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A Scientific Approach to Writing Page Titles

This guest post is by Alex of Think Traffic.

We all know how important page titles are for SEO and just the general success of our blogs and websites, don’t we? Well we are told often enough, so we certainly should… But how many people actually give page titles the amount of attention they actually deserve?

Most clever bloggers spend a little thought on each page title—they think carefully about how to word it in such a way as to get both the search engines and the potential readers to pay attention. But let’s face it, if this is your method, all you are really doing is typing something that “sounds good.”

Today I am proposing a slightly more scientific approach to page titles.

Step 1: Keywords

Any diligent blogger will already have some vague keywords in mind for their post—if you want to get some nice natural organic traffic, you will need to rank. So decide on your phrase and obviously make sure it is getting some searches.

I would recommend just one phrase per post. By the very nature of blogging you will be writing more posts soon, so there really isn’t any need to cram in more than one key phrase. Also, the extra flexibility will allow you to write a better title.

Also, make sure your phrase makes sense for a blog. Don’t bother optimizing your post for “electric showers” because if someone searches for that phrase, they are almost certainly looking for a retailer and not a blog post (try it: search for “electric showers” and see how many of the results are blog posts)> People searching on this phrase want to buy a shower, not read about it. A better phrase might be “how to buy an electric shower”—that’s a much better fit for a blog.

Step 2: Look at competitors’ titles

The great thing about Google is that they will show you what works best before you even start. So the next thing to do is Google the phrase you want to rank for. In 0.003 seconds Google will conjure up a page full of sites which it has found to be relevant for that phrase.

It stands to reason that not only does Google consider these pages to have relevant titles, but these titles have proven to perform well in terms of clickthrough rates (since Google has recently admitted to using user behaviour as part of the ranking algorithm).

Look for words which are bolded and for any obvious phrases which come up more than once—the words in the phrase you searched for will be bolded of course, but so will any other words which Google thinks are closely related. Make a list of the phrases Google likes most and consider using these in your title.

So, going back to our example, if I Google “how to buy an electric shower,” I see keywords like “buying showers, buying a shower, mixer showers.” I also notice the title:

Electric showers: the basics – How to buy an electric shower – Bathroom & personal care – Which? Home & garden

This looks like a reasonable title, but it is way too long. This might be a good basic format to work from though.

Step 3: Look at competitors’ posts

Hopefully at least a few of the results will be blog posts. If you find that all of the results for your phrase are other types of sites you might want to reconsider your target phrase. Is this a sign that Google doesn’t think a blog is the right sort of site for this phrase? Maybe, maybe not. Think carefully.

In this case, I notice that for “how to buy an electric shower” the top two results are how-to style posts and so is one of the lower results, but all of the others are commercial sites. This makes me think that Google wants more blog style posts, but perhaps there aren’t enough good ones—definitely a gap to fill!

Assuming you find some blog posts, read them. Firstly, they will give you some ideas that could make your post even better. Secondly, you are looking to check that these posts are similar to yours (but hopefully not as good).

This stage is all about understanding what Google thinks is relevant for the target phrase; if your article is a lot different than the prevailing content, then consider which of the following is true:

  • Your post offers a new insight or angle that hasn’t been covered before (great, keep up the good work).
  • Your post isn’t really about the same thing as these posts (again, consider whether you are targeting the right phrase).

After a snoop around the top results I find that the number one post is actually just an intro which leads to a four-part post about buying a shower (the second result is one of these parts, too). There is a lot of good info here, but you could certainly improve upon it.

Additionally though, I suspect by splitting the post into four parts, the author is dividing their link juice. So if I can create one, long definitive post, it could do well here.

I also note that the other three parts of the post are: FAQ, features, and installation tips. These terms might also be helpful for building the title.

Step 4: Build a cracking page title

Okay, so you’re 100% confident that you have picked a highly relevant target phrase for your post, and you have a list of words that Google has told you it thinks are relevant to the chosen phrase…

Start by slotting your words together in the usual, obvious ways—ideally your target phrase should be the first word(s) in the page title, then follow up with some related words which add to the title.

Your page title doesn’t necessarily need to be written in full sentences because that isn’t what search engine users expect—make it concisem but not gibberish. The key is to catch users’ attention and convince them to click.

