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.