If there is only one thing we could change on our website to ensure our website would rank in Google it would be our Page Titles (also called Meta Titles or Title Tags). This is the lowest effort - highest return work we can do on our site.
This post is to help website owners and content marketers align their existing content with actual search terms and the vocabulary of their target audience.
The phrase Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become so over used it has lost it's meaning.
But, optimizing a website to rank in search engines is really quite easy. If we think of SEO as really just "indicating our website's relevance" to Google and our users the acronym starts to make more sense. Search Engines want to serve up relevant helpful websites and resources in their search results to users. It's our job to tell Google how our content is relevant when someone types in a search question or phrase.
To understand our relevance we need to first do a little "Digital Listening". Why "Digital Listening" because we are going to use digital tools to better understand and listen to the needs of our end users/clients with the aspiration of crafting more thoughtful, helpful content and resources that rank in Google.
Our primary focus should be to write custom, well optimized Page Titles. Certainly our web content needs to be well written and helpful, but telling Google what a particular piece of content is about via our Title Tag is critical.
What are Page Titles
Page Titles are the pieces of information that appear in Google Search results when users search questions about problems they're facing.
In many ways a Meta Title is the first impression that a user will have of our company and our website.
Most sites have a default naming convention for Page Titles. Usually something like "Page Name | Site Name". A default approach is not going to help our site rank for anything except our company's name. We certainly want to rank if someone searches for our brand or company, but that traffic is pretty much guaranteed to find us.
What we really want to do is to rank when people search for the product or service we provide, but are not familiar with our brand.
Why Optimize Title Tags
- Google Wants Us To - Google seriously values structured data of a website similar to the way a library values the indexing and organizing books.
- Our Users Want Us To - If we do this one thing it will have a dramatic impact on our users ability to find and connect with our content.
- ROI - More users being able to find us means more traffic which means more potential opportunities in our pipeline.
Not all site data is created equal, but most of it deserves your attention. Page Titles definitely do.
The Title Tag is a critical piece of our website's structured data. Title Tags are important because they tell Google what a specific webpage is all about.
Here's what Google has to say about Page Titles:
"Create descriptive page titles... Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It's often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it's important to use high-quality titles on your web pages."
Google is telling us that Page Titles are one of the most important ways that they will decide whether our web content is relevant and whether our website will show up when someone searches for products or services we offer.
Our users don't explicitly tell us that they want optimized Page Titles, but Google does and Google advocates for the user.
There are many other aspects of our site we can optimize, but the Title Tag is the best place to start.
Let's Start Optimizing our Title Tags
Now that we have a place to focus our efforts (on Title Tags) lets get to Digital Listening. Here is a quick overview of what we'll need to do.
- Audit & organize our content
- Identify a page or post we want to optimize
- Do some keyword research
- Group keyword research into keyword categories
- Rewrite our title tags using keyword data
Audit & Organize Our Content
We'll want to take inventory of our website pages and articles. Let's pull them all into a spreadsheet with the following column heads:
|Level 1 Page||Level 2 Page||Level 3 Page||URL||Old Meta Title||New Meta Title|
After we have created our spreadsheet we should begin adding our website pages and articles that we want to optimize.
Identify A Web Page or Blog Post to Optimize
Look for a page or post that aligns with one of the most common questions clients ask or one that aligns with the biggest issue our audience faces.
Don't have any content yet? It might be a good idea to reach out to a couple of clients or mine emails and other questions we have received from our clientele over the years.
For new businesses that don't have any intel yet - Google can be a very helpful resource. Just start typing in a common business topic into Google and Google will provide a drop down list of similar search suggestions.
Once we have a post or page selected we can do some keyword research to make sure we're using our end users vocabulary and terms that high search volume and that are likely to convert to paying customers.
Google has a few resources that can provide insights into our audiences vocabulary. For in depth insight we're going to look at one source - The Google Keyword Planner Tool. In order to use this tool we'll need to have a Google Gmail account and also be logged in.
Google's keyword planner won't tell us exactly what to write, but it will do a few very important things:
- Provide key foundational terms to include in our Page Title
- Give us a place marker that we can reference back to when trying to optimize other Title Tags.
- Help inform our content strategy before we publish new content.
Here is what the keyword planner looks like:
In order to get report of insights from the keyword planner we need to have:
- Enter a search phrase (Think about what kind of business we want to attract and then pick a term that might attract that kind of business).
- Enter a website that ranks high for that search phrase (Not sure what website to reference - pull up an incognito browser and search the key phrase you entered above. Once the search results display copy the highest ranking URL and paste into this field).
- Enter our relevant industry/category (Select the category that is most relevant to the industry we serve)
After we input a key phrase, the reference website and indicate our industry/category Google's Keyword Planner Tool will generate a short or long list of keywords. Google will also breakdown each keywords avg monthly search volume, how competitive the phrase is, and what the suggested *bid value is for that keyword.
*Note we're not going to pay for keywords, but we want to use key phrases that are highly sought after and because businesses use the Keyword Planner tool to get traffic to their site that converts to business we want to follow that strategy to guide our organic keyword strategy.
Here is what the initial report of keywords will look like in the Keyword Planner Tool (using an example as if we were in the automotive industry).
You'll need to click download button on the right hand side of the screen to export the keyword data in a usable csv file so that we can begin to group the keyword data into similar search topics.
Once we have the csv file we can add a tab to the original spreadsheet we created to organize our current content's title tags in Step 1.
Group the Keyword Data by Category
We'll need to delete some unnecessary columns until we get down to just the following:
- Avg Monthly Searches
- Suggested Bid
Give us insight into the search habits of our audience. Educating clients on keyword data is one of my favorite things because there is always a disconnect between their industry jargon (that tends to be overly sophisticated terms or acronyms) and the vocabulary of the people we want to attract.
Avg Monthly Searches
Tells us the volume of searches that are happening each month.
Is on a scale of 0-1. The higher the number the more competitive a particular keyword is.
This is the price people are paying for with their Pay Per Click Advertising campaigns to attract what is know as "Paid Traffic". We want to use these insights to drive our "Organic Traffic" strategy.
What we want to do is identify keywords that are a combination of high volume and highly sought after (aka high suggested bid).
Next we need to sort the spreadsheet alphabetically (A to Z) by column 'A' and begin to group the keywords by similar topic (see the spreadsheet below for a reference). Some natural groups will appear after you sort the list alphabetically, but we'll need to do some manual moving of rows to more accurately group similar search topics together. A good example of this is rows 6-10 below.
Optimize the Title Tag
There is no perfect equation for writing Title Tags, but there are a couple guiding principles we want to do and incorporate:
- Use a keyword set that is inline with what we want to attract
- Add any additional qualify industry or location specific terms
- Try to keep it under 60 characters
Think of it like a sort of equation
Topic or Key Phrase + Location or Qualifying Term
Imagine if we're a car dealer and we only service customers looking to buy a used car in person in the Chicago area and we wanted to attract that sort of traffic - referencing our keyword research our custom Page Title might look something like:
Used & 2nd Hand Cars for Sale Chicago
Now update the "New Page Title" in the spreadsheet we created at the beginning with the list of your page titles so you know that this page has been optimized.
Once we're finished updating all our website pages and post with more relevant Page Titles we'll want to leave an annotation in our Google Analytics account so we can track what kind of effect this effort has on our web traffic and organic traffic.
Now we can sit back and relax and we should start to see a difference in the quality of the traffic coming to our websites via more engaged traffic and improved web leads (if you have a informational website) or increased web sales (if you sell products online).
If you come this far and feel like you still need help please free to reach out and we'd be happy to assist.