By Stoney deGeyter
Question: When I only have about 65 characters to work with in a title tag (that which is visible on the search engine results pages), should I use any of that valuable real estate to display my company name?
This is a question that I hear quite often, and it's a good one. I don't necessarily think there is a universal right or wrong answer to it. Many believe that the real estate in the title is just too valuable to waste on a company name. Others believe that the branding you get from placing your company name in the title is just too good to pass up.
Let's dissect this a bit and then I'll let you come to your own conclusions.
Why use your company name in the title tag?
<title>Business Name | Movie Posters, Collectibles and Memorabilia</title>
<title>Movie Posters, Collectibles and Memorabilia| Business Name </title>
The single best reason to use your company name in your title tag is to brand the searcher with your company name as they scan through the results after a search. Many argue that there is no branding effect unless you already have a well-recognized brand name, but I disagree. I think this is how you get a well-recognized brand name, especially on the web.
Let's say that you've branded all your title tags and have gotten yourself pretty firmly established in the search results for a number of core and long-tail phrases. Many people don't perform just one search. They search, scan through results, maybe click on a few links, then go back and further refine their search. Each of these searches is an opportunity not to just get a click because you're ranked well, but it's an opportunity to get your company name in front of some eyeballs. The more search refinements performed the more opportunities you have for your name to be branded in the searchers mind, just by being there in the search results.
It may be only two searches, or maybe it's five, but if you are ranked, and your title tags are branded with your company name, then that's several opportunities for someone to see your name, regardless if they click or not. Sooner or later, they will click. Your name will be ingrained in their mind. Search after search, they'll have begun to associate you as an authority on that topic, possibly without ever having visited your site.
You can make the case that the URL can be used for branding, therefore save the Title tag for a clickable message. That's certainly true. I tend to look at URLs more than I look at titles when searching. But remember, branding is all about repetition. Putting your company name in your title is one more instance that your name appears!
Where to place the company name?
So the question begs, if you are going to brand your title tag, where do you put you company name? Should it go at the beginning or at the end? I showed you two examples above illustrating each. I've had people tell me that they would absolutely never place the company name at the beginning, but I'm not all that convinced that it's a bad thing.
If you're going for the branding effect, then the beginning is absolutely the best place for your company name to be. Putting it at the end just doesn't have the same impact. Often people will only look at the first few words of a title and then the bolded words (the words used in the query that also appear in the title) as they scan down the list. If your business name isn't found at the beginning of the title tag then there will be no real branding going on.
But this is also the reason that many propose putting your company name at the end instead of the beginning. Since searchers scan only the first few words (and the bolded words) of the title, you'll want to make sure your most important keywords are at the front. Why would you ever give up that real estate for a company name?
I don't disagree with that logic. But if your company name says enough about what you do, or is keyword rich, then there is no reason not to put it at the front of your title tag. If you need those first few characters in order to out rank your competition then by all means use it for specific keywords you are targeting. But if you company name is compelling, uses keywords and/or provides the visitor with enough information about what you do, then get it there where it can, and will, be seen.
Why not always brand your title tags?
<title>Movie Posters | The Dark Knight One (1) Sheet </title>
If you're a proponent of always using your company name in your title tags I still think there are times when you may not want to. Or if you do, to use it after the 65 characters that the search engines will display in their search results.
Looking at my example above, you can tell that the page in question is a very specific page, looking for a very specific product. The search that brings that page up is performed by a searcher that is ready to buy. They are no longer researching or
, they now know what they want and they are ready to put money down for it now..
This is the time to give them exactly what they want. You don't necessarily want to fog up the issue with company names or any other information that isn't necessary in getting them to the information they need.
That's not to say, in this case, that having your company name in the title is bad. In fact, if you've already established your name via other searches and search results it could come in handy here, but the most important thing is the keywords in the title. And with specific searches like this you'll often run out of room before you get a chance to use your company name, unless you put it at the front. What you don't want to do is run out of room for your most keywords that will adequately describe your product. They take priority here.
Over the years I've fluctuated back and forth on where to use the company name in the title tag. Ultimately, we look at it on a page by page basis. To see what the needs are for SEO and for the visitor. Hopefully I've given you some food for thought.
If you want to get it "right" you just need to consider your marketing goals for each page of your site, what you want to achieve and the best way to do that. There is no wrong way to brand your title tags, except to do so in a way that conflicts with your goals.