Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Webcomic Title Tags, Made Simple

Been away a few days? Kindly check out this post , where you will be asked your opinion about a web site product created by Brian, one of our colleagues. Your opinion, good, bad or mixed, is greatly appreciated.

Experts say the top three factors affecting your site in search are text content, title tags and links to your site.

Accessing title tags varies from platform to platform, so I'll simply explain why they matter and what to do with them. You should have no problem Googling up a tutorial on accessing and modifying them in any major system.

A few years back, Google relied on keywords to know what a site is about. Soon every site was stuffed with highly popular keywords, and differentiating sites became difficult. You may remember the year Google's results were often bad. So does Google.

Now, though the word "keywords" is often used to describe words used strategically in tags and text, actual keywords are a thing of the past for major search engines.

When choosing your strategic keywords, you want to choose words that describe your comic site. But you also want to be conscious of how distinctive those keywords are. Popular words will do little to advance your site. A mix of popular and specific-but-rare- word, in phrases, is often a good strategy. I plan to write more about keywords soon.

Good search position isn't just about luring the curious to your site when they see it pop up in results for a similar topic. It's about making it easy for readers who don't bookmark to find you again, and it communicates information about other things on your site that might interest people.

Good search position plus submitting a site map to the search engines is key to earning "sitelinks," those small indexes you see below some search results detailing the site's contents. I'll be covering all these topics, but you don't have to wait for me: there is plentiful information on the web. I try to test everything and simplify things that are poorly described, but most of my facts come from studying many web sites. Luckily, we have a few search and site optimization people among our readership, and they advice me of any errors.

In some cases, it is difficult for a search engine to tell what a site is about, so we give pages titles via the title tag. The maximum number of characters allowed in this tag is 70.

The title tag is different from your page name and does not affect the address of the page. The text for a decent title tag might look like one of these:

Exactoman Comics | Slice and Dice
Slice and Dice | Exactoman Comic 33
The beginning words get more emphasis, so choose your first word with that in mind. Title tags should be different on every page, so adding a page number allows recycling if you are not going to get alter word choices. Whether to put the name of the adventure or the comic or something else depends on what people are most likely looking for. You can mix it up if you like, and check to see what pages show up in search after several days. If you have chosen a fine title tag but your search results place your comic at number 37, it's time to think about optimizing other areas, like text.

Other titles this comic might use:

Exactoman | Home

Exactoman | Webcomic Home

Exactoman Comic | Home

The vertical bar is considered more polished by many. It's called a pipe, and hides on many keyboards below the delete key.

A long string of titles with only the page name changing isn't going to help anybody much, so you might get creative with some semi-general descriptions: Hero Battles Dragon, Vigilante Attacks Crime Boss and so on. These may not be red hot search terms, but they may land some traffic while not competing with more important pages.

You may have noticed that many blogging systems, such as Blogger, have a box for a post's title and another for some descriptive words, underneath the post. Those are the equivalents of title and meta description (which we're not covering today) for web sites.

Again, for best results, don't overstuff a tag with words. I accidentally did that to one page, and it dropped fifty search positions.

There is more information about webcomic optimization at Psychedelic Treehouse: Webcomic Tools: Optimization and Psychedelic Treehouse: Webcomic Site Design and Kez's article, Improving Webcomic SEO . If your site has a CMS requiring tag formatting and you need help with that, check out the link going to Kez.

One last note: Title tags appear at the top of many browsers when people visit your site, so don't put anything in that isn't public or professional. Tags may also appear in search engine results.

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