Title Tags and More: SEO for Small Business


The topic of this week’s SEO for Small Business series is discussing some of the ways you can optimize your web pages to increase their impact with  the search engines. Specifically, I will be talking about title tags and meta descriptions. What they are, why they are so important, and how to write effective ones that draw your reader in, boost your rankings in the search engines and get you more traffic.

Title Tags

What are Title Tags?

Title tags, also called title elements, are one of the more important on-page SEO optimization factors. They are quite simple, very important, and one of the most cost effective things to optimize on any site. As such you can find a ton of great resources out there if you do a search for them, and I will include a couple that good ones that I found at the end of this post. They are just what they sound like, the title for your webpage or blog post. The title element can be assigned/changed using the < title > html code or with various plug-ins and shortcuts depending on the CMS (content management system) you are using. For WordPress, one of the more popular CMS out there, I recommend using Yoast’s SEO plugin. It allows you to easily change the title element and has a whole bunch of other useful tools that allow you to analyze your copy for some SEO best practices like keyword density.

an example of the title tag element

A sample title tag

 

Title tags show up in three important places.  The first is on top of a browser window and/or tab, depending on your browser of choice.  The second is in the search engine results. Lastly, they are often used for the anchor text of a link from an external website.

 

Why Are Title Tags Important?

Title tags are important to both the user experience and to the search engines, who aim to make their search results more relevant for its users. They are one of the best places to optimize your page for your desired keywords, after the page content itself. Each page on your website should have its own separate and unique title. Title tags are also the first thing a searcher scans over when they see your listing in front of them. As such you want to make sure you have a title that will grab the reader’s attention. Think of it like a hook that will get the reader to read the rest of your search result, or, better yet, get them to click-through to your website.

 

How to Write a Good Title Tag

Search engines limit titles to 70 visible characters and that is the maximum length you should shoot for.  I would aim for 65 characters, just to be safe. A title should contain one or two descriptive keywords or keyword phrases and your company name or brand. If you are a small business that serves a specific geographic location then you should include that location in the title as well.

The beginning of you title is going to have the highest impact with your readers so write your title accordingly. For small businesses that are not widely known I would put the keywords and location first then follow with your company name. For larger, more well-known businesses it might sense to have your business name or brand first then followed by your keyword phrases.

You have to balance search engine keywords with the readability of the title. You do not want to keyword stuff your title, make sure it makes sense! While a title can certainly affect your rankings in the search engines, it should also grab the reader and make them want to read more. If you rank high for your keywords, but your title doesn’t properly entice the reader then you are losing valuable traffic. Remember: each page on your website should have its own unique title tag!

Two examples of good title tags

The two results pictured above both have good title tags (and I’m not just saying that because they are for coffee shops, one of my fav places). The first title includes the company name “Caffe Fiore,” followed by a keyword phrase, “Organic Coffee Shop,” and followed up with location the business serves “Seattle USA.”  All three elements required for an effective title tag. The second title demonstrates another take on it, with a more natural looking prose. It still contains the company name first and what looks like a tagline with some keywords. There is no location mentioned in the second title, but there is also no more room for it without first getting rid of the established tagline. This is perfectly reasonable, although it might be worth testing a second title tag to find out which copy converts best.

Example of a poorly written Title tag

This search result is a prime example of a default title tag with no optimization.

a non-optimized title tag

a non-optimized title tag

Why is this a poor title?

  • This is an example of an un-optimized title. It is displaying a default title of “pagename” |”website name”. If you are going to go default page titles (not recommended) at least come up with more descriptive page names.  Common pages like Home, Contact, Services, could be talking about any company. In this example they should have renamed their homepage to something that tells the reader, and the search engines more, like “Seattle Coffee Shop.”
  • They didn’t use the full 70 characters allotted for the title. You don’t always have to use the full allotment, but because of the impact the title has on your rankings and conversions you want to have a good reason for not doing so.
  • Where is the hook? Why would I want to read more or click-through to the website? “Home” tells me nothing about what they are selling, or who they are, and it is a wasted opportunity.

 

Meta Descriptions

The other element we are going to look at today is the Meta Description tag. This refers to the text underneath the title tag in a search result. You want to think about the same things with your meta descriptions as you did when you wrote your title tags except this time your main concern is with the readability and relevance to your readers and you now have 140 characters to do it.

