Should You Put Your Company Name in Title tags?

Rand from SEOmoz recently posted an article detailing two different approaches to structuring a page’s title tags. There are different schools of thought regarding what structure is best suited for titles. The two approaches mentioned are Rand’s “Company Name – What is this page about” and Ammon’s “What is this page about – Company Name.”

I think overall it depends on your particular goal because it’s all a balance of SEO, branding, and trust (or clickability). I think it’s most helpful to take a look at an example (rather than trying to figure this out theoretically).

So in honor of Rand’s bold style of footwear, take a look at some SERPS for “yellow puma shoes“:

Put yourself in the “shoes” of a searcher and see what you’d be most likely to click. The results are pretty spot on, but some are more “clickable” than others. The first one has a good title tag (assuming you’re a man), good description, and good URL:
pumas for men

I personally think it would be more clickable and targeted without “Clothing & Accessories at BizRate” since that dilutes the message (I don’t care about clothing and accessories) and I don’t really have an opinion on Bizrate as a brand. To me, this would be more clickable:
pumas short

The second spot uses the same approach (company at the end), but since I don’t know Viloria (or what “secondthoughts” mean), I think it would also do better without the brand name.
pumas for women
Note: Both use sex as a differentiator so they’re probably missing out on half of their potential click-throughs (for this particular query).

The only result that uses the company name at the beginning here is eBay:
pumas ebay

This makes sense because even at #6, the brand may draw the user’s eyes to click on it before the others. I agree with Blackbeard when he says:

I think it’s foolish to believe that most sites have enough of a brand that their name should be first on anything except their home page really. Just about anything local or regional probably doesn’t have enough of a brand that it’s going to cause the user to click. Not to mention that if someone is looking for your brand then they search for your brand. If they are looking for a product they search for a product, not your brand.

Different sites warrant different approaches and it all depends on your goal. However, if I was to make a generalization, I would recommend having your “What is this page about” as the Title tag without your company name, unless you have a very popular or very trustworthy brand that might persuade your users to click on your link instead.

However, since I’m pretty sure that you’re not trying to rank for “yellow puma shoes” and your goals might be a little different than mine, the best advice I can give is: run a search for what you want to rank for, compare what you see, and think about what you would most likely click on as a human being if you had the attention span of 200-300 milliseconds.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

graywolf December 5, 2006 at 2:02 am

The question is are you caught in a catch-22 conundrum? If no one knows your brand and you don’t put it in, how will you ever get to the point where people do know you’re brand?

IMHO if people don’t know your brand but you’re trying to build one include it but in the end, they won’t not click unless you have an incredibly crappy name. However if you’re brand is strong (ala coke-a-cola, amazon, citibank) then lead with your strongest asset. Conversely if you are an affiliate who couldn’t care less about your brand omit it all together.

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Markus December 5, 2006 at 10:44 am

Thanks for your opinion, Michael. It really does depend on the context and scenario. I just think people overestimate their brand too much (the amazons and citibanks aside). I’d like to see some sort of eyetracking study that explores how many people actually scan the URL – to me that’s where brand would really come into play in most cases.

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John Andrews December 7, 2006 at 2:36 am

Sorry but unless you have an otherwise perfect site I don’t see the point is discussing this issue, except as you have here (e.g. “it depends”). When I see “SEO’s” debating like this, I think it’s just newbie bait. “Who’s the authority” stuff. In 99.9% of cases, the market will highlight many issues worthy of more priority than this kind of issue…it’s like SEO extreme…taken too far out of the business context.

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Dave Pye January 28, 2007 at 10:43 pm

I agree with graywolf: the first words the user reads should be mirroring what they searched for, as opposed to a site or company name. If you’re BMW or Armani, then by all means drop the brand right at the front of the tag – since your site is likely 100% Flash anyway.

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