Page titles and descriptions are your “elevator pitch” in the search results and you only have an instant to make a good impression on a potential visitor.
Page titles are incredibly important in terms of SEO and the title of a book they inform the potential reader as to the pages contents. Search engines it appears place a good deal of weight in titles and the keywords in them. Simply by manipulating the pages titles can have an immediate and positive effect on your search rank.
Actually seomoz, the Search Specialists conduct an annual survey of around 80 of the SEO heavy hitters worldwide to see what they believe are the most important factors in aiding a site to rank. Last year, of all the “on page factors” possible, keywords in a page title was ranked number one.
Looking at this part of the process is an exercise in futility unless you have both analytics running on your site and have signed up to a Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) account as they are two great aids in looking at a sites titles and descriptions. If either of these is only being set up then, ideally, some time should have passed so that relevant data can be gathered before you scrutinise the data.
Using your analytics account you will be able to see the keyword phrases that brought you traffic (and, with a bit of wizardry, where your site ranked at that time). However, it does not show where your site appeared in a set of search results, but where your site was not chosen – which is a much more interesting prospect. Your site appeared in the results and was overlooked.
Google webmaster tools is excellent at giving you some inspiration here. In their query section you can see the search queries where your site appeared, in what position, how many times and, vitally, what your click through rate was for that expression. Clicking here will show you in a pop-up the table you can see through GWT query. If you have a site with a lot of impressions or appearances but with a low click through rate, then its down to further investigation.
I’d be inclined to look at keywords that are high volume and of high importance and see where your site is appearing and what’s the CTR is on those keywords. If it’s a poor click through rate do the physical search yourself and make an informed judgement as why other sites, both above and below you, might be taking the traffic instead of you. Don’t assume that sites below you are getting less or no traffic.
Search marketing company Enquiro did a survey some time back to see how engaged a searcher was with a set of search results. They concluded that a searcher will spend no more than ten seconds looking at a set of four or five results. That’s just two seconds per result in which time they read your page title, your description and possibly scan your URL. Then they weigh up all that information and very promptly decide if your site is going to fulfil their search intent. So, to spell this out, you have two seconds to make an impression to a potential visitor and that’s based on the shop window of your page title, description and URL.
You can make great strides in SEO amending the page titles on a site. All page titles have to be different and they have to be keyword rich – but not stuffed. Page descriptions are not used but the search engines in their algorithms to rank, but the end user will rely on them when they are scanning a set of search results.
A quick way to see how your site appears in any search results, without going through each possible key phrase, is to use the ‘site operator’. In the Google search bar, key in Site:mysite.ie (obviously changing the name of the site) this will show you all the pages that Google has indexed and how they will appear in search results.
I was looking at a few sites recently and came across one site that was full of information. But it let itself down badly in the search results as not much effort (aka no effort) had been made with the search titles. Not only are the page titles unappealing to the human visitor, the site wont rank with page titles that have no keywords in them.