Tweaking SEO Best Practices

March 17, 2008 posted in Web Strategy

According to Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox, Company Name First in Microcontent? Sometimes!, optimizing content for SEO may change due to search engine results pages (SERPs) with junk links. These results typically consist of sites that exist solely to earn revenue from link referrals. Recent SEO best practices encourage deemphasizing the site’s name and using reverse breadcrumbs in the page titles. The purpose of this is to produce more relevant, targeted search engine results. More recently though, the effectiveness of this convention has decreased because most sites have caught onto the practice.

To illustrate this point, look at the example of searching Google to purchase Let it Be by the Beatles. In the first five page results, most links begin with some variation of “Beatles” and “Let it Be”. By frontloading titles with an identifiable site name reputable retailers can stand out from the crowd of junk links. In Nielsen’s words, “when a SERP link starts with a respected brand name, it holds more appeal for users than weirdo links.” And he’s right; in the first five page results for “Beatles” and “Let it Be”, only places their site name at the beginning of the link, and effectively stands out from all other results.

Should this practice be applied to all websites? Certainly not. According to Nielsen, only frontload page titles when the following is true:

  • The link appears as a hit for queries that typically produce a SERP (search engine results page) that’s full of junk links
  • You have a widely recognized and well-respected company name

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