• http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    Nice title-tag article, Danny. Who is Gruber and what makes him an expert on titles?

    I also think that titles should be distinguishable, scannable, and look clickable (when they are used as a clickable element on a page, such as a SERP). Titles are a navigational element, too. See http://searchengineland.com/keywords-text-links-navigation-design-59144

    The brand or company name is not the only item that should be in an (X)HTML title tag on a home page. A lot of people search for the term “homepage” or “home page.” Sometimes a trademarked tagline is also good to put on a home page’s title tag. Or, if the tagline isn’t very descriptive of the site as a whole, a brief summary as to what users/searchers will find.

    Web pages aren’t the only “documents” that should have titles, BTW. But that might be lost on Gruber at this particular point. I wonder where his information source(s) about titles is.

  • http://javaunmoradi.com/blog Javaun Moradi

    Well said as usual Danny. I work at a media company and when I conduct training (often), I spend most of my time teaching the importance of good titles. Good titles are important *everywhere*, but they are especially important at media companies. Most websites have a different set of SEO challenges — notably they lack a lot of high value content upon which to build search authority. Most media companies have the opposite problem: they have tons of content and don’t spend the time to get the credit they deserve.

    I tell our writers and editors that if they want to control their own destiny (and everyone wants their work to be read), a good title is 80% of what *they* can do to help themselves in search. More importantly, it’s something that adds little to no time in their hectic day. The reality is that if an SEO change takes more than a few minutes, they’ll never do it for every one of the thousands of stories we write each month.

    Titles are the biggest single on-page component they can influence for SEO as well as for other vehicles like viral news sites (Digg, Reddit, etc.) and social media (FB, Twitter). This is a crucial understanding, because it’s impossible to quantify the traffic you may lose in social media when you use bland or keyword stuffed titles to strictly appeal to search engines.

    Above all, I tell them to write great titles that work for humans and that stand on their own. In the fragmented and syndicated world wide web, the title may be all that a person sees when deciding what to click. If titles don’t stand on their own, they don’t work for search, news sites, social media, or even email links.

    I showed everyone how search engines work, showed them some tactics they can use in titles, from pure keyword relevance to subtle keyword mention to no title SEO at all. Each story has a different appeal, and I want the writers and homepage editors to understand the tools and nuance at their disposal. Ultimately, I think SEO is just another (beautiful) part of the craft of online writing. A good writer can almost always have it all in a title, including: compelling (even snarky) human appeal, good SEO relevance, and clear and literal communication of the story subject matter.

    Finally, one word on the NY Times use of an alternate on screen headline and HTML Title (the blue browser frame title). We have this same capability, and it gives us a lot of flexibility. They don’t like on screen headlines to wrap to two lines, so they sometimes have to omit key words on screen, but the optional second field for HTML title let’s them include the full title. Editorial loves this because the HTML Title (as you mention) goes not only to Google but also Facebook and other external sites, where it may not have the same context as say the NPR Movie Reviews page. They can sneak in a few extra words in the external title to make it clear that their story is a movie review . But on NPR.org, they can be less literal in the on screen headline, since our site will give added context. So the second title actually gives them more editorial freedom on sight and more flexibility off. I do caution them to make sure the on screen headline and HTML Title aren’t too different, because it risks exactly what that NY TImes story above shows: the two titles seem like different stories. If I read part of that story and then came back to try to find it in Google, I probably wouldn’t click on it because the HTML Title would be so different from what I remembered seeing on the page. Just my .02.

    Great article. Clearly, you’ve hit a nerve as this is something I really believe in and preach.

    Javaun (Search guy at NPR).

  • http://rosmarin-search-marketing.com Myron Rosmarin

    For a search result to be “highly clickable,” it must quickly communicate relevance and credibility. A title tag is an excellent opportunity to do that. That is why I support the “headline – site name” structure. The headline can quickly tell the searcher “this is what you’re looking for” while the site name can communicate “this is a site you trust and respect.”

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    Hm. All poor Mr. Gruber seeks is “a tall ship and a star to steer her by”. That is, he wants people to create title tags that make sensible bookmarks.

