Some page titles do better with a call to action – a call to action which reflects exactly a searcher’s intent (e.g. to learn something, or buy something, or hire something. THINK CAREFULLY before auto-generating keyword phrase footprints across a site using boiler-plating and article spinning techniques. Remember this is your hook in search engines, if Google chooses to use your page title in its search snippet, and there is a lot of competing pages out there in 2020.
QUOTE: “We expect Ads and SC to be visible. However, some Ads, SC, or interstitial pages (i.e., pages displayed before or after the content you are expecting) make it difficult to use the MC. Pages with Ads, SC, or other features that distract from or interrupt the use of the MC should be given a Low rating.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2019
QUOTE: “common with forums is low-quality user-generated content. If you have ways of recognizing this kind of content, and blocking it from indexing, it can make it much easier for algorithms to review the overall quality of your website. The same methods can be used to block forum spam from being indexed for your forum. Depending on the forum, there might be different ways of recognizing that automatically, but it’s generally worth finding automated ways to help you keep things clean & high-quality, especially when a site consists of mostly user-generated content.” John Mueller, Google

Google will INDEX perhaps 1000s of characters in a title… but I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many characters or words Google will count AS a TITLE TAG when determining RELEVANCE OF A DOCUMENT for ranking purposes. It is a very hard thing to try to isolate accurately with all the testing and obfuscation Google uses to hide it’s ‘secret sauce’. I have had ranking success with longer titles – much longer titles. Google certainly reads ALL the words in your page title (unless you are spamming it silly, of course).

QUOTE: “Some things don’t change — users’ expectations, in particular. The popups of the early 2000s have reincarnated as modal windows, and are hated just as viscerally today as they were over a decade ago. Automatically playing audio is received just as negatively today. The following ad characteristics remained just as annoying for participants as they were in the early 2000s: Pops up – Slow loading time – Covers what you are trying to see – Moves content around – Occupies most of the page – Automatically plays sound.” Therese Fessenden, Nielsen Norman Group 2017

Don’t underestimate these less popular keywords. Long tail keywords with lower search volume often convert better, because searchers are more specific and intentional in their searches. For example, a person searching for "shoes" is probably just browsing. On the other hand, someone searching for "best price red womens size 7 running shoe" practically has their wallet out!
Being ‘relevant’ comes down to keywords & key phrases – in domain names, URLs, Title Elements, the number of times they are repeated in text on the page, text in image alt tags, rich markup and importantly in keyword links to the page in question. If you are relying on manipulating hidden elements on a page to do well in Google, you’ll probably trigger spam filters. If it is ‘hidden’ in on-page elements – beware relying on it too much to improve your rankings.
Being ‘relevant’ comes down to keywords & key phrases – in domain names, URLs, Title Elements, the number of times they are repeated in text on the page, text in image alt tags, rich markup and importantly in keyword links to the page in question. If you are relying on manipulating hidden elements on a page to do well in Google, you’ll probably trigger spam filters. If it is ‘hidden’ in on-page elements – beware relying on it too much to improve your rankings.
A page title that is highly relevant to the page it refers to will maximise usability, search engine ranking performance and user experience ratings as Google measures these. It will probably be displayed in a web browser’s window title bar, bookmarks and in clickable search snippet links used by Google, Bing & other search engines. The title element is the “crown” of a web page with important keyword phrase featuring AT LEAST ONCE within it.
Google expects pages to “be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis” especially if they are for important issues like medical information, and states not all pages are held to such standards, but one can expect that Google wants information updated in a reasonable timescale. How reasonable this is, is dependent on the TOPIC and the PURPOSE of the web page RELATIVE to competing pages on the web.
QUOTE: “They follow the forms you gather data you do so and so and so forth but they don’t get any laws they don’t haven’t found out anything they haven’t got anywhere yet maybe someday they will but it’s not very well developed but what happens is an even more mundane level we get experts on everything that sound like this sort of scientific expert they they’re not scientist is a typewriter and they make up something.”  Richard Feynman, Physicist 1981
QUOTE: “One of the difficulties of running a great website that focuses on UGC is keeping the overall quality upright. Without some level of policing and evaluating the content, most sites are overrun by spam and low-quality content. This is less of a technical issue than a general quality one, and in my opinion, not something that’s limited to Google’s algorithms. If you want to create a fantastic experience for everyone who visits, if you focus on content created by users, then you generally need to provide some guidance towards what you consider to be important (and sometimes, strict control when it comes to those who abuse your house rules).”

Websites that have extremely negative or malicious reputations. Also use the Lowest rating for violations of the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines. Finally, Lowest+ may be used both for pages with many low-quality characteristics and for pages whose lack of a single Page Quality characteristic makes you question the true purpose of the page. Important: Negative reputation is sufficient reason to give a page a Low quality rating. Evidence of truly malicious or fraudulent behavior warrants the Lowest rating.

QUOTE: “The quality of the MC is one of the most important criteria in Page Quality rating, and informs the E-A-T of the page. For all types of webpages, creating high quality MC takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. For news articles and information pages, high quality MC must be factually accurate for the topic and must be supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2019
For me, when SEO is more important than branding, the company name goes at the end of the tag, and I use a variety of dividers to separate as no one way performs best. If you have a recognisable brand – then there is an argument for putting this at the front of titles – although Google often will change your title dynamically – sometimes putting your brand at the front of your snippet link title itself. I often leave out branding. There is no one size fits all approach as the strategy will depend on the type of page you are working with.
Additionally, there are many situations where PPC (a component of SEM) makes more sense than SEO. For example, if you are first launching a site and you want immediate visibility, it is a good idea to create a PPC campaign because it takes less time than SEO, but it would be unwise to strictly work with PPC and not even touch search engine optimization.

Big sites can rank for the most general terms. Smaller sites within a very specific niche can do the same. Of course, it’s also easier if you’re writing in a language that is not spoken all over the world. For most smaller sites that are writing in English, however, the general rule of thumb is this: start with a big set of long tail keywords which have little traffic, but you can rank for more easily. Then, work yourself up to the rankings step-by-step. Once you’ve gained some SEO authority, start optimizing for more general keywords. And in the end, maybe you will even be able to rank for your head keywords!

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For instance, in a recent test (2019), if you have a page title longer than 12 words, all the keywords beyond 12 words evaporated from the page copy. This is a change from the way Google used to work, when the extra words were included as part of the page copy, not just part of the title. So, if you have a 15 word title, the last 3 words will not count towards ranking, if that test result was to be replicated.

Let's say, for example, you're researching the keyword "how to start a blog" for an article you want to create. "Blog" can mean a blog post or the blog website itself, and what a searcher's intent is behind that keyword will influence the direction of your article. Does the searcher want to learn how to start an individual blog post? Or do they want to know how to actually launch a website domain for the purposes of blogging? If your content strategy is only targeting people interested in the latter, you'll need to make sure of the keyword's intent before committing to it.
Repeat this exercise for as many topic buckets as you have. And remember, if you're having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, you can always head on over to your customer-facing colleagues -- those who are in Sales or Service -- and ask them what types of terms their prospects and customers use, or common questions they have. Those are often great starting points for keyword research.
Great guide Sharon! Thank you so much for sharing. I was wondering if off-page SEO is still worth it? Like using Personal Publishing Accounts or other social media where you can share your content. I’ve been trying for some months now to spread around content but still waiting for better results. I’ve read it needs diversity but I still haven’t figured it out yet.
All sites have a home or "root" page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (for example, root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?