Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Page Title and Page Description: Essential SEO Tools

On the Organic SEO Blog, we talk a lot about great content--the hallmark of an organically optimized website. Of course, SEO is not merely about great content. To achieve high placement on search engines, a website must follow the key principles of SEO.

A top Organic SEO specialist (like Stepmans PC) understands how to employ these key principles to attract the attention of customers and search engines alike. Partnering with clients, the best SEO specialists design eye-catching and easy-to-navigate websites that load with blazing speed. Beyond the design and navigability, though, it's often up to a website owner to create great content.

Unfortunately, some websites seemingly cover all the SEO bases, and still fail. A website might look beautiful, load easily, and offer page after page of well-written content and still not attract the audience it deserves. In the experience of Alex Stepman, the owner of Stepmans PC (and the sponsor of The Organic SEO Blog), many websites suffer from a simple but essential problem: poor page titles and page descriptions.

It's elementary, my dear Watson. Each page of a website, each article, needs a well-optimized title and page description--as well as a few carefully-selected keywords.

Note that we write "well-optimized" and not "well-written."

Google's new algorithm is changing the way browsers discover content, and the search engine is evolving to preference well-written content above all content. And yet, a page's title and page description are still governed by the logic of SEO.

With this in mind, it's important to understand the difference between the page title and page description, and to write well-optimized content for each.

Page Title

A title, page title, or title tag is the most important element of a webpage. An optimized title will notify the search engines--and browsers--what your page is all about. Not to be confused with an article or blog title, the title tag is its own distinctive presence (although the page title and article title can often be the same).

The journalist Steve Lohr famously wrote "This Boring Headline is Written for Google," nearly eight years ago, and his point is still the same: the best page titles (and article titles) are simple and straightforward, almost dull, and written not necessarily for humans but for search engines like Google.

The difference between the page title and article title is simple: the page title is for search engines and browsers and the article tile is for readers. For a graphic presentation of the difference between a page title and article title, read Kristine Schachinger's article: "How to Write Title Tags for Search Engines."

Remember this: A page title, and not the article title, is the title Google uses for your search engine result, so it's crucially important for you to create a descriptive page title that attracts both Google's web crawlers and browsers. To optimize your page title:

1. Be very descriptive, with the appropriate keyword or phrase at the beginning of the page title. If your page is about raw denim jeans your page title should read, "Raw Denim Jeans - The Best Blue Jeans" and not "The Best Blue Jeans - Raw Denim Jeans." It's a subtle difference, but the proper placement of your keyword or phrase can significantly improve your ranking.

2.  Be concise: As Schachinger notes, a page title should be 70 characters max--half the size of Twitter's character limit.

3. Write different titles for each specific page of your website.

Page Description

So, the page title is the title Google uses for your search engine result, and the page description is the snippet of text offered below the page title.

In the image below, the page title is "The New York Times - Breaking News, World News, & Multimedia." The description is below the address: "Find breaking news..."


Simple, right?

Although adding a page description to each page seems self-evident, many websites fail to do so, and so Google fills in the blanks. No matter your business, though, it is always best if you write your own page description. After all, nobody knows your business like you. 

As we noted above, to write a great page title you should be descriptive and concise, and vary each title by page. The same optimization rules apply to page descriptions.

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Unless you're familiar with coding, you might not easily see how to add a page title and page description to each page of your website. Many D.I.Y website-builders give you the tools to add these elements. If you're working with a web developer, however, make sure he or she is adding a good page title and page description to each and every page on your website.

Your best option. Work with a web developer who also knows SEO.

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