Forming Good Title Tags for Local Businesses

If you’re looking for a quick improvement in your local business site’s rankings and don’t have a lot of time, you can’t go wrong with making some simple improvements to your homepage title tag. The text within the title tags is one of the top signals used by Google, Yahoo! and other search engines to […]

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If you’re looking for a quick improvement in your local business site’s rankings and don’t have a lot of time, you can’t go wrong with making some simple improvements to your homepage title tag. The text within the title tags is one of the top signals used by Google, Yahoo! and other search engines to decide what keywords are relevant to a page, and it’s also one of the most frequently neglected parts of a site design. If you have a good title tag, you can rank at the top of the search results for users seeking your business — and a bad title can leave you in the dark.

Below are a few details on how to make better titles and get your pages to rank higher.

Steve Espinosa also recently highlighted titles as a top factor for enabling sites to appear in the Google OneBox and Yahoo! Shortcut for local searches. As he states, using keywords in the title tag is very important. But, how should you choose the words you use and how should you assemble them for best effect?

It’s no accident that well-formulated title tags are simultaneously beneficial for good search engine rankings, usability, and branding. The search engines have evolved towards showing preference to titles which match more closely with what users are seeking, and if you engineer your title to coincide with common query formats, you’ll reap a whole lot more customer referrals.

Many web designers appear to consider the title to be only a minor part of a business’s overall branding, and will merely place the business’s name there, failing to consider the effect on search engine rankings. Common names which are used for names of businesses can unintentionally produce diluted relevancy, and failure to associate additional information such as types of business, names of products/services, and place names will result in a lot of lost opportunities.

A vague name like “J & J McDonalds Brothers” as a title could refer to doctors, lawyers, accountants, a furniture store, or virtually anything else. People searching online for the local “McDonald’s fast food” restaurant might get the McDonalds Brothers’ business included in their local search results if the search engines were unable to identify the type of business they are.

There are two main formats that searchers use when they’re trying to locate a local business — (1) search by business name + location name, and (2) search by business type + location name. (Now, users may well search by the business’s name only, leaving off the location name, for particularly unique company names. However, most local businesses have names that are not so unique, and they often don’t have so much name-brand recognition that they wouldn’t need additional business from people seeking their general type of company.)

Since users are most commonly seeking their business by biz name or biz category plus the locality, they need to incorporate all three of these factors in the title. Examples:

“Accountants: J & J McDonalds Brothers in Chicago”
“A French Restaurant: The Aubergine Soufflé, Miami, FL”
“Phil’s Gas Station, Muleshoe, Texas”

This title would more closely match user searches for “accountants in chicago” and “mcdonalds brothers in chicago”.

When settling upon what business type name to use, don’t just blindly go with what the company is listed under in traditional yellow pages categories, either. You need to use the words that people will be most typically typing into search engines. For instance, your local yellow pages book might have you listed under “Plumbing Contractors”, but most consumers would just be searching for “Plumbers”. (One free tool you can use to check which term is most searched upon is Google Trends. See Plumbing Contractors vs. Plumbers, for instance.)

Here are some easy guidelines:

  1. Make your homepage title a combination that includes the Business Name, the Business Type, and the Locality.
  2. Which should come first — Name or Type? List first the term that users will be seeking most. If most of your business is from existing clientele, or you’re in a small town where everyone already knows you, you should display your name first. If you’re trying to capture more new customers, display your type first. You can also experiment with this — switch the order and simply see what performs best for your specific case.
  3. Shorter is better than longer. Avoid lumping in too many terms!
  4. Title tags should be different for every page on your site. Give the extended name including the business type on the homepage, then use just the business name combined with the name of the individual page on the rest. Ex: “Aubergine Soufflé: Menu”, “Aubergine Soufflé: About Us”, “Aubergine Soufflé: Map & Directions”, “Aubergine Soufflé: Contact Us”.
  5. There may be cases where a business carries a particular product that users might be seeking as much as a business type. If you can include those product keywords effectively and informatively without overly bloating out your title, do so. Examples: “Jalopy’s Lexus Car Dealer in Hoboken”, “Krusty’s Moonwalks & Party Supplies of Happy, Texas”
  6. For the locality name, most businesses need to use their city name. However, there can be instances when some other local place name or nickname would be more commonly typed in by consumers seeking businesses in their locality. “Cape Cod”, for instance, or “Nob Hill Neighborhood”. For neighborhoods or regions within a metro area, you might ought to include both names — “East Side Chicago”, for instance. In New York, consumers have increasingly moved away from typing in “new york city” in favor of the shorter “nyc”.
  7. Keep nonessential terms out of the title. Don’t include verbiage like “Since 1947” or “Call Now”. Also, avoid special symbols like copyright or trademark characters — those can be represented sufficiently in the fineprint of your page footers. Extra unnecessary content in the titles will dilute your title from more exactly matching users’ queries in search engines.
  8. Include street addresses? No! In the past, some optimization experts recommended inclusion of full street addresses. In most cases, this is not all that helpful, because most users are not searching with your specific street name in order to find businesses so those extra words dilute the more valuable terms and distract the search engines from identifying the main subject of the site. The exception to this is if there is a high likelihood that consumers sometimes search for businesses by the street or intersection the business is located near. For instance, theatre-goers in Manhattan might search online for “restaurants near Broadway”. If you do have one of those landmark streetnames, then and only then you should include it in the title along with the city name.

Forming good title tags for local business websites isn’t difficult to do, and if you follow these easy tips you won’t regret it. Optimizing the title tags on your site can provide you with a significant improvement in referrals to your business, so so give it a try.

Chris “Silver” Smith is lead strategist at Netconcepts. The Locals Only column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Chris Silver Smith
Chris Smith is President of Argent Media, and serves on advisory boards for Universal Business Listing and FindLaw. Follow him @si1very on Twitter and see more of his writing on reputation management on MarTech.

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