Title and description tags are much more than keyword laced spider bait. On Organic search engine results pages (SERPs), these crucial tags are the headline and copy for what is essentially an organic text ad. Misunderstanding the dual purpose of foundational SEO attributes, is a common mistake and sad waste of natural search results real estate.
A PPC company doesn’t settle for branded gibberish headlines lacking a call to action, no point of differentiation from other ads, offering no incentive to click and constructed solely as quality score fodder to play “beat the algorithm.” Why would most SEOs then?
Good search engine optimization means thinking past getting pages ranked with headlines of “Brand Name | Keyword, Keyword, Keyword,” and brainstorming title tag/headlines which compel customers to click.
The title tag becomes the headline in other places too. Bookmark a page in StumbleUpon or even locally in your FireFox or explorer browser installation, and observe the result. That’s right: the title tag becomes the bookmark copy. Will your title tag help users remember what your page is about, sell, fascinate or brand after the fact?
Recently I asked Matt@aimClear to research title and description tag philosophies of other SEO companies including SEOmoz (Rand Fishkin), Todd Malicoat, TopRank (Lee Odden), Marketing Pilgrim/TrackUr (Andy Beal), SEOBook (Aaron Wall), MarketingMotive (John Marshall, Avinash, etc…), Jenifer Laycock, NetConcepts (Stephan Spencer), Epiar, SearchEnginePeople (Jeff Quipp) and several others. We did it as a training exercise and the ensuing results were interesting.
I mentioned our little research project to Lee during breakfast at PubCon, summarized observations, he seemed a little freaked and twittered (yup-the ol’ phreak and tweet). His tweet was a fun poke suggesting that aimClear was “stalking” TopRank’s Title Tags. The idea for this post was born. (Also, I have Lyndon Antcliff’s clever headline writing ethic as delightfully angular inspiration.)
Integrated SEO Marketing
I’m guessing Lee, like the rest of us, would appreciate more time to work on his own tags. Still there’s a stream-of-consciousness cleverness in his shop’s work, that got us thinking. First the TopRank comma delimitation approach is a little different than many. Second, it’s clear that ranking for keywords is only the first objective and not the final goal. Title and description tags are crafted to elicit clicks after a users sees results in the SERPs.
SEO 2.0 means a mature blend of traditional advertising-think and SEO ethic, as opposed to keyword laced, comma delimited bullshit.
For SEO Newcomers, we should clarify. There are over 200 known and guessed-at SEO attributes (hey Rand, update it again please). Google considers these ranking factors “clues,” in determining which page is most relevant for and thereby rank for any given keyword.
Title and description tags, though extremely important, are only part of the puzzle and your page won’t necessarily rank simply for optimizing tags. Making the soup more complicated, users’ history is taken into account and SERPs are personalized so it aint’ necessarily WYSIWYG.
Obviously it’s best practice to treat every title tag and description much the same as PPC ads’. Keep these basics in mind whilst practicing the TAO integrated SEO marketing:
- Optimize based on a well researched keyword strategy.
- Look past algorithm-bait-SEO tags and think about fundamental marketing precepts.
- SEO is about writing thoughtful, keyword rich and compelling organic advertisements.
- Anything less misses an important opportunity to raise your listing, bookmarks and all good things coming from tags above the fray.