    I do often find myself editing my bookmarks to make my title tags more sensible.

    Google’s reliance upon title tags for relevance scoring is no more sensible than asking that girl scouts raise money by selling cookies. It’s a signal that can be ignored or used at a search engine’s discretion, but it should be mistaken for a standard or even a best practice.

    In an indexable Web that supposedly uses 100s of factors, people should not be admonished for using titles that do (or do not) conform to any one person’s expectations of what is best for Google.

    Mr. Gruber seems to look down his nose at some of the SEO techniques that major news organizations are applying. Frankly, after scanning some of the bad examples he plucked out of the SERPs, I should say he needs a longer nose — some of the news organizations DO practice atrocious SEO titling..

    But then, that’s just my opinion.

    And in an industry where there are no standards, no one’s opinion matters more or less than anyone else’s.

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    WROTE: “but it should be mistaken for a standard or even a best practice”

    MEANT TO WRITE: “but it should NOT be mistaken for a standard or even a best practice”

  • http://zerman.net/content.html michaelzed

    “It’s not about him, or me or you. Or about bookmarks. It’s about many, if not all, English language users.”

    Earlier today a colleague in New Mexico wrote and asked my opinion of Gruber’s piece. And then a while later the SELand daily feed arrived with Danny’s response. Ta.

    >I just thought you would naturally have a reaction to the SEO stuff.

    I do.

    It’s not about him, or me or you. Or about bookmarks. It’s about many, if not all, English language users.

    1. The two biggest uses of the web are for search and email, not bookmarks.

    2. Typography and proofreading considerations (em dashes, double colons, etc) are perfectly fine and important in long-form (or even short form) writing/journalism. They are much less important in the world of website tile tags and SEOness, unless they impede the reading.

    3. Different people read … anything, everything … very differently, and his concerns are unique to … his concerns.

    4. “Even worse, from an SEO perspective, is that Google, and all other major search engines, use web page titles as the name for pages in search results.”

    This is a crap response, from someone who should know better as I presume he’s a longstanding user of databases and info searches – two years at BareBones, I note, plus science at uni. It’s called “metadata” and it was called that well before wubbleU, wubbleU, wubbleU and that’s how folk interrogated private datasources.

    5. As to bookmarks, use them if you like, but don’t expect the world of date retrieval and info-finding to accede to one’s (JG) wish as a very personal and idiosyncratic use of datamining techniques.

    6. His statement “Write them for humans, not search engine spiders.” presupposes every writer of metadata has a similar idea/perception of how people search and find – absolutely not true.

    7. As to large newssites having fairly crappy metadata, I have no argument, generally.

    8. “It’s the user(s) stoopid”, and they’re not all the same as him (JG), me or you and nor do they want the same setup as me or you or him or whomsoever.

    My main concern is “task completion” for users, viewers, readers and he offers a very specific idea of how the web is used by “everyone” ie me, JG.

    [See, as an alternative view about web useage, Gerry McGovern’s “The Stranger’s Long Neck”, a response, inter alia, to Chris Anderson’s Long Tailism, chapter one at:


    McGovern bio at:


    Gruber’s piece is not very useful John, IMHO.


    Michael Z

  • John Elcock

    Spot on advice Danny and love the final piece of insight! For Google, meta titles are clearly important for ranking specific phrases against individual pages. In a crowded SERP we also use a crafted title and description to help users differentiate our sites from more generic direct news or local listings sites that can clutter p1. This is the user focus that Javaun also talks about and I guess is a traffic rather than ranking factor.

  • http://www.onlinesales.co.uk/ Liam Delahunty

    Some time ago I wrote a bookmarklet ( http://www.onlinesales.co.uk/seo-bookmarklet/ – the JS itself is here: http://www.onlinesales.co.uk/seo/bookmarklet/seo-bookmarklet.php ) that can be used to help with tuning titles / headings.

