Optimal Titles: SEO Case Study

SEO Case Study: Optimal Title Structure

Experiment: To determine what the optimal structure is for a title soley for page ranking.

Hypothesis: Page titles are one the most important on page ranking factors, and achieving the best layout will help a page rank for it’s desired phrase. I believe that that [Keyword Phrase : Title] will rank higher than any other construct, followed by [Keyword Phrase] in isolation.

Procedure: To test my theory I created the following experimental files:

  • A file without the Keyword Phrase in the title tag (file 7)
  • A file with only the Keyword Phrase in the title tag (file 8)
  • A file with the site name followed by the Keyword Phrase (file 9)
  • A file with the Keyword Phrase followed by the site name (file 10)

To allow you to see the results I published the files on this website. However to keep the experiment valid and free from “tampering” I repeated the experiment on two other websites, who’s URL’s I will keep secret (from this point forward known as control group 1 and control group 2). To keep the results as pure as possible I created a 4 word phrase combinations which had no websites showing results at the inception of this test.

On Site
On SiteKeyword Phrase followed by website title
Keyword Phrase only
Control Group 1Keyword Phrase followed by website titleInconclusiveKeyword Phrase only
Control Group 2Keyword Phrase onlyInconclusiveKeyword Phrase only

From this test it appears that Google favors [Keyword Phrase : Sitename] and MSN favors [Keyword Phrase]. Yahoo however seems to have a problem indexing all of the files quickly, so no conclusions can be made about Yahoo’s rankings. Additionally conducting an [allintitle:Keyword Phrase] and [allintitle:”Keyword Phrase”] yielded the same results on Google.

One test on Google yielded slightly different results. As has been observed in other tests, Google results often seem to vary slightly with testing samples. This is probably do to “intellegent factoring” of multiple aspects in Google’s ranking algorthym (either that or Matt’s messing with me).

When I take over an existing website or start working with a client’s existing website, the first two things I will look at and change are the title tags and internal anchor text. From my experience these are the two changes that give you the most bang for your buck. If you have new website or a sandboxed website it may be more beneficial for you to leave the page titles with just the keyword phrase until you can get enough trust/quality/link diversity to get organic traffic from Google. Just make sure you make it easy to go back and change/adjust. Alternatively you could try cloaking IP specific delivery for your title tags, but I’ve never tried it myself, although it seemed to work for Google until they banned themselves.

Again these tests would be more conclusive if others repeated them over a wide variety of domains and published the results. As an incentive if you don’t do it on an uber spammy website, I will link to your published test results.

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