My interview with Dori Friend definitely goes down in the books as my most controversial content so far! However, her intentions are no different than mine. She just wants to have the best data possible to get the best results for her business. I get a little nervous posting these “Myth Buster” episodes, because to bust a myth sometimes means contradicting information given by smart, good people. That being said, SEO tactics in Google is a bit like the Wild West. We’re all just doing our best to navigate and figure out the best strategies possible.
In fact, in the episode of my show where Dori Friend does Myth Busting around popular SEO strategies and tactics toted as “best practices” or “Most effective”, she busts some myths on some tactics that both she and I had previously stated were true. It really just goes to show you that there is always more to learn and to get truly cutting edge results with your SEO, you HAVE to be able to test and find out what the best strategies truly are.
Optimizing Title Tags For Clicks Vs. Keywords
Before we get too far into this blog post, I think it’s important to note that what Dori is testing is a very specific question around click-through rates. Rand Fiskins is someone that I greatly respect and there is a lot of value in what he is teaching as well. I think the beauty of what Dori is testing is that keyword optimized titles are still working. Make sure you read through past the Myth to find out why I find Rand’s teachings on this topic also of great merit!
On April 29th, 2016 Rand did one of his “Whiteboard Fridays” highlighting some practices that he believes no longer hold SEO benefits. One of these practices was optimizing for Keywords vs. Clicks.Here is an informal video of that portion of my interview with Dori followed by a transcript of that section:
Dori Friend: Everybody goes to Moz and they look at Moz like the authority in SEO and what Moz says has to be true because they’re probably the biggest entity in the industry when it comes to giving out information. Of course, we would go and look at their information and go, “That doesn’t sound right,” because we’ve been doing this for a long time. Let’s test it and see.
So Rand did a whiteboard Friday, April 29th and he said, “These are the eight things that no longer work in SEO so you need to stay away from these things.” I said, “Kyle, you know, this is, this is … I think this is a bunch of bullshit. Let’s go test these.”
The first one was that you need to optimize for clicks, not keywords in your title tag. What he was suggesting that you would get more click throughs if your title tag was say, “I make original pipes. Come check me out,” that that would be more interesting to the consumer than if you had like wooden pipes, original pipes, handmade pipes all in your title tag. We tested that and it tested to be false. We busted that. It is keywords stuffing in your title tags still works. But then we thought, “Okay, we’re going to give Rand the benefit of the doubt,” because of course he’s talking about let’s make this title clickable.
So we did a test and we used a tool called Serp Turkey where you can have people come in and click on different titles and in fact the title that we created that was the keyword stuffed title won the title that we created that we thought would be good for optimizing for clicks and it was actually the exact title that he had suggested on his whiteboard Friday. We did use wooden pipes, handmade pipes, et cetera and we used all that and so we totally busted.
Shelby Larson: That is so interesting. Now, are you talking about the actual title that people see in the search engine or are you talking about the title tag content?
Dori Friend: Title tag content which is usually-
Shelby Larson: So that’s what…. Which is usually the same, right?
Dori Friend: Yes, yes. It is. People are still … He said this used to work five years ago. It still works today. People are more driven for the keywords that they searched on than they are reading some ambiguous statement about how great you are or whatever, I don’t know. We just used both of these examples and proved it wrong. Now, I hate, I really do hate picking on people. I just feel like he’s a great guy. He’s just getting the wrong information from his team and Google probably.
Shelby Larson: Right, and it’s interesting because what he’s talking about is a really big converter say in engagement once they’re on the site, once they’re there, then you’ve definitely … We have shown in our testing that for engagement, once they’re there, you definitely want to go that direction so it’s interesting to note that the actual opposite is true when it comes to the title tag and this serves getting people to click on it. That is interesting to me.
Dori Friend: Yeah. Absolutely you’re correct. Engagement is huge. You do want people to click through your site. Bounce rate does matter. We’ve also proved that. User engagement, I’m not denying that. I’m just saying … One example that he said and getting even the clicks through to the site was busted.
The Value In Rand’s Lesson
While Dori and Kyle busted the myth that optimizing your title tags based on clicks instead of keywords is the better choice, there is STILL some very important and intelligent takeaways from the lesson that Rand is teaching in his Whiteboard Friday. I’m going to highlight two of them here for you.
Hummingbird – The Future of Digital Search
My most popular digital marketing keynote centers around Hummingbird which is Google’s primary Search algorithm and it’s all about Intention. We are finding that optimizing around intention as an over-arching strategy is creating huge wins for our clients. As this algorithm continues to roll out in the text-based search environment, I predict that we will see what Rand is demonstrating as becoming more and more prevalent and valuable.
While I agree with Dori that optimizing title tags around keywords is still effective in the click-through rate arena. However, I also agree with Rand because I know that Google is shifting it’s focus to optimizing all of search around the intention behind the keywords. In the future, we may see that titles optimized for keywords, while still getting excellent click-through rates, may be far outranked by keywords optimized around intention.So if that’s the case, then it’s not as much a consideration of whether the readers would click on the keyword-based titles over the intention-based ones IF the keyword-based titles don’t make it onto the 1st page, or the first half of it. I think this will be a GREAT area for Dori and Kyle to test as Hummingbird gets further into its implementation.
(Click HERE to learn more about the Hummingbird Search Algorithm.)
This brings us to the conversation of conversions and engagement. As you heard Dori say, engagement is extremely important for conversions, but also for SEO because if the title in the Serps draws clicks, but then the readers immediately leave your site, your bounce rate is going to skyrocket, which is going to negatively impact your rankings. By contrast, if you understand the intention behind the search terms that bring buyers to your site, then you can create engaging content that speaks to the very center of what they care about which, in my experience, increases conversions.When it comes to marketing, it’s not JUST about getting the clicks, it’s about converting them. We are so lucky to have organizations like the SEO Intelligence Agency to provide us with valuable data so that we can make excellent marketing decisions.