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Issue #120: Title Finishing Work

                    SearchReturn Discussion List
             "Understanding Internet Search Technology"
Moderator:                                          Published by:
Disa Johnson                                       SearchReturn
March 06, 2007                            SearchReturn Issue #120
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                   .....IN THIS DIGEST.....

// -- ESSENTIAL TIPS -- //

            "Title Finishing Work"
                        ~ SearchReturn


// -- ESSENTIAL TIPS -- //


==> Title Finishing Work

In previous installments, we've covered some essential guidelines
that a good title writer must consider at all times when crafting 
their text for titles.  The preceding tips were accumulated
through years of careful contemplation authoring sites before and
through to the days of SEO.  The logic SEO experience has brought
us changed the writing style and provided marketing benefits
including popular keywords and phrases.

The resulting tips are relatively timeless.

Though search engines change, titles resist change because of
their continued importance outside search.  No matter what the
current space allows, limit your length to less than the
character count which appears in popular search engine listings.
Recall you are writing titles as bookmark text since search
listings are basically that (and titles literally are that).

Take note of special space consisting of the first few words,
(twenty-five characters or so).  Finally, either use your
brand, (or simply lose it) and virtually never place your brand
at the end of the string.

What remains is the difference in approach for different types of
pages and thoughts on how to draw and distill keywords and
phrases out.  If you haven't written your content intentionally
to include popular keywords we'll need to discuss that at some
point.  The following actually assumes you have not taken that
step since it can pollute the title writing process.  If you find
it difficult to follow these steps and you have optimized the
body, you may have too high a density in keyword usage.

First and foremost, a homepage title must be written far more
broadly than an interior page.  You want to capture not just the
essence of the homepage, but the entire purpose of the site.
This is because your homepage title will appear in listings far
more frequently than any other page.  The special space and its
powerful combination of keywords must present search users with
the best phrasing you can muster.

As for brand, even if your interior pages may not have it, this
page can be an exception to the rule.  Just remember brand goes
in front.  The rest of the way, think hard about a combination of
the most popular keywords.  Work with those words in a manner
that conveys the essence of the site as a whole.  The combination
may just present itself to you from these keywords.

Next you want to do the finishing work on the homepage title by
completing the text so that it offers some uniqueness or other
benefit your site provides based on the subject matter in your
power phrase combination.  Use only words that appear in the body
and if not, these words will highly likely be ones you can easily
include in a heading, bullet or elsewhere.

Having the words in the title alone can weakly suffice for
listings, but remember users will need the visual queue that they
are in the correct place *after* they click - and search engines
reward this.  If the words you want in the title aren't in the
copy, get them in somewhere where landing users will see them
immediately, without scrolling.  Bullets and headlines are great
for this.

There are at least two main types of interior pages you will want
to pay close attention to.  We call these category pages and
product level pages in ecommerce, but these terms can easily be
translated in meaning to your content driven site if that's what
you're working with.  The connotation here is that category pages
are one level down from homepages, covering an array of specifics
under one topic, and product level pages are specific to one
detailed item or topic.

Avoid simply listing your product page topics in category page
titles, and instead approach the work as you would when doing
homepage titles except you have far more refined sets of words to
work with (making your life a little easier).  Category page
titles should work broadly on the category topic similarly as
homepage titles.  Product level pages, on the other hand, have a
purpose singular to that page and must be treated entirely

Most SEOs do product level title writing reasonably well.  After
reading all the noise online about writing titles, they know they
must include the keywords distilled from the page body.  No where
is this more important than product level pages.  You can have
titles on the homepage or even major category pages where a word
or two isn't in the body and it can still do fine, (although that
is not optimal).  But you suffer far greater loss of power on
product level pages when the words you are using in the title do
not appear in the body.  It's only fine if there is virtually no
no other matching content on the Web.

There are several reasons why this is important.  Suffice it to
say that the main reason is you are working with more refined,
less popular search terms where your rankings will rely more on
body content than inbound link text.  Since you are working with
an interior page and specific product or topic, you will have
fewer inbound links to that page, and may not have any inbound
links that use the text with your keywords.  Write your titles
for these pages entirely from the words that are found in the

This is the correct time to bring into the discussion an
important note about repetition.  Product level page title
writing is inherently predisposed to risky repetition.  The
following also applies, however, to all title writing.  You may
have found through your work that repeating does indeed boost
your rankings a bit for the words used more than once in the
title.  This may be a fleeting benefit or one that is not due to
the repetition as much as you think and is partly due to other

Where SEOs get into real trouble is when they ruin the title
repeating keywords and arguing it still somehow makes literal
sense.  This old trick actually has its roots in writing
directory descriptions for Yahoo! back in the mid-nineties.  The
idea was to stuff keywords using a comma separated list and
design the text to satisfy the rules of complete sentences so
that in theory it could pass the category editor review process.
The results of all this is terrible quality.

Repeating and listing is where SEOs go awry.  If you sense the
need to repeat a keyword for rankings and think you know a way
to do it, limit repetitions carefully.  Try not to ever repeat
a word more than three times.  Repeating also *must* make sense
in the text so that its quality doesn't suffer as a bookmark.
You may be able to take the tack with your repetition that you
include varying forms of the word.  A premium quality example of
this appears in SR issue #116: Nice Title.


Michael Zerman cleverly wrote text that incorporates the word
[bodysurf] repeated three times in varying forms: bodysurf,
bodysurfers and bodysurfing.  Not only that, but the name of the
website appears at the start.  Even if the special power at the
front of the title exceeds our suggestion of twenty five
characters (at thirty four), the excellent compromise was made
since the very first word is bodysurfing and the organization
name will itself attract more clicks.

Note that a word needs only appear once to qualify for a listing.
Google bombs proved it doesn't even have to be there at all.
Certainly more instances of keyword usage adds weight for higher
rankings, but if the quality of the page or title suffers as a
consequence, your performance degrades without a hint from
tracking.  You think you're doing alright when you could actually
be do much better.  A better title that is more professional will
get more traction for clicks and extra weight from click ranking
can climb your listing to the top.

Michael's excellent example nicely illustrates the top concepts
from the series even though he wrote his title before we
published.  A special note of thanks to Michael Zerman, a
longtime I-Search reader who faithfully subscribed and
contributes to SearchReturn.  Thanks for that mate!  Makes me
want to write a page on my own bodysurfing past and link his
title to the target.

That's our main timeless advice on title so far.

Stay Tuned.

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