So you have just hired me to do my basic Usability and Design Analysis. I open up my browser, and then visit your site. What is the first thing that I look at? It’s the title of your site. The title of your site, though often out of site and out of mind, is an extremely valuable part of a website. It’s so important, I have made it a point to check this item first.
Valuable Assets of a Website Title
One of my favorite things to do when I see “Title Abuse” is to imagine it on a book cover. Would you really put that crazy, long, keyword like list, as the title of your website? Many do. Before you make the mistake yourself though, you should spend a little time thinking about the value of a site or page title. A short quality title does many things.
- It gives a quick description to users about the page
- It gives a quick description to search engines
- A good title makes it easy to find your site within a list of many bookmarked sites
- It identifies the site within a tab on your browser or on your toolbar menu
- It’s how the site or page is typically presented on search results or other sites
- It may additionally offer clues to site navigation
If you use my sample book in the image on the right, “A site feedback usability design seo web hosting search blog review layout flash for Dummies” you can see the title does not mean much. It’s obviously a keyword plug, and if it were put on a book it would look like crap. Well guess what? That’s what it’s worth on a website as well.
A Brief Title Equals a Real Title
Think about some famous book titles for example: “The Stand”, “Catch 22″, or a less fictional books like “HTML for Dummies”. Notice something in common? They are all short. In fact, if you were to search for long book titles on the net you will find that the longest ones are not much longer than seventy characters total. Think there is truth to the fact that SEO experts say to keep your title to a maximum of sixty-five characters? I do. Anything after sixty-five, and it all starts turning to meaningless mush. Write a book or something. A good title will inspire, create curiosity, and define content within, and it will do it quickly. It will also appear more real to a search engine.
Title Says Where?
Titling your home page “Home Page” is descriptive, but it’s worthless in a stack of other bookmarked pages. When creating your title, make sure you think about what it will look like when someone bookmarks the page. This reasoning is also valuable when looking for your site by means of toolbar or tabs in your browser. Imagine having ten tabs open in your browser, and they all said “Home Page”. Title says where? It better, or at least give a very good clue.
What is a Title For?
Well duh. I think you know what a title is for, right? Maybe not. I have done hundreds of analyses, and have seen countless pages tittled in horrible ways, and capitalization? Did anyone graduate high school? Titles are to be capitalized for starters. It is how we identify content. It is similar in context as your name, and in fact is the NAME of the website or website page.
Knowing this leads to a less obvious, but just as important issue. It’s how your site is presented or introduced by others. If you had used the crazy long example I had above, or “Home Page”, others who found your content may choose to link to your site with their own title ideas. That’s fine, but you may not like it if the link was “Crappy Example of Site Title”, and the URL went straight to your home page. Give them a name, a.k.a. title, as an idea to use as the anchor text.
You must also not forget robots. Computers scouring the web for pages. They find your site, they list your site, and they use the title defined in your Meta. Hope you have a good one, because they may keep the cruddy one cached for a long time. Additionally, having a great title can often equal more clicks when your site is in a long list of others. That is a reason alone to come up with a good one. Help others and computers recognize your site for what it is, and give it a proper title. Encouraging action is not a crime against titles. Go for it!
Abused and Ignored
I think one reason titles get abused and ignored, and often at the same time is because we don’t always see them. If they are too long they get cut off, and the really only place you see them in near entirety is in the applications main bar on top. Who looks there? Abuse gets kicked in by those trying to pimp their site out for search engines (oooh, that one extra placement of that keyword will slam dunk this site for #1), and nobody notices or complains. Soon enough, search engines figure it out, people figure it out, and the site dies before it even had time to begin.
What do I do when I start working on a new page? I start by creating a high quality title. That way, I know what I am working on.