 

a sample of a meta description

a sample meta description

I would include a concise descriptive sentence that tells the reader what they will find if they click on your listing. Think of it as a mini advertisement for your webpage.  Including your phone number for a local business can be a good idea, if you have the space, as it makes that much easier for them to get a hold of you. Make sure you have a unique meta description for each page, and try to include an appropriate keyword or keyword phrase in your copy.

More resources on Title tags:

A good write up on Title tags by SEOmoz

An awesome list of guidelines about writing good title tags

A slightly dated but still very relevant video with Matt Cutts explaining all about title tags and meta descriptions

 

In Summary

Title tags and meta descriptions are super important elements that are easily optimized for both the search engines and your potential customers. If you have not optimized your site yet, put the task on the top of your list. Here are some of the essential points distilled down:

  • each page should have its own unique title and description
  • remember to include business name, relevant keywords, and location (if you serve a local area) in your title tags. I would list them in order of importance for your readers
  • Make it readable: write both elements with the end user in mind. You want to try in pull the reader in with your copy, not annoy them with four different iterations of the same keyword
  • experiment to find out what works
  • no spelling errors

 

Please let me know if you liked the article. If you think I got it right or missed something let me know in the comments!  If you would like some help optimizing the title tags and meta descriptions for your website you can contact me for more information. Cheers!

 

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Website Basics: Seo for Small Business

Seo for small business website basics

Last week I talked about getting your website set up from scratch. In this installment of my SEO for Small Business series I will go over some of the basic pages you should have on your website. Next week I will discuss some basic search engine optimization (SEO) best practices and go over some key services you would be crazy not to sign up for.

Basic Website Layout

You should think of your website as your virtual storefront, and you want to make sure it represents your business and products accurately. You don’t want visitors to your website to be confused about the products you sell, how they can contact you..etc, you want to be very clear on what you want them to do every step along the way. As such there are some key sections that every website should have, no matter what kind of business you are in.

 

Homepage

This is your main landing page where visitors will most likely visit first. You want to sure you include who you are (business name), what you do (products or services you sell), where you do it (address and service area, if appropriate), when you do it (hours of operation), and why you are the best choice for the services you are selling. Keep the description concise and to the point. Your visitors can always move on to other areas of the site for more information. Also include your full phone number, email, and address. Your design should be clean and simple (opinions can vary on this). You don’t want to overwhelm new visitors with a slew of links and images.

It is important for local businesses serving a geographic area to include their name, address and phone number (NAP, also called “citations” by some) on all web pages, not just the homepage. This has a small SEO effect on your listing. Google gives more authority to businesses with more citations (one of hundreds of factors evaluated in their search algorithms). This also helps your readers contact you no matter where on your site they might be.

Finally, you want to include a strong “call to action” somewhere prominently on the page. This can be range from a bold statement telling your visitor to “CALL NOW!” to a contact form people can fill out for more information. If a visitor goes to your site ready to buy your product you don’t want to make them look around to find out how to buy. Make it clear from the get go what you want them to do.

Services/Product Page(s)

This section should have detailed information about the products or services you sell. I would include information about each of your products/services. The more intangible the service or product usually the more information about it you should have. Include pictures of the products or finished projects, if appropriate. As they say “a picture (make sure it’s good) is worth a 1000 words and can go a long way in selling your products. If you are selling a product make sure to clearly state the benefit of your product and/or services. Testimonials can be a useful addition to this section of your site as well. People respond well to positive reviews and feedback from past customers.  It is best to  pretend that a visitor doesn’t know anything about you or your business and include all the information you think they will need to make an educated purchasing decision. Finally, each of your product or service pages should end with a strong call to action.

About

This section is all about your business. Include a thorough explanation of who you are, what you do, and why people should buy from you. This is the place to include anything you left out from the homepage about your company. It is a good idea to include a photo of the owner or group shot of all the employees. This builds trust and helps people form a connection with your company. Depending on the size of the company a little extra personal details or bio info can also be helpful in building relationships with your visitors.

Contact

This page is all about how you want people to connect with you. It should have your address, phone number, fax, email addresses, and any other details that might help people connect with you. If you are running a storefront directions from several main directions can be helpful. You can also insert an interactive Google Map with your business location, if you want. Adding a contact form is a nice easy way to help potential customers connect with you, just be sure to add a privacy policy if you are collecting any type of personal information on your site (here is a free privacy policy generator).

