Have you reviewed your site’s formula for creating your page titles and meta descriptions recently? If you have not, let me give you some reasons to give it a second look now. In recent years some search marketers have decried the devaluation for search rankings of metadata – most notably, the titles, descriptions and (let’s not forget) the keywords. It is my contention that the titles and descriptions are the two most undervalued elements of the page. In another post, I’ll take a fresh look at the lowly keyword meta tag and how it fits today. For large database–driven sites, the titles and descriptions are generated based on a formula that dynamically inserts the topical keywords for the page at specific places in the formula. This used to work just fine, but as with most search marketing tactics, those days are behind us.
Google does not like duplicate titles and descriptions and flags them in the Webmaster Tools (WMT). It is safe to say that if Google flags something in the WMT, search marketers should pay close attention to the message. Creating unique titles and descriptions for thousands of pages would not be so hard, except for the fact that Google has so greatly shortened the title that is visible in the search results that it is now a challenge to create a compelling, unique keyword-rich title that conforms to the character limits. The character limit problem is compounded when Google highlights the keywords in the search results. Searchers like that Google shows the keywords they queried in the search results so that they can look at the results and clearly see that the page contains the keywords they used in in their query. This is fine, but since Google uses proportionally spaced highlighting, a title that is slightly too long or even too complex will result in truncation. Mangled titles simply don’t work well for either the site or the searcher.