Saturday, December 15, 2007

Page Titles: the Good, the Dull, and the Terrible

I recently read an article by Matt McGee about SEO and the importance of page titles. The topic is not really riveting, but as someone interested in learning more about search engine optimization, I thought the article was pretty informative and well written. I've never given much thought to page titles, but I started paying attention while researching interactive agencies for an upcoming blog article.

I have been sifting through dozens of interactive agency sites, searching for them first on Google so I could get a look at these page titles. Beyond evaluating the SEO qualities of them, I viewed them more from a brand standpoint, as the titles are the first clue into the company experience.

I was stunned how inconsistent some of these titles were with each other. I thought they would all be somewhat similar, and all outstanding. After all, while I expect interactive agencies to show superiority in design and user experience, I also expect sophisticated communication and word-smithing capabilities, and I didn't always see that.

The Good
To be fair, many of the page titles I saw were great, or at least pretty good. One I liked a lot was "Helps organizations define, build, measure, and expand their Internet strategy and presence." Informative, succinct, approachable, right? Here is another one I thought was pretty good -- "Specializing in the integration of technology, marketing and design." To the point, and easy to digest.

The Dull
Then there are the dull page titles. For instance, "Provides web development for large businesses," or, "A digital marketing company that specializes in collaborative web development solutions to enhance your business – and your visibility." These titles are fine, though a bit boring, and in the latter case, somewhat dirty (I wish they had left off everything after "solutions" -- it just sounds sales-y).

I'm also not a fan of page titles that have "award-winning" in them. Awards may be an account qualifier or winner later on, but I think that kind of phrasing is self-serving and better placed inside a site than espoused right off the bat.

The Terrible
Now onto the worst. You might think that the worst is a site without a title. Not so, though there are plenty of those. The worst is not even when the page title says "This site requires Macromedia Flash Player Version 7. Download Plugin."

No, the absolute worst page title I came across is "To view this site, you need the latest Flash plug-in. It's quick and easy to download, and well worth it!" Ugh. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't even want to open the page. And when I did, I had to scroll up and down AND left and right. It was a very unsatisfying experience

Despite a crappy or lackluster page title, it was the content of the site that mattered, and many of the sites were great. I would say that page titles are an SEO priority for rank. As a brand communication element, a page title may influence a casual user browsing for an interactive agency, but I wouldn't expect that it would be earth shattering if a title doesn't measure up to the rest of the site experience.

Unless, of course, the title says "To view this site, you need the latest Flash plug-in. It's quick and easy to download, and well worth it!" That is just neglectful, and a turn-off. If you were to put a personal ad in the paper, you wouldn't say, "Must get a makeover before even thinking of contacting me. But you'll want to. Because I'm worth the trouble." It's just a little thing, really. But this little change could mean the difference between a site visit, an agency interview, a project, an account, a relationship.

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