A Quick Lesson in Title Tag Optimization

By Bryson Meunier, SEO Supervisor

Sometimes big gains in SEO can be had from small changes. Today I’m going to show how a few minutes of edits to a page’s title tag can vastly improve even an optimized page.

The example comes from, of all places, a Search Engine Watch SEW Experts column published last week. It’s a fine article by a SEW columnist on the hot topic of marketing to Millennials online, but it’s unlikely that searchers looking for information on marketing to Millennials online will ever find it.

It’s not because of the page template. This being Search Engine Watch—a well known industry publication started by Danny Sullivan and continued by some of the brightest search marketing minds in the industry—the page itself would be optimized if the right words were chosen. The headline of the article is repeated in the title tag, the bread crumb trail, and in the header of the article. The problem is, the right words weren’t chosen. And in SEO, even a few small words can make a big difference.

Search Engine Watch Column

Click the image for larger view

The title in question, “Avoiding Online Missteps with Generation Y and Millenniums” is not a bad title. It does contain the relevant keywords “generation y” and “generation y online”, which are both high volume keywords and descriptive of the content in the article. While it’s not a bad title, it could still be made better (and more relevant to more targeted phrases) with only a few changes.

All title tag optimization should start with keyword research, to determine the best keywords to use in the title. A variety of tools can be used, but in this case we will use Google Insights for Search for its ability to present fast, relatively accurate data about Google search volume.

Putting the maximum five of the relevant keywords into the tool, we can quickly see the difference in search volume between them.

Google Insights for Search

Google Trends

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This graph immediately tells us two things:
1) “Generation Y” and its variant “gen y” has more search volume than “millenniums”
2) “Millenniums” has hardly any search volume, and isn’t used nearly as much as the similar “millennials” when used to describe this younger generation the article describes.

Edit 1: Change the low volume keyword “millenniums” to the high volume keyword “millennials”

New Title: Avoiding Online Missteps with Generation Y and Millennials

Making this simple change more than doubles the number of high volume keywords this title is relevant for.

Targeted phrases before:
Generation y online
Online generation y
Generation Y

Targeted phrases after:
Millennials online
Generation y online
Online generation y
Online millennials
Generation Y
Millennials Generation
Generation Y Millennials

If you’d like, you could stop editing there. There’s a quote about art that can be applied to title tags as well that is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci or Edgar Degas, depending on the source: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” You could continue editing title tags as long as you like, depending on how descriptive or artistic you want to be with your titles. The important thing is to write them in a way that includes high volume keywords that are relevant to the subject of the page, is grammatical and compelling, and is attainable given the page’s link popularity and the competitiveness of the search results. If I were editing this for a client, I might make three more edits.

First, what’s the difference between generation Y and millennials? Since I’m not a sociologist, I turn to Google for answers. A quick Google search on Millennials brings up a Wikipedia page on Generation Y in the first listing, which says that Generation Y and Millennials are synonyms, sourced by a Washington Post article on Generation Y.

Edit 2: Eliminate the stop word, “and”, as Millennials are not a separate group from Generation Y, but a part of the group Generation Y.

New Title: Avoiding Online Missteps with Generation Y Millennials

Next, looking at the list of keywords this title is relevant for, I don’t see anything about marketing to this particular group. Given that this article is specifically about marketing to millennials, and marketing and variations of it are frequently entered in search boxes when looking for marketing content, we might add the keyword “marketing” into the title. This serves to make the title more competitive for extremely relevant niche phrases with less search volume like “generation y marketing” while only adding one word to the title.

Edit 3: Add popular keyword “marketing” to increase relevance and reach.

New Title: Avoiding Online Marketing Missteps with Generation Y Millennials

If we want to make the title as search-friendly as possible, we might eliminate all words in the title that aren’t used in popular phrases (i.e. “avoiding” and “missteps”). This way every word used in the title contributes in some way to helping the article get found. If the editor had other reasons for including those words in the title, these should be considered along with search; but if there were no other considerations, the title could be made stronger in natural search by rephrasing it to make it as keyword-rich and efficient as possible.

Edit 4: Eliminate the words in the sentence that aren’t both relevant to the article and popular keyword phrases. Rewrite with popular, relevant phrases.

New Title: Tips for Marketing to Millennials of Generation Y Online

As you can see, SEO does not always need to be a long drawn-out process. In the 10 minutes you wasted trying to figure out TwitterFone today, you could have optimized your title tags and positioned yourself for improved natural search rankings.


Anonymous said...

I like your suggested changes to the title, but if I had to guess, I'd say the word "Milleniums" was a typo that was changed during spellcheck, then not caught before publishing. I don't know anyone who calls Millenials (people born around the turn of the millenium) Milleniums (plural of a thousand years).

Bryson said...

Might have been a typo, yes. However, given that this is Search Engine Watch, and they know that the title tag is one of the most important on-page factors in SEO, I wanted to give their copyeditors the benefit of the doubt. I don't know anyone who calls millennials millenniums either, but there was at least one copyeditor on staff who was confused enough to let it slide. Regardless, it's better to change the title to the proper (and therefore higher search volume) phrase. Thanks for your comments.

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