Successful Blogging: Search Engine Optimization – Titles
It’s time to step into the realm of search engine optimization (SEO). I’ll warn you, this is going to get pretty technical and it can be overwhelming. There are so many factors involved in this but I’m going to try and keep this simple. I’m not aiming to teach a class on how to reach #1 in Google but instead give you all a fundamental understanding of how you can at least start that approach. Think of this more like SEO 101.
|You want to be good at SEO to impress Google. Isn’t Google sexy?|
The title of your article is more than just a draw to readers. It’s everything. One of the most weighted factors in SEO is the article title. Let me break it down.
There are two parts here, page title and article title. The article title is what you see on the website above the article itself. The page title is the text that appears at the top of your browser or tab. Sometimes they are identical but people leveraging SEO will usually have a different page title and article title.
In either case, both are aimed at targeting keywords. Keywords are simply the words you want search engines to find your site or article for. If I’m writing an article about search engine optimization then those words will be in the titles I use, as they are here. If my titles were instead something unrelated, or not targeting my keywords, like “How to be a Kickass Blogger” then I’m not going to rank so well for “Search Engine Optimization”. Always make sure the titles you use are aimed at what you’re trying to be found for.
The Article Title
The article title has value for a few reasons. The most obvious is to draw in the reader but we’re talking about SEO here. Blogging platforms will put your article title in an H1 tag (<h1>My Article Title</h1>). The “H” stands for heading and the “1” defines it as the most important heading. Search engines put a lot of value on the H1 tag. If your keywords aren’t found in it then you’re making it harder to rank for those keywords.
You should only have one H1 in your article and on that page in its entirety. By the page entirely I mean nowhere else should an H1 tag appear. Not outside the article in a widget or anywhere, just inside the article and just once. Most themes you use for blogging know this and take care of this for you and you never have to think about it appearing outside the article anywhere. That being said, not all themes are perfect and some theme creators don’t think about SEO so you may have more than one H1 tag. Just keep an eye out.
|My article title on my website|
|The article title in the H1 tag inside the HTML|
The other important role the title plays is that in most blogging platforms it will serve as your page’s URL. For example, this article has the URL: http://www.houseofpaincakes.com/2015/04/successful-blogging-search-engine-optimization.html. The URL contains the important keywords I want search engines to see. The more search engines find your keywords throughout your article, H1 tag, URL, title tag, inside the article itself, the higher you rank for those keywords.
Also, if it’s an option with your blogging platform (which I know it is with WordPress), I recommend not having your URLs contain the date. There’s a few reasons. One, it makes your URL longer and pushes your keywords further back in the URL. Second, it dates your article. Ideally, though of course not always the case, the articles we write should hold up and be of value regardless of when we wrote them. That being said, many people won’t click through to older articles on a subject and will instead defer to newer articles on the subject they are looking for. With the date in the URL you are advertising it and it may harm you. The harm isn’t in regards to SEO so much as just user click through rate.
The Title Tag
More important than the H1 tag is your page title. A page title is that title which shows up at the top of your browser or tab. This is the title that is shown in search results as well. This is a title tag (<title>Some Page Title Here</title>), that appears in your site’s HTML code that tells search engines what to show. Again, this is typically automatically handled by your blogging platform. When it’s automatically handled it will usually create your title tag as your article title and often prepend or append your blog’s title, like “House of Paincakes: Successful Blogging: Search Engine Optimization – Titles”. This is a great example of a poor title tag too and why relying on automation, while easier, isn’t ideal. I don’t think Blogger gives you the option of manually doing it though but my only experience with Blogger is writing here at HoP and I’m not an admin so I can’t be sure.
|The link to the article in Google search results is pulled from your title tag|
|The title tag in the site’s HTML|
Poor Page Titles
The reason this a poor title tag “House of Paincakes: Successful Blogging: Search Engine Optimization – Titles”, is because the keywords I’m focusing on aren’t at the beginning of the title. Where in the title your keywords appear has value. When you place your keywords at the beginning of a title, page title or article title (H1 tag), you are giving those words more weight. With the way the page title appears here the first keywords are “House of Paincakes”, not “Successful Blogging” or “Search Engine Optimization”. Those keywords I’m aiming for rank less as a result. Instead in this case, the keywords “House of Paincakes” has the most value and that’s not what I want.
