Now that anyone who’s under 35 turns to the Internet as their first means of finding anything (not Mom, not the phone book and not even 4-1-1), websites are almost as important to a non-profit as the building they occupy. They’re infrastructure. If you care about how well your non-profit attracts donors, volunteers, corporate sponsors and the media to your website, you might be interested in today’s musings.
All non-profits want the same thing: to come up #1, #2 or #3 on a Google search for their cause. The question I was asked today bears directly on search performance: “Our web designer is telling me that title tags should be the same as the text titles on each page to optimize how we rank with search engines. Is that true?”
If your reaction is “Wha?” don’t go away because you really should know about this if you care about people finding you through searches. Here’s the short answer for those who already care: best practice seems to be for the title tag to clearly describe what’s to be found on that page, and for the page title to use the same or very similar words.
But let’s back up. In the example below, above the brown background area, there’s a light blue area that looks like a file folder tab. The wording in that tab is the title tag (“River City Community Services”), and it’s coded by the webmaster (in this case a wonderful volunteer). The page title is “Volunteers are always needed.” Notice something? Yup, the two don’t match very well. That’s something we’re going to fix.
Google and other search engines are interested in delivering the most relevant match when users type in what they’re looking for. Google’s staff experts will tell you that title tags are one of the things that they factor in to their 200+ item algorithm used to drive searches.
How’d I get to the answer about best practice? I checked out what three of the highest traffic non-profit sites do, and I looked at a great source, High Rankings Advisor. I figure if the following sites are getting around one million unique visitors per month, they must be doing something right. Here’s what I observed:
American Heart Association:
Exactly matches the title tag to the title on the page, e.g.
Both say: Donate Now and Help Save Lives
But the American Cancer Society and American Red Cross do something different:
American Cancer Society:
Puts the abbreviation of the organization before the wording on the title tag, and the page title is identical to that wording, e.g
Title Tag: ACS: Patients Family and Friends
Title on the page itself: Patients, Family and Friends
American Red Cross:
Puts the organizational name as the title tag and does not have different title tags for different pages (same as the River City Community Services example)
Title Tag: Red Cross
Title on the page itself: Disaster Services
Here’s what I learned from High Rankings Advisor’s site. A forum member wondered if it’s bad that each page of his website had the same page titles. The consensus of commenters was that using identical wording on each and every title tag doesn’t facilitate search as much as changing the title tag on each page. I liked this comment from “Piskie”:
“If you (were a librarian and) were faced with all the reference books having the same title, would you be able to catalogue the information to allow your readers to locate their specific Information requirements?”
Didn’t know you should care, did you? Until a few months ago, I was blissfully ignorant as well.