A do-it-yourselfer’s guide to title tags

“DIY” (do-it-yourself) isn’t just for people with a thrifty bent and a knack for home improvement.  It’s also for small charitable causes and organizations that need to increase their visibility in a world that increasingly communicates and markets over the Internet.  Hence, as a professional who donates services to several organizations, I often have to teach myself things that I once could have relied on staff to perform (“staff” – how I miss ’em!). 

So it is with title tags.  In my last installment, I looked at what three of the largest non-profits do with theirs.  (The same blog post defines title tags, has a handy show-and-tell screen shot and tells you why you should care about your organization’s.)

Happily, my copy of “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies” arrived the day after my last post.  “Dummies” confirms that title tags are very important and reveals that most organizations and businesses waste this important real estate because they lack key words.  (We’ll talk more about key words another day, but in short they are those few golden words that your target audience uses to find your organization or cause… or someone else’s if you don’t figure out the best words to use for what you do.)

“Dummies” goes on to say that one of the biggest wastes is a title tag that uses the words “welcome to”.  As of today, more than 54 million website homepages have some form of “welcome to” in the title.

Best practice, “Dummies” suggests, is to limit very common words (think “a”, “and”, “the” and so on) and to include key words that people use to search and find organizations or causes like yours.

World Vision’s home page has the following title tag:

“Sponsor A Child — World Vision” (the use of flash animation on the home page is kind of irritating, though)

Not bad, but better is the American Red Cross’ home page tag:

“American Red Cross — Preparing Communities for an Emergency and Keeping People Safe – Preparedness”

You’ve got to admit.  That says a lot more than “Welcome to the American Red Cross.”  The use of keywords in the title tags makes search engines more likely to deliver up ARC as a match for a search that has to do with emergency preparedness.  Of course, having almost 35,000 pages of content doesn’t hurt either…  I’m not about to compete with that!


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