The SEO tip we’re about to share is controversial. So much so, it makes some people blow their top.
In fact, an ex-Google Search Quality team member got so stinkin’ mad over this that he hung up on Clark, The Daily(ish) Advocate’s resident SEO Nerd, while discussing this issue.
(More on that in a minute.)
First to the SEO tip…
This is a super important part of SEO not many people talk about. It has to do with understanding the difference between ranking well vs. earning the click.
See, it ain’t just enough to get a high ranking in Google or Bing…
… you also have to EARN the click once you’re there.
Basically, give people a reason to click on your site as opposed to the others in the search engine results.
Cuz a site that ranks well but no one clicks on will do you about as much good as opening a Speedo store in Antarctica.
A key way to earn the click is to make sure that, on each page of your site, you include the keywords you most want that page to rank for in your title tag and meta description.
(Side note for the SEO newbies here:
The title tag is a part of the HTML code of a webpage that is essentially the, well, title of that page. This tag appears as the title, or headline, of your web page’s listing in the search results on Google, Bing, etc.
The meta description is part of the code that’s a short summary of what the page is about. It appears under the title tag in the search engine results.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming…)
Why include the top keywords you want a web page to rank for in its title tag and meta description?
Partly because they factor into Google’s ranking algorithm.
And partly because they attract eyeballs in the search results and help you earn the click.
If someone types a keyword into Google that is in your title tag/meta description, that search term will be bolded in the search results.
Which makes those words stand out more. Which means more eyeballs and clicks for your site! Score!
Knowing this and knowing that people largely scan online, Clark recommends that title tags feature the 2 – 3 top keywords you want a page to rank for.
No additional fluff, beautiful prose or unnecessary words required.
Just include a few carefully chosen keywords separated by vertical bars like this:
Antarctica Speedo Store | Bikinis For Penguins | Thongs Near Me
By doing this, you can steal clicks from sites that may rank higher than yours because your title tags contain the keyword, or part of the keyword phrase, the user is searching for.
But, as mentioned in the intro, not everyone likes this approach.
A few years back, Clark was consulting on an SEO project and the client brought in a couple of ex-Google Search Quality team members that do site audits for businesses.
On a call discussing the client’s site, they criticized the title tags Clark had done for the client using the approach described above.
The ex-Googlers said the tags weren’t written well. They said they were too choppy. They said they were spammy.
One of them finished off their brutal takedown of Clark’s approach, saying, “I bet the site’s not ranking well for this.”
Turns out… the site had top 3 rankings for most of the keywords being targeted! And, more importantly, lots of people were clicking through to the client’s website.
At the end of the day, while they trashed the title tags, these former Google bros begrudgingly admitted the tags shouldn’t be adjusted.
Because they couldn’t argue with the results. And the results clearly showed Clark’s approach was working.
Wanting to better understand their point of view on title tags, Clark pressed them on their criticisms.
He asked, “if my title tag doesn’t have the keywords users are searching for, isn’t that gonna impact the clickthrough rates?”
He also brought up the idea of having to earn the click and that users don’t read, but scan search engine results (he even cited eye tracking studies that found this to be the case).
Which, one would think, are all very fair and valid points.
Well, these ex-Googlers didn’t think so.
One got pissed off. So pissed off that he said Clark “was just a spammer.” Then this holier-than-thou ex-Googler told Clark he wasn’t going to talk to him anymore and hung up in a fit of rage.
Jeez. Some people just can’t handle the truth.
Anyhoo, title tags are just a tiny piece of what will get your site ranking for a given set of keywords. But they are worth some attention and worth doing right.
We recommend taking the approach outlined here for your title tags.
Don’t keyword stuff and put half a dozen variations of the same keyword in the title tag. Just take 2 or 3 different keywords, separate them with a | and call it a day.
It makes Google’s algorithm happy. It makes people scanning the search results happy.
And, if it pisses off any ex-Googlers, well, that’s just a bonus 😉