Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Why Page Titles Are The Jan Brady Of Web Copywriting

Want to know an easy way to attract search engines and drag readers away from your competition? Spend some quality time with the most neglected member of the web copywriting family - your page title.

Web copywriting tips can be worse than moving back home with your parents. There’s mum in one ear yelling, ”Did you include a catchy headline? Where are your paragraphs and subheads? Don’t forget your keywords!” while dad just grunts, “If you don’t build those incoming links, you’ll never get a decent search engines ranking.”

It’s enough to make you run to your room, turn up the stereo, and forget you ever heard the words optimised web copy. But before you flip over the “Do not disturb” sign on your door, there’s something we really need to talk about – how and why you should write better page titles.

So where are these page titles anyway?
Look up. No, higher. In the blue bar above the address bar and menus at the very top of your screen. That's the page title.

On a webpage it usually displays the name of the website or page that you are on, followed by “Windows Internet Explorer” or “Mozilla Firefox”, depending on the browser yu use.

On a blog it will usually say the full name of the blog or the heading of your post.

One of the reasons people forget about their page titles is because they're added into the page code, rather than onto the page itself. This means the job of writing title copy is usually handed over to the web designer. So if the designer isn’t a search engine optimisation expert, or hasn’t been briefed to write the title copy, titles are usually left to their own devises and look something like: - Windows Internet Explorer

or at best

The Widget Store - Windows Internet Explorer

In this state they are little more than a band of alphabetical castaways, stranded in a deep blue sea of pixels - dull, unfulfilling and meaningless to all but the website owner.

Yes it’s a sad tale, but one that sinks into tragedy of ancient Greek proportions when you realise the overlooked potential of well-crafted title copy.

Why should we write effective page titles?

  • Titles are used as the heading for your site listing in search engines.

  • They influence search engine rankings. Greater relevance, higher ranking

  • People dismiss search engine listings with titles unrelated to their search.

  • A relevant title draws search engine surfers to your site.

  • When someone adds your page as a favourite, they can easily find you later

  • The title is stored in your visitors History

  • Other sites often use titles as the text link copy to your page.

  • Search engines place high importance on relevant text links.

  • RSS generators use page titles to create headlines
Once you realise just how hard page titles work to help attract search engines and site visitors, is it any wonder they see themselves as the Jan Brady of online copywriting, constantly living in the shadow of their flashier, prettier or cuter siblings such as headlines, subheads and hyperlinks?

Here are some tips to help you bring the best out in your page titles.

  • Keep your title to no more than 60 - 65 characters

  • Make the description clear and in plain English.

  • Write a unique keyword focused title for each page

  • Don’t use ‘clever’ or teaser titles that don’t explain what the page is about

  • Put you keywords to the front.

  • Don’t use your keyword more than 3 times

  • Make your title a call to action or benefit for the reader

  • Omit unnecessary words. Instead of “Are You Looking For A Cheap Place To Buy Widgets?” write “Looking For Cheap Widgets?

So next time you are writing copy for your website or blog, by all means play with those boistrous headlines and subheads, pander to those pretty paragraphs, keywords, and hyperlinks, and make your bullet points look as cute as a button.

Just don’t forget there is a page title looking down from the bedroom window, wondering if you are ever going to really appreciate its many hidden talents.

Give page titles the encouragement and attention they deserve, and you’ll be amazed at what they can do for your web writing objectives and visitor numbers.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Short Copy Speaks Words

I'm no mathematician, but if it's true that 4 out of 5 people only ever read headlines, then creating an enticing headline is 80% of a copywriter's battle.

While loitering in my street the other day I noticed a shark-suited real estate looking character banging a sign in grass outside a house.

"Open For Inspection"?
"Open House"?

Try "Open Home". Now doesn't that sound so much warmer, fuzzier and appealing to the target market than the usual suspects above?

It made me think about a couple of copywriting lessons that apply to both headlines and bodycopy:

  • Readers may like familiar language (particularly online), but it won't get them excited. As long as you don't get ambiguous, a unique and enticing alternative can make all the difference.
  • A few short words can often express your benefits and entice impatient readers far better than a whole bunch of long ones.

Now if the agent can just do something about that outfit he might really be onto something.

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