Title Tags: Not Just for Keywords Anymore


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I very nearly titled this article “The Truth About Keywords in Title Tags.” I didn’t because I’m no longer sure that anyone has all of it. If you’re ready to rethink one of the most basic things you’ve ever learned about SEO, and stop simply reacting to Google, keep reading.

First, let me give credit where it’s due. I just finished reading a post by Michael Martinez in which he digs more deeply into this so-called basic topic than anyone I’ve seen. Martinez’s contrarian views, eloquently expressed and supported, can make any reader rethink a cherished position. If he’s right, then the way most of us do our page titles or title tags is – well, not wrong, exactly, but a little misguided.

We all know how you’re supposed to write title tags, right? Start by doing some keyword research for your topic, build a title using those keywords, then lather, rinse, repeat. Make sure you repeat those keywords at appropriate intervals throughout your article. Voila! Your keyword magic will get you a spot in the SERPs, right where searchers can find you.

Martinez questions this approach – even as he blatantly uses it in the very same post. He titled his entry “How to Write Title Tags for SEO” and uses that phrase periodically throughout the piece. Clearly, this classic technique delivers traffic and rankings. Martinez does not say that it doesn’t work; rather, he maintains that it’s too basic.

“Real search engine optimization doesn’t care about a SINGLE keyword,” Martinez explains. Your page of content should rank first for far more keywords than you can fit in the title tag. If you can only get to the first page of Google for one to three expressions, according to Martinez, your SEO sucks.

Martinez wants us, as SEOs, to use our imaginations a lot more than we do when we’re simply trying to optimize page titles and links. “If you’re sitting there bored to tears because all your boss wants you to do is put his favorite keywords in your page titles, you can slip one past him by optimizing those same pages for other keywords AT THE SAME TIME,” he all but whispers conspiratorially.

He then invites us to join in on the conspiracy by writing posts on our blogs with titles that start with “What I Think About…” or even “If I May Intrude On Your Thoughts For a Moment…” and then add the topic at the end. If you’re hardcore enough to actually try this, he also wants you to not check your keyword tools before adding that topic. Some will see no reason to try this scary, seemingly pointless exercise. Why not stick with winning titles like “How To…” and “Ten Ways to…” and so on? Come on, Martinez does that right in the article in which he preaches rebellion! Why should we do it if he doesn’t?

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