The page title is the piece of meta data on the very top of your browser. In the picture below, the page title is "HubSpot: Internet Marketing Software." The title is an interesting beast because when most humans read a web page (see first picture below), they do not ever look at the title; therefore, many marketing people do not pay any attention to it. However, when you do a search (see second picture below), the organic results you are looking at and potentially clicking on is the page title you used on your site.
You need to write your titles with the search engines in mind. The average human spends .7 seconds per page title on a Google search results page. That means, someone scanning down the list of 10 results on the first page of Google makes up her mind very quickly as to which link she is going to click on.
If your company is a well-known brand in your niche, it might make sense for you to put it in your title as it will increase the likelihood of someone clicking on it after their spending .7 seconds looking at it. If your company is less well known, then I would advise leaving your company name out of the title completely.
It is important you choose the words in your title carefully. You really want the words in your page title to match what the searcher is looking for. Choosing the keywords in the title is rather tricky. You should look at four different variables to make the title phrase decision:
1. Frequency of search -- if no one is search is searching on the phrase, then you are wasting your time.
2. Competition -- if the phrase is very popular and you are competing for a spot on the first page of the results with major players like Wikipedia, CNN, etc., then you better have high page rank if you want to play that game.
3. Fit -- the phrase should be as close a fit to your business as possible.
4. CPC cost -- if the phrase that best matches your business has high competition, but a relatively low cost to buy an advertisement, it might be worth buying that one and optimizing around another similar phrase.
Through our websitegrader property, we are now tracking over 30,000 websites and their page titles. When those titles change, we are able to watch behind the scenes to see what kind of impact that has on the rankings for the keywords entered or removed from the titles. In terms of "on page" analysis, our data suggests that Google values the page title more than most people (and seo consultants) think. The easy way to think about it is that Google is looking for clues as to what your website is about, so it can deliver your site as a result on searches. It turns out that the keywords in the page titles of your site are a major clue that Google takes, so make sure you get the right keywords in your titles if you want to "get found" by prospects.
When crafting titles of your site, make sure you keep it short and sweet. Our data suggests that the first words in the title matter more to Google than the last words in the title. In addition, it seems like the more words in your title, the less "value" each word has. Outside of Google, no one knows, but from our data it looks like Google discounts by the number of words in title.
When crafting titles, make sure you carefully pick a title for every page on your site. The title of the home page is likely the most important one as that page likely has the most links into it, but every page title on your site is a potenial search result that will get the .7second test. Do not just use the same title on every page as you are wasting a golden opportunity.
If you have any questions on page titles, feel free to leave them here. If you want to see some additional data on how to set your website up, so that people searching in your niche can more readily find you, I suggest you run your site through our free websitegrader .
-- Brian Halligan.