June 12th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

The Great Page Title Debate Of 2012

When Google sparks a debate, she really gets things going. The next great debate in SEO will likely be over page titles.

Let me go on the record for saying the debate hasn’t started yet. But I think it’s coming. A few SEOs have already weighed in on what they think. But what’s even more important is what small business owners who do their own SEO are going to do after everyone else has adjusted to the Google algorithm change.

What change am I talking about? I’m actually talking about changes.

  • Trigger alt title when HTML title is truncated.
  • Efficiency improvements in alternative title generation.
  • Better demotion of boilerplate anchors in alternate title generation. 
Each of these algorithm changes address a specific way that Google deals with page titles, or will deal with them moving forward, but in the aggregate these are important changes. For the most part, here’s what they mean:
  • It’s important to keep your page titles short – less than 65 characters
  • Your primary keyword does not have to be at the beginning of the page title
  • You should pay very close attention to your on-page content to give Google something else to use for a page title if it sees the need to (Google reserves the right to change your page title)
  • You can optimize your page title for your exact keyword phrase or a variation of it

I think the main point is that Google is now reserving the right to make your page title whatever it thinks is best for the searcher. This is pretty much the same policy the search engine has toward your Meta Description. I’d still write the best page title I could, but don’t expect it to be the page title for every search query.

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