Title tags can be an important part of an SEO campaign. They let you tell Search Engines, and more importantly human users, actionable, vital information about your pages.
Here are some guide lines, not rules.
1. Lead Your Title Tag with Relevant Key Words - The first words in your title tag should be the keyword or phrase that you want that particular page to rank for. If you are using a secondary keyword, separate it from your primary by using the “pipe” character -> | (vertical line).
Use a second pipe after your secondary keyword to divide them from what I call the “human text.” This is a message to humans searching for your site. It explains the keywords and gives them context.
A sample Title Tag might look like this:
“Barefoot Shoes | Barefoot Running | What are barefoot running shoes?”
In this example we want to rank for “barefoot shoes,” and on this specific page, “barefoot running.” The “human text” shows the readers that it’s going to be an article about what barefoot running shoes are, as opposed to shoes for hiking or indoor exercise, etc.
2. Use Compelling “Human Text” - Remember, good Title Tags need to be useful for both search engines and search humans. They are not the be-all-end-all of your site’s SEO and usability, but they do weed out the professionals from the amateurs.
Use the “human text” after the keywords to give your keywords some context. This helps humans narrow down their choices before clicking through to your website. Good human text can be actionable, and can help cut down on user disappointment/bounce rate. Almost everyone has clicked through on a good set of keywords, only to find completely unrelated content. Users faced with content they can't use often go somewhere else to find the content they want.
“Barefoot Shoes | Barefoot Running | Care and Maintenance of Your Barefoot Running Shoes.”
This differentiates it from the article example in tip number one and lets humans know what they’re getting before they click.
3. Don’t “Keyword Stuff” - Don’t just cram your Title Tags full of catchy keywords and think that it will drive traffic. If it somehow ranks, the stream of keywords just looks confusing and spammy at best, or downright incomprehensible at worst, to your human users.
4. Make All Title Tags Unique - Every page on your site is different, so you should have different Title Tags to help humans navigate the site.
5. Don’t Neglect Your Alt Tag - If you’re running an online store, then you’re going to have lots of images of your merchandise. Be sure you assign a descriptive Alt Tag to every item in your inventory.
Good Alt Tags are functional and round out your site. While this can be a good place to slip in an additional keyword, don’t try to spam the system.