Tweaking the title tag for SEO

There is conflicting advice out there about the title of a page. On the one hand it’s clear that titles (and title tags) are essential to SEO: they should contain the keywords and keyword phrases users are typing into the search engines. On the other hand, some people have reported pages losing rankings immediately after a title tag having changed.

Personally I’ve changed many a title – and some of my top squidoo lenses have had their title tag changed somewhere along the line. In fact: tweaking titles is something I consider a vital part of SEO. HOWEVER it should not be done lightly. I don’t think I change titles on my lenses more than once a year at best. Mostly my titles stay the same.

The ideal scenario is, I think, as follows:

  1. The title one starts out with already contains relevant keywords and keyword phrases, researched with the usual keyword tools or Google.
  2. As the lens or blogpost gets traffic, it may become obvious that it is getting traffic for a related keyword phrase. If that traffic is more than for the phrase one would expect there are two options:
    1. Creating a new blogpost, hub or lens devoted to that phrase OR
    2. Tweaking the original blogpost, hub or lens title to be better optimized for that phrase.

I want to repeat: I do this all the time. Tweaking titles is part of ordinary SEO works as far as I’m concerned. I’ve done it with good effect on two of my top ranking lenses on squidoo. I hope that’s enough reason for people to stop fearing changing their titles. But there are other issues here:

First: On low ranking lenses it’s clear that tweaking a title is a risk-less adventure. After all – what have you got to loose?

Second: The title, while important, is not the only factor in ranking. If a title is already reasonably optimized, changing it is not likely to improve things much.

Third: many people write the most awful titles – totally without regard for the types of keywords people are likely to type into google. In that case: by all means change the title. Experiment. Try. Again: what have you got to loose?

Fourth: Google will sometimes simply loose interest in what was previously a high ranking page. This can happen with tweaking, but as easily without tweaking of titles. It’s simply part of the risk of working online. Only proper link building and diversity in ones online portfolio can prevent the damage being serious.

Fifth: titles should only be changed for serious reasons and not too often. It can take months for google to figure out what it ‘feels’ about a new title. Changing your title every week, or month, is foolish. Some people will advise changing titles regularly just to keep google busy with the changes. This too is an extreme I would advise against.

There is, however, one reason that squidoo lenses may be punished beyond the ordinary by a change in title: links within squidoo are often very much dependent on the title. Links on tag pages, featured lenses modules, even the squidutils directory – they’re all dependent on the title. That is: they all change when the title changes. Lots of links changing simultaneously is not likely to be a good sign for google. Especially if those links are the only links that lens has. I feel that the best protection is making sure there are enough links that do NOT change. Within squidoo this can be done through link plexo’s and linklist modules. Outside squidoo the solution is equally obvious: blogging, non-automatic directories etc.

Again though: for a low ranking lens nothing is lost in change. After all – something is apparently not working, or it would not be a low ranking lens.

I hope it’s clear from all this that I DO feel people should tweak their titles occasionally, especially when keyword research or seasonal interests make it likely that increased traffic may follow.