  • http://www.visionefx.net Rick Vidallon

    Glad to see you mentioned branding in meta titles. I like to call this on-page visual branding. Forming your title tag in this way helps to call more attention to your website listing within the search page itself. This helps you to stand out in the crowd.

  • PIXELTechnologies

    I know this is not the good post, but the other post is comment locked, I would like to mention that Bill Gates Blog listened to your post and are now #1 on Google. Good job again!

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    “I know this is not the good post, but the other post is comment locked, I would like to mention that Bill Gates Blog listened to your post and are now #1 on Google. Good job again!”

    Except the blog is still not ranking well for the much more highly trafficked term “bill gates”, where it SHOULD have been positioned instead of for “bill gates blog”/ Danny’s advice to Bill Gates was a major SEO fail in that respect.

  • http://www.alwaysonmessage.com/ Gids

    I’ve asked this question on LI but haven’t had a conclusive answer – I think I probably asked it of the wrong crowd!
    Danny, I hope you don’t mind me asking it here…
    Given that all three terms are in the correct order, which do people think is a better title tag:
    A) Office Design | Office Furniture | Office Interiors
    B) Office Design, Furniture & Interiors
    i.e. does exact match trump having two less words or vice versa?

  • http://www.adamsofineti.com Ádám Sofineti

    I really liked the way you compared a page title to a book title. Just as a good title will influence the position of that page on Google, the same way as in a bookstore, you might end up getting a click from a visitor who’e yes were caught by the title.

  • http://This1That1Whatever.com/ David Wong

    I understand that superfluous words in the title can garner dilution penalty from Google. i.e. better to have fewer keywords that are to the point. For my website, I make the title short and succinct but with enough to tell the user what the page is mainly about.

  • http://www.gearyseo.com Ramsay Crooks

    SEO title tags are imperative for search and not only help the search engine rank pages, but also allow users to navigate to what type of information they are looking for. To back up the guidelines from Google, they also report duplicate title tags as errors in their Webmaster Tools crawl. I don’t think they’d consider it an error to have dupe title tags on your site unless they considered them relatively important. And most of us know that adjustments to authoritative pages’ titles can have a significant impact on rankings. I don’t know about John Gruber, but title tags to me, serve as one of the best on page opportunities to help rankings, though, the purpose is a bit defeated when people skew their tag with irrelevant keywords. When you have a bit more room in the tag and it won’t cannibalize keyword optimization, it’s always fun to attempt to make that title more readable and enticing when a spark of “literary brilliance” presents itself to you.

  • http://www.trafficnymphomaniac.com/weekly_traffic_and_income_secrets2.php Robert A. Kearse

    Great article Danny:

    Since Google uses the title tag for its search engine listings
    it is highly beneficial to follow this formula for tile tags:

    Start with KEYWORD — end with BENEFIT

    Obviosly, the keyword at the sart helps with search engine
    ranking, but the BENEFIT will motivate the searcher to
    clcik through to your site.

  • http://MSprague.com Mark Sprague

    The importance of the TITLE in search relevancy has not changed since the 60’s. There is not a search engine on this planet, regardless if it is web-based or enterprise-based that does not use the title of a document or webpage as a strong indicator of relevance.

    If you as a business owner are in the market for SEO expertise, I suggest that you take a little time, and read up on how search engines really work (start with TF/IDF) – you will find that this self education will allow you to more effectively deal with ambiguous SEO advice.

    Mark Sprague

  • alexbotkin

    I’m chief cook and bottlewasher for a very small site in a competitive online retail market – Woodworking. We have a fraction .009 of the leader unique visitors based on Doubleclick/Google data, but we are currently 12th (SEOChecker http://www.seocentro.com ) for a keyword that is important to us. I believe this is primarily because it is part of our title, and the three-word phrase is repeated in whole and in parts in other areas of the text on the homepage.

    Before I re-worked the homepage we were in the 30’s in rank.

    Trust me it isn’t because of our looks.

    However, on Google/Yahoo we don’t even rank. Not sure what to do about it.


  • http://www.facebook.com/GuruShowStoper Dabbang Guru

    one more best website for seo tutorials