Most blogging platforms automatically put your blog’s title into the page title and it’s poor practice. It works for branding and people can easily see in search results that the article is on House of Paincakes but they can already see that in the URL that’s shown too. The words “House of Paincakes” does nothing to further the standing of this article for SEO when the article is about “Successful Blogging” and “Search Engine Optimization”. Simply put, it’s unnecessary.
Again, I can’t say what control Blogger gives you in this regard but on WordPress you can fully control this. There is a plugin I recommend every WordPress blogger use called WordPress SEO. You can check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/
What this plugin does is lets you manually define the page title shown to search engines. If you install this plugin then it will give you additional fields on your post and page screen at the bottom where you enter in this information. This plugin does a lot, more than I’m going to cover here, and it takes some work but if you’re serious about SEO then get it and take the time to understand it.
Page Title Lengths
Ideally your page title will not be more than 70 characters and ideally between 50-60 characters. If you shoot between 50-60 characters then your titles should appear in full 95% of the time. If your title is longer than that then often it will be truncated in the search results. So, it would appear like “This is a Title but not all Words…” and you don’t want your keywords truncated because nobody knows what they are now in the results. This is why having full control over your page title is important. With manual control you can make sure your keywords appear first and that only keywords that matter are a part of it.
Again, having “House of Paincakes” in the page title has no value to this article for SEO, so it doesn’t need to be here. All it’s doing it taking up space that could be used to further give value to my page title. This article title is 57 characters long if “House of Paincakes” was removed, so that gives me up to 13 characters to add more value with. That’s not much to work with and I probably couldn’t add more value to it in 13 characters, plus it’s already between 50-60 characters. If my article was titled “Khorne Daemonkin vs Space Marines” instead then that’s 34 characters. What I would do with manual control is set the page title to “Khorne Daemonkin vs Space Marines – 40K Battle Report”. By doing so I’ve now included more keywords of value, “Battle Report” and “40K”, both keywords people search for. That page title now gives a clear picture of what the article is about in search results.
Furthermore, by having “House of Paincakes” at the beginning of the page title what it’s going to do is truncate the keywords of value in the results. This article might appear in search results as “House of Paincakes: Successful Blogging: Search Engine…”. That’s less than 70 characters because it will truncate after a word instead of in the middle of one. My keyword “Search Engine Optimization” is cut off and my word “Titles” doesn’t appear at all. Definitely not ideal.
Page Title vs Article Title
Small note on a different page title from article title. Using this example, “Khorne Daemonkin vs Space Marines – 40K Battle Report”. That’s a great page title and looks good in search results. However, it’s really too long for an article title. Instead I would leave my article title as “Khorne Daemonkin vs Space Marines” because it’s short and to the point while still covering my keyword focus, in this case Khorne Daemonkin.
Other Headings (H2, H3, etc)
This is getting long I know, but this one is brief. Hang in there!
Unlike an H1 tag, you can multiple H2 tags or H3 tags, etc. The number corresponds to the value, so H2 is the second most important, H3 the third, so forth and so on. Like the H1 tag, other heading tags have value for ranking keywords. This is what I’m doing inside the article here. I’m giving each section a heading and in turn creating value to search engines for those words I’m using as headings inside the article. This is where you add other keywords you want to be seen for that might not fit in the article title or page title and helps search engines get a better understanding of what exactly your article is about.
Don’t Stuff Keywords
The last thing I’ll cover here is keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is the practice of using your keywords too much in a title, article title or page title. Back in the early days of search engines, if you wanted to be ranked well for Warhammer 40K then your title might look like “Warhammer 40K: Battle Report for Warhammer 40K – A Warhammer 40K Blog”. This is keyword stuffing “Warhammer 40K” into the title, article title and page title. Search engines have evolved and know what you’re doing if you try this. Search engines hate keyword stuffing and will penalize you for it. Instead of ranking well for “Warhammer 40K”, that article would lose rank for “Warhammer 40K” instead. Use your keywords once in your article title (H1 tag), and your page title. Less is more and I’ll get more into that later.
|Yeah, that’s keyword stuffing for sure.|
Sorry for this being so long but SEO isn’t an easy subject to tackle in a few words. I don’t like to just tell someone what they should do without explaining why, so it gets wordy. I prefer to teach, not lecture. Still, hopefully you all stuck with it and got through it with a better understanding of the value of titles.