Thursday, February 14, 2008

Page Titles - Best Practices

Title tags are vital from both usability and SEO perspectives. We use the following format for page title tags: Page Title - Department Name - University Name.

I just finished writing up these standards for our own Web site and realized that they are practices that all universities could benefit from.

Although technically optional, title tags are one of the most vital pieces of information that you can put on your Web pages.

Why? There are several reasons:
  1. The Title tag is what appears at the top of your browser window, in the title bar and identifies the page users are viewing (see image, below).
  2. The Title tag is what appears in the tabs in the browser window, and identifies the content of each tab (see image, below).
  3. The Title tag is what appears in the user's Bookmarks or Favorites when they bookmark your page.
  4. Search engines like Google place a lot of weight on Title tags when ranking search results.
Browser Title Bar:

Browser Tabs:

As a result of the importance of the Title tag, we at Chico State have developed a set of best practices to use when assigning Title tags to your page.

Page Title Standards


Use the following format for page title tags: Page Title - Department Name - University Name

Examples:

Faculty and Staff - Geography and Planning Department - CSU, Chico
Academic Services - Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs - CSU, Chico
Current Students - College of Business - CSU, Chico

Reasons:

You want to include your department name and the university's name in all Title tags so that users searching for "geography faculty chico" will find your page. If you don't include your department name or the university name, you dramatically reduce the odds that your page will turn up in the search results.

Also, the order in which the elements appear is also important. Since browser tabs can only show the beginning of the page title, you want to have the most specific information (the current page's title) first, followed by the department and then the university. Pages titled like "CSU, Chico - Department Name - Page Title" will all appear as "CSU, Chico" in the browser tabs (see images, below).

Wrong: University Name - Department Name - Page Title

All the pages below are different, but you can't tell which is which by the page title, since they all start with "California State University, Chico".

Browser Tabs
Favorites


Right: Page Title - Department Name - University Name

Page titles with the specific page's title first:

Browser Tabs

Favorites


Home Page Titles

Home page titles should just be the department name and the university name: Department Name - University Name.

Examples:

Office of the President - CSU, Chico
Geography and Planning Department - CSU, Chico

Do not use "Home" or "Welcome" in your home page title. Nobody searches for "home" or "welcome" and they take up valuable space in the browser tabs (see images, below).


Wrong: Welcome/Home - University Name - Department Name

All these home pages are different, but we can't tell which is which.

Browser Tabs
Favorites



Right: Department Name - University Name

These home pages all use just the department name and the university name.

Browser Tabs

Favorites

4 comments:

Kyle said...

Wow... is this an actually Higher Education article about SEO! Way to go! We've been going back and dynamically recreating all our Title tags, but doing them as college - content. I can definitely see your point here though... Honestly that really sucks... cause now we need to go back and redo everything... GRRR... :)

Patrick said...

What's really going to be nice is that we also have Google Analytics data going back at least a few months. Running time comparisons will be interesting.

Greg said...

Thanks for the tip.

SEO India said...

Nice Article, But I have a question here. The above example is for colleges and universities but what if you are optimize for e-commerce website. Especially for Homepage do I have to put just Keywords or how do you suggest so that my homepage will rank for other important keywords as well which are target terms for Homepage only.