So let’s see what we get. I will start of course with our key phrase, and throw in a few extra words:

How To Buy An Electric Shower: The Basics, Features & Shower Installation Tips

I have included a few hooks that I liked from other titles and other posts, added the word “shower” for extra relevance, and of course my target phrase is the start of the title. I actually really like this, but unfortunately it is 78 characters long, so now comes the dilemma of which bit to trim. Remember, Google will only show 70 characters.

How To Buy An Electric Shower: Basics, Features & Shower Installation

69 characters! Okay, it’s not as good a title, but I am still pretty happy with that, and I now have some great ideas to go make my actual post even better. You may notice I have left out the word “mixer showers”—that’s because that is actually a different type of shower. However, I will probably at least mention them in the post and perhaps make my next post about them.

Step 5: Learn and improve

Writing a good title is more art than science. It is a skill. Hopefully the tips above will stop you from making blunders and point you in the right direction, but to be a real pro, you need to learn from past successes.

Once you have published a few posts and got some rankings, you can start to monitor your traffic. Set up your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools if you haven’t already, and each time you publish a new post go and check out your data.

In particular, look for posts which are ranking well and have good click through rates (Google gives you all the data if you make the effort to look). This will give you a great insight into which posts have a) ranked well and b) do a good job of catching users’ attention.

So hypothetically with my bathroom related blog I might have five posts which I know are popular, about baths, showers, tiling, and so on. I would look in my analytics (traffic sources, search engine optimization, and landing pages) and filter results so I just see blog posts (or just ignore the data from other pages).

Here is a hypothetical screenshot:

If this were my blog, I would notice for instance that posts 1 and 5 are both ranking position 5 on average, yet post 5 is getting 50% more clicks per 100 impressions. Post 4 is ranked second and only getting 6% CTR, which suggests the title needs some work, whereas post 3 is in position 9 and getting 5%—that’s not bad, so this post probably has a good title.

By regularly studying this data you can pick out your most successful page titles. You will soon start to get a feel for what is a good CTR and you will notice which posts and titles do best. You can then try to emulate past successes and improve upon poor performers. You will soon be an expert!

This article was written by Alex and the Gang from Think Traffic. The SEO agency who care about ROI and not just rankings for the sake of rankings.

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Comments

  1. Taline says:

    This is some great advice!!! I will definitely be using it. In terms of keyword research…what program do you recommend?

    I have used google Adwords but it seems to be limited in scope and off a bit. When it says “low competition” on a keyword, I then google it and see some top authority sites…?

    I used the trial version of market samurai and that seems more extensive. I have already paid for Thesis theme, host my site, etc…I really do not want to have to pay for another software program if I don’t need it.

    Any suggestions?

    • Alex says:

      Hi Taline

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I generally use the Adwords tools for search volumes (exact match). For assessing the competition I don’t really use any tools, I just do the search and spend some time looking at the competition itself.

      You can generally get a feel for how strong the competition is by looking at their SEO, titles etc… It’s more time consuming this way, but it’s the most accurate to do it because it gives you the opportunity to spot any weaknesses that you can exploit.

  2. AC says:

    I’ve never heard of “electric showers” before. I thought it was some fancy nightclub or maybe a rock band.

  3. Gaurang says:

    Really useful advice. Will implement from now onwards in selecting a killer post title and following the mentioned strategies.

  4. edo1493 says:

    Thanks, this will be helpful!
    I need to look up my competitors’ pages : ) .
    Plus I didn’t know that Google introduced the users’ behavior to rank pages.

  5. This is good advice for headlines, I really need to take more time to work on my headlines, it’s what convinces people to read the post.

  6. I always put attention on Post Titles but not enough in Page Titles…Good advice!

  7. I spent a few hours at the weekend going through Jon Morrow of Copyblogger’s free “52 headline hacks” – that certainly helps you cover number 4!

    I’m sure someone’s mentioned to me that I should look at competitors’ posts before, but in the context of looking at the content for ideas – not headlines! Great tip :)

  8. Thanks for the great advice and an affirming article. Its really very helpful.

  9. Matt says:

    Very helpful! For me, titles are the hardest and most important part. Half the time I don’t even give titles because I can’t think of one. This has given me a lot to think about. Thanks!

  10. Ferb says:

    Being a SEO examiner is really have to be failed to success. And got a lot of distracting stuff likes Ranking of everything is occasionally drop down and up. I like you advice about the page titles because they only allowed to display 70 characters at once in the Search Engine, so I think is really important to focus on the small thing in search engines to improve the blog. Your post is useful and giving us a straight point to focus on.

