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There are plenty of SEO sites out there with tips claiming that they can make traffic fall from the heavens onto your site. The problem is, most of them won’t, or at least they won’t without putting in enormous amounts of effort. That, or you’ll need an incredible amount of time or development skill and most small business owners simply don’t have that. So while I’m not going to claim that these tips are going to set the world on fire, they will help increase your rankings and should bring you in a bit more traffic. This is the first in a series.
Get your title tags right
What’s a title tag? Well, you’ll notice it in two places. In the tabs on your browser:
Title tags also show up as the clickable link in Google search results:
Putting your target keywords in your title tags will definitely help you rank out for that keyword. Try Googling “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” and guess who comes up first? Exactly.
That said, ESPN has a lot of things going for them to help them rank out that you don’t have. So you need to be smart with your title tags, and realistic with your expectations. Here are some fundamental rules with title tags.
1.) Every page should have a unique title tag
Go through with your browser and check your pages, if they all say the same thing, that’s not good at all. That’s telling Google every page has the same title, which leads Google to think every page is about the same thing.
2.) Keep it under 70 characters
Google cuts off the text in their search results after 65 or 70 characters depending on their whim, so if the user can’t see it, Google likely doesn’t care if you have another paragraph of stuff after that.
3.) Use keywords, but also target users
If you’re a landscaping company whose major services are lawn mowing and landscaping a good title for your home page should focus on those main services, so you might try something like “Landscaping & Lawn Mowing Services Akron, OH | Ed’s Landscaping”. Things to note here:
• With spaces we’re at 63 characters, so that’s good.
• We’ve included the area we service – as a small local company we’re never going to rank out for the term “landscaping services” on a national level, nor would we want to because we can’t service those people anyhow. Do you want to be getting phone calls from Idaho all day?
• The main service keywords are at the beginning of the title, not the company name. Starting with your keywords suggests importance to Google, so while not everyone knows Ed’s Landscaping, they do know to search for the service they need. Chances are, there aren’t a lot of Ed’s Landscaping in Akron either, so by including that at the end of your titles you’ll still likely rank out first for your name when someone searches for you.
• The title is readable. Tell me you haven’t seen a search result in Google that looks like this “Best Shaver Cheap Shavers Shaver Discount Sale Shaver”. Full of keywords, yes. Does that instill any confidence that the page will have good information on it? No. Walk the line between using keywords for search engines and still looking good to the person using the search engine…and always lean slightly towards the person.
The really important thing to remember here is to be realistic. Do some searches for the keywords you want to rank out for. If every listing on the first page is a national name that you recognize and you’re just a small online store – you’re likely not going to compete. So if you’re an online store selling sporting goods, rather than going after a term like “Sporting Goods Store” in your home page title, how about something a little more obscure like “Discount Sports Equipment”.
Yes, both are pretty competitive, but you can do some research on the Google Keyword Tool to get some idea of how often these get searched (pro tip: for organic search, you’ll get better estimates selecting the [Exact] box in the left column). If you run the terms I just mentioned, you’ll see that “sporting goods store” gets 2,400 searches a month (or they did in October at least). At the same time, “discount sports equipment” gets only 320.
If you do a search on Google for each you’ll see a lot of familiar big names. The first two pages of results I see for “sporting goods store” are nothing but big names (aside from the local results). You’ll also notice those keywords are bolded in the titles, and they almost all contain each word – sporting – goods – store. If you do a search for “discount sports equipment” you’ll see a lot less bolded terms and lesser known retailers on the first page. For example, I’ve never even heard of Cannon Sports, yet they’re on the bottom of the first page.
This, friends, is opportunity.
Category and product page strategy
The same basic rules apply as you get down deeper into your site. Using our sporting goods example, it’s unlikely you can beat well known niche stores like Golf Galaxy by making your title tag for your golf products page “Golf Equipment | Adam’s Sporting Goods”. Again, you’ll want to target something smaller and more attainable like “Buy Golf Gear Online”, and if you have room you can try to target two phrases. So if you can try to get two at once, try something like “Buy Golf Gear Online | Deals On Golf Clubs | Adam’s Sporting Goods”. This is 66 characters with spaces and covers a lot of keywords in the title.
You’ll notice I like to use the pipe, or “|” character to separate elements of the title. This is a personal preference, but I do think it makes for a clean look when it shows up in search results. I also like to try to keep the brand name for online stores consistent on all the pages, as over time it gets the name of your store in front of a lot of eyeballs as your search rankings grow and the more people that start searching for you by name, the less competition you’ll be dealing with. Not everyone chooses to go down this road instead opting to use as much of those 65-70 characters as possible for keywords. This approach is just my personal preference.
For product level pages, you can’t really get that strategic. It’s VERY hard to outrank the big guys at this level. If someone is searching for a “Callaway Big Bertha War Bird 5 Wood” the other factors relating to search are probably going to have the big guys (as well as golf review sites) outpacing you every step of the way.
Some tricks I like to try with smaller upstart stores, though, is to add some subtle details to the title that other stores may not, like the model number and year. So rather than just use a title of “Callaway Big Bertha War Bird 5 Wood | Adam’s Sporting Goods”, I might ditch my brand name and add those details to the front of my title. So something like “2008 RCH 96 Graphite Callaway Big Bertha War Bird 5 Wood” might be able to land me some traffic for those people who toss those details into search. Will this result in a ton of extra traffic? No. Will it give you an uptick in traffic of people doing highly specific searches that are likely to buy? Yes.
As a little guy competing on the big web, every little bit helps. And that’s what this series is designed to help you with. I’ll be back soon with round 2.
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