Out of everything in search marketing title tags can be the easiest way to gain rankings for your site, especially in less competitive markets. The key to writing effective title tags is understanding the weight search engines place on the words within them. In general the first words in your title tags will carry the most weight. So a company selling widgets could choose either of the below examples for their home page title tag, but I would suggest using the second example. The reason for this is potential customers are more likely to search for a term such as “widgets for sale” as opposed to the brand. And if the potential customer is searching for the brand chances are they will still find you.
Company | Widgets for Sale
Widgets for Sale | Company
Using this method along with other SEO techniques can mean the difference between ranking on the first page or 30th page of the SERP. However, changing the title tag on your site does not mean immediate changes to your rankings. The search engines will first have to re-index your page which can take anywhere between a day and several months. Once this has happened you should expect to see a slow increase in your rankings over time.
This brings me to an important point if you are considering starting a new business. Unless you have already have name for your business, consider selecting a name with keywords in it. This hold especially true with web only businesses. The reasoning behind this has to do with links and your URL. If your name contains keywords the chances of getting anchor text from links with good keywords in it greatly increases.
Understanding why links are important is essential to obtaining the right links. One of the best analogies I’ve seen used to describe this is with the political model. Now the extent the political model was explained (that I have seen) has been simply comparing links to votes. I will try to take this a step further to offer a better understanding of a link’s importance.
Before we get into the link/vote comparison, I will discuss the basics involved in a political race as it relates to your website. Try to imagine your website as a political party and you as the mastermind behind it all. You have several candidates (each a page on your website), and each of those candidates wants to be known for a different message (keywords the page is aiming for). Frequently, the messages of your different candidates will have some overlap, but each has to offer something they stand for that differs from the others. Keep in mind the scope of the political party, your candidates should still differ, just not completely. Remembering everyone is playing for the same team creates more achievable goals (this is where politics falls apart, but your website doesn’t have to).
The next step in the process becomes getting endorsements (powerful links) and votes (average links). Remember you are the mastermind behind it all so your goal is to find your strongest candidates and promote them. An endorsement is much more powerful than an individual vote and usually comes from a trusted source. With each endorsement you obtain the votes will start to pile up. This basic analogy hopefully gives you a new perspective on viewing your site as a group and giving the most attention to your strongest candidates.
Basically there are 3 different types of searches users will perform.
Although there is a way to monetize all of these, the real issue here is the user’s intent and how it can vary drastically. If you can understand why someone found your site, you already have an advantage over many. Taking this a step further and optimizing your page(s) to either improve the user’s experience or shift the focus of a page to drive the traffic you want is key in SEO. Below I’ll give you an idea of how each search should be treated. Bear in mind that not every search can be understood just by looking at the keywords, the use of an analytics program is crucial to understanding what changes (if any) need to take place and more importantly the user’s intent.
An informational search is when the searcher wants to find, you guessed it, information. A good example of this would be “How many members of Congress are there”. Generally speaking this is the hardest type of search to directly monetize. However, if you can drive a fair amount of traffic to a page selling display ads or implementing adsense into your site may become profitable. Another way to monetize an informational search is the indirect method. If your site gains trust and authority with the search engines and the content is similar to another page or site you would like to rank you can pass the PR towards that page.
A navigational search is used when a searcher wants to find a specific site. A good example of this would be “Apple Computers” or “Best Buy”. If you are getting visitors to your site via this method you’ll be able to better understand your core audience and brand strength. As your brand grows it becomes even more important to make it obvious to both the users and the search engines what services/products you provide. Recently Google made some drastic changes to give brand more authority on non-brand related queries. And even more recently Yahoo has followed suit so Bing won’t be far off as the merger of the two closes in. Maximizing your revenue requires a careful watch of your analytics programs to discover what visitors are doing. With this information you’ll know where to make tweaks. Additionally, this type of search provides invaluable insight into who your customers are and can give you ideas to create an ideal environment for them.
A transactional search is used when the searcher wants to acquire or buy something. For example, “Wiring Diagram for a 2002 Honda”. Just remember “acquire” does not necessarily mean the user wants to buy something. Seeing terms like these come into your site is an indicator that your focus should be on marketing your products/services more heavily than on a strictly informational search.
When researching your keywords it is important to note that not every search is limited to just one of the three search types. The intent of the user can be just one, a combination of two or all three. This can make deciding what content to provide far more difficult, but try to focus on what the known is as it can make the task a bit less overwhelming.
One frustration for many is the signal to noise ratio when trying to learn SEO. There is a very good reason for this, one which I and a few others disagree with, but understand. Some of the very best SEO’s are not in the business of sharing information, they are in the business of making money with their sites. If they were to share SEO secrets their niches would quickly become filled with competitors or the SE’s would make changes to their algorithms and the “secrets” would no longer be viable.
So the next best option is to find someone who is interested in sharing some knowledge. However, many sites require membership ($) boasting promises of SEO success and certificates. While others offer a limited free section with mostly useless information and maybe the use of a couple tools. One of marketing pitches these sites use is to boast being Google Certified. This basically means they handed over $50 to Google and get a shinny new logo to place on the sidebar of their site.
So just to prove a point, I took the “Google Analytics Certification” today to see what the barrier for entry really is. Typically I would suggest avoiding these types of tests but I actually learned a couple things today in the Conversion University. Nothing worth bragging about, but I could understand why Google is offering this. So when I see a site boasting Google Certifiaction this basically means they handed over $50 to Google and get a shinny new logo to place on the sidebar of their site. A far cry from being an expert IMO.
That said, in the past 6 years I have only found a handful of sites providing good information on a regular basis. Out of every site I can honestly only recommend one that has truly made a difference in my SEO knowledge on a daily basis – SEO Book -
Just as a disclaimer, I am not using an affiliate link to SEO Book, I just really like it. The information on the site to non-paying members is invaluable. However, the paid membership (currently not available) is well worth the money. It gives you access to a forum similar to mine but with thousands of posts covering many more topics. If you have a question, it usually gets answered by multiple experts in a short period of time. For the mean time feel free to ask your SEO questions here and I will respond very quickly with good information.
My site is ranking, I did my keyword research but nothing is happening, what now? More often that not, website owners focus so much on getting a site to rank they may forget the original purpose of the site. If it is to make money, gain notoriety or simply to share ideas you need to focus on what your visitors will do once they arrive at the site. Ranking for the term(s) will be short lived if you don’t give your visitors something to stick around for.
Just building great content is worthless without considering visitor intent. Did they arrive on a informational search, are they looking to buy something or are they just having fun? Whatever the reason you have to optimize your site for that visitor.
When finding out what can help there are a number of options available. First I would look to others in your niche that are successful, what are they doing that is so much better than you? Could be as simple as the placement of a button or the wording of a call to action or you aren’t using the right keywords.
If you are already ranking for keywords that means the search engines have some level of trust for your site. Keeping this in mind, try doing some PPC ads with the keywords your competitors are either ranking organically or paying for. Watch the conversions and this should give you a good idea of what terms you may want to re-optimize for. Ideally you would do this prior to spending to much time building off page SEO, but getting to your goals should be the focus at this point.