  11. kelli cooper says:

    Thanks for the information in this post. I found it really helpful. I started my blog a few months ago and really have just been kind of writing for fun but lately I notice I am getting a lot of search engine traffic from Google based on long tail keywords that match up to the title of my some of my posts. After seeing that, it is probably a good idea to start giving some more thought to my titles and crafting them based on search terms rather than just randomly naming them.

  12. Marcie says:

    I am going to start checking competitor titles and build those cracking pages. Those are areas in which I definitely need improvement. And who knew there was a “scientific approach” to writing page titles???

  13. Mike says:

    These are pretty good! I agree with some of the others here that I probably should be more focused on crafting some pretty good titles. It is a good thing though that you have to match the title to the content of the post, otherwise you tend to miss people and it can be a little unprofessional to some readers.

  14. Great advice. Titles are definitely something I need to work on. I must admit though, I am getting better! Its difficult sometimes to create a title that will draw readers in AND work for SEO purposes!

    Thanks again for the great read,
    Chris

  15. Sarah says:

    I had never thought about the names of my blog posts in relation to people searching for either blogs or products — great tip, thanks so much!

  16. Daniel says:

    Very helpful advice.

    One thing I find is that Google Analytics and Webmaster tools can provide an incredible amount of useful data. Even after using different non Google Analysis and Keyword tools, I still find myself going back over to Google’s very comprehensive programs, often to cross reference.

  17. Great Advice.

    Titles definitely enhances the article more user attractive and if you select the article using your criteria that helps a lot getting more traffic to your website or blog.

    I will work more on your tips. Thanks for sharing. Great Tips :)

  18. This is a great post. SEO marketing in always changing just as the internet is always changing. Although you can approach SEO with a well defined strategy the results are not always guaranteed. To be an excellent SEO marketer you must be willing to adapt your strategy on a monthly basis!

  19. rakesh kumar says:

    Though i have not met Neil Patel still i believe he is the master “How to write Great titles” That interest most readers. Your approach has given me that insight.

  20. I already recommend my friends to use brand keywords in page titles too to supplement the obvious generic keywords of course. Throwing that brand phrase at the end of the title on each page raises its prominence and is easily picked up by search engines.

  21. Very useful advice, titles are very important and if done wrong can lead to bad results.

  22. College of Content always recommends to its site users to create a keyword rich and relevant article title, when and submitting articles to the directory. Like you said, keywords play a very important factor “relevant keywords help better search engine indexing for particular niche” when creating and submitting content, whether it be a blog post, article or press release.over the course of time, a majority of folk improve in their writing skills, which is definitely a good thing for this search engine optimization efforts. Hopefully, in the years to come, a majority of folks on the Internet will become better in their writing, which will make the World Wide Web a more useful place for searching and finding information needed.

  23. Oh, man!!! o_O

    I want to kill myself. I’ve done all the steps except for the 2 and forgot to add something entertaining after writing a popular keyword. You, sir, are amazing! Thanks so much for “refreshing” my memory. :D

  24. Hi and thanks for sharing your knowledge about page titles, as this is a really important topic in the SEO world. I just read a SEO magazine article about Google changing the page title if they think the original title is not “good enough”. They said that Google would take any other info (couldn’t specify that exactly) for the page title. After reading this I checked some of my websites and reconigzed, that this was already true for some of my pages. For example, if you have many incoming links with a certain ankertext, they change the page title in the SERP to the ankertext. What do you think about that? I would be very interested in your opinion, as this Google behaviour will bring a major change to the way of writing “page titles that Google accepts”.

  25. These are some good tips to be mindful of. I especially appreciate the tip on doing a Google search to look at competitor titles first. It seems so obvious (i.e. what catches your own eye and compels you to click?) but the thought never crossed my mind…so thanks!

  26. Great post! All of the points are so important specially building Cracking Page that makes visitors get attracted. Thank you Alex for such a useful tips.

  27. Sarah says:

    Great job!!!Thanks a lot Alex to share such types of nice post.”Look at competitors’ titles” is really helpful for choosing my blog titles.

  28. Mary Hallman says:

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this!Yeah we should follow “A Scientific Approach to Writing Page Titles” Thanks a lot Alex.