Coupon or Offer Page

Including an offer or small discount for new customers can both help make sales and is very useful for tracking how many referrals are coming from your website. A useful metric when evaluating your marketing budget (more on that in a later post).

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions or comments on anything I mentioned above please post them below. If you want to contact me about helping you set up your site, or with any of the other services I offer please don’t hesitate to contact me

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Getting Online: SEO for Small Business

Getting online: Seo for Small Business SeriesThe purpose of this post is to provide some basic instruction on how to get started with promoting your business on the web, specifically getting your business online. This information is designed for those just getting started out online and is intended more for small businesses without the budget, and/or need, for complex SEO ( search engine optimization ) campaigns that could cost upwards of many thousands of dollars per month.

Why should you care?

Local search is important! No matter what kind of business you run Lets face it: if your business is not well established online, then you are losing business to your competitors that are. Some telling statistics:

  • 97% of consumers searched for local businesses online!
  • 20% of all search is Local (i.e. for a local business or service)
  • Google now averages over 1 billion searches a day!
People are searching for your business everyday. The only question is: are they finding you, or are they finding your competitors? This guide is designed to get you started in establishing your online presence and may contain a few steps that might be redundant depending on how much has been done already. Feel free to skip ahead if you have already done some of these things.

Getting Online: Setting up your Business Website

So if you are totally new to the scene and have not set up a business website yet, don’t panic! You have come to the right place. I will walk you through what you need to do to get set up and rocking in no time.

Registering a Domain Name

First thing first. You have to pick out a domain name for your website. Think of a domain name as your business name specific for the web. Ideally, you will be able to grab a domain name of your business name, but this is not always possible, especially for more common business names. You can search for and register domains names from a multitude of companies, some of the bigger ones include: godaddy.com, register.com, and networksolutions.com. I don’t have much of a preference, although prices will likely vary from one company to the next.  Pick a domain name you are comfortable keeping around for some time. It generally isn’t the best idea from a SEO standpoint to change domain names if you can help it. Nowadays domains come in a variety of flavors like; .biz, .us, .co, .net, .me, but .com is still the most common and grab one of those if you can. Once you have a name picked out register it for several years and make sure it is set to auto-register. You don’t want to lose it down the road if your email address ever changes. Also be sure that it is registered to the company and not to an employee. You don’t want to have to try and get it switched to your name years after the employee who set it up has left, especially if it wasn’t on the best of  terms.

Find a Hosting Company

Now that you have your domain name you need to find a host it. Following the metaphor above you can think of a host as the piece of property you will be running your business out of.  There are a ton of good hosts out there. At this point if you are new to this stuff I would probably just register your domain with the registrar you bought your name from. This saves several steps. If you want to host your site elsewhere you can Google tons of helpful guides and videos explaining the process of transferring your new domain name to your host. The hosting site will likely have some good FAQs explaining the process as well.

Set up your Branded Email Address

setting up your emailMost hosts will come with at least one free email account. You will want to set this up as yourname@yourdomain.com. It looks more professional then using a gmail or hotmail account. Then you should set this up to forward to your preferred mail client.  You should be able to find instructions on how to do this on your hosting site.

Creating your Website

So you have a domain name and a host now you need to put something there. Think of a website as the actual physical building on the hosting property. I would suggest hiring a web developer to create a nice design for your website. Your website is going to be the first thing your online visitors see and you don’t want to create a poor impression. Like it or not, if your website is sloppy, unorganized, or tacky people will assume that it reflects on your business.  If you are going to attempt it yourself then going with a content management system like WordPress, 100% free, is a good call. Pick a good theme, and remember to keep things simple. Using actual pictures is always a good idea – just remember to re-size them for web viewing. There are lots of tools and programs out there that can do this. Dynamic Drive has a great web tool for re-sizing images. If you are a WordPress user you can use a great plug-in called WP Smushit that will optimize pictures on the fly as you upload them.

Congratulations, if you followed the steps above you are now on the web and ready for the next steps in growing your online presence. There is still much more to do, and if you already had a business website set you my next post will be where you will want to start reading. Next up, I will discuss some of the basic content you will want to have on your site, and some SEO best practices to implement on your new or existing website.

Did I miss something? Gloss over something in too little detail? Please let me know, your comments are always welcome!

If you would like some help with any of the steps mentioned above or getting your existing business website to rank higher please contact me.

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