here’s some very important rules to go by when choosing keywords and implementing them:

1.THE BEST KEYWORD PHRASES
The most frequently searched phrase is not always the best. For example, if 25,000 people searched using the word “map” and only 500 people searched using the words “map of Houston” then you are much better off using “map of Houston” because it’s a more refined qualifier – just getting tens of thousands of site visitors is not the goal – getting qualified visitors is. (See my page on White Hat SEO to learn more about how to choose the best key word phrases.)

2. SEEDING KEYEWORDS IN THE META TAGS AND TITLE

a) PAGE TITLE
the most important “off-page” element is the page title. You should always include the company name in the page title, followed by the top three, four or five keyword phrases FOR THAT PAGE. This is very important to understand – just stuffing any keywords in the title tag is useless if those same phrases are not the primary focus for that page. Never have any single word repeated more than THREE times in the page title. SO if you have Houston Map | Texas Map | Harris County Map then you have the word “Map” three times.

The best way to put a title on a page is to have the company name, followed by the top phrases for that page, separated by the “pipe” symbol like this:
Key Maps, Inc. | Houston Map | Texas Map | Harris County Map

Note how the word Map appears 3 times and the word Maps appears 1 time in my example – this is okay.

The reason we use the pipe symbol is commas and other special characters can confuse some search engines and the pipe symbol gives visual clarity to someone looking at your listing in the search engines.

There are some people who say the Title should never be more than 65 characters long, or less. This is not true, however some search engines will only display the first 65 characters.

For some of my sites, Google displays up to 68 including spaces.

And Yahoo displays up to 118

So the most important phrases are all that should be in the title, but you can go up to 100 characters or more if you need to (the tail end just won’t show up to a search results page).

b) META KEYWORDS FIELD
Google no longer uses this field, but Yahoo and other search engines do! My policy is to just take the exact words in their exact order from the page title, and put that into the Meta keywords field but replace that “pipe” symbol with commas. That’s all there is to it. Never put a comma between two or more words in a single phrase – so the phrase Houston Maps should not be “Houston,Maps” because this tells the search engines that these are two separate phrases!

c) META DESCRIPTION
this should be a descriptive paragraph up to 200 characters including spaces that has your all the words from your top phrases embedded in it but not just in a comma separated list – too many commas in a Meta description is a signal to Google that you are trying to game the system and is annoying to search visitors.

Sequence – in the Meta description, you do not have to repeat the words – so the word map only needs to show up one time in this case (but doesn’t have to be limited to just one instance if the natural sounding description needs it repeated two or three times for some reason). And the keywords can be out of sequence here as compared to the Title or Keywords field.

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