We started our ruminations with ranking because a page that does not get ranked does not get clicked – go figure.
• Titles that don’t rank, get no clicks
• Human sensible titles get more clicks
• Most humans read left to right
At the same time, of course, there is no point in getting ranked if you’re title is so bad it does not get the clicks that your rank deserves. There is a tension here, because some of what might work great for ranking simply looks so bad to humans that your click-through rate will suffer. This is of course one of the ways that search marketing is hard, not in the diggin’ for gold sense, but conceptually.
In creating titles for best click-through we want titles that read like advertising headlines (let us snatch a hushed and revered moment to genuflect at the altar of traditional, offline advertising), and we want the words to appear in the order that our target market – that’ll be humans – is going to read them.
This is not always the best title for ranking so we have to be open to trade-offs. And that’s ok, because we can almost always present the title primarily to humans and make up any ranking loss with link text and page rank.
Our standard, then, for title construction should be: good enough for ranking and best we can get for humans – not the other way round.
This is even more so the case with our meta description tag because it has so little relative ranking power anyway that we might just as well concentrate on click-through; and in regards to click-through, it can be a major factor. With well-designed descriptions you can often get the snippet to pull from the description itself so putting the effort into making it read right is well worth the effort. If it doesn’t pull from there, it’s going to pull from the body and that’s a little bit more difficult to get right because you really are going to be faced with significant content re-ordering in most cases.
You can’t put all of your text in the meta description so you will end up at some point ranking for text that appears in the body copy of your page – unavoidable. As already noted, mark-up order is not always the best order for snippet creation so you may want to locate body text first and navigation second: CSS is the preferred method to do this.
This brings up the question as to what to put in your meta description tags versus body copy. There is not one perfect right answer to this but in general you should let the competitiveness or profitability of the search phrase dictate this. Use the title tag for competitive short-tail searches with higher volume. Reinforce and emphasise the title that you’ve used in the meta description and add sufficient modifiers and additional terms to attract closely related longer-tail searches as well.
Let the body copy, then, attract the essentially infinite long-tail that takes nothing more than words on the page in order to attract traffic.
But text snippets are no longer the only game in town here. There’s a new wrinkle at Google we need to consider: Snippet Links.
Some On-Page LinkLuv
On-Page SEO: Hello World!
On-Page SEO: the Title tag
On-Page SEO – Keyphrase Positioning – First Fit v. Best Fit
On-Page SEO – Keyphrase Positioning – Display Order v. Markup Order
On-Page SEO – Head and Body – A Foot in Both Camps
Related: String Theory – How Many Characters in a Page Title for Google SEO?