Into the Weeds on SEO Title Tags, From a Client’s Perspective

Recently I did an audit for a Bay Area pet photographer. This is the 2nd one I performed for him in a few years. (I recommend people do a SEO audit every 3 years or so.)

He followed up with a few questions about SEO title tags, which Ill review below.

I often get these types of questions when I do my SEO class in San Francisco. The students there are almost always new to the SEO world. (For those interested, the training is hosted by a company called Bay Area Video Coalition and I provide a in-person SEO intro class and a SEO intermediate training course. )

I find publishing these questions from clients helpful, because chances are if they have them, others do to. One thing you’ll notice is that to those who are not employed specifically in the SEO field, they tend to make the SEO work more complex than it is.

I’ve been a Sacramento SEO expert for 7 years now, and too often we have our knowledge of Google’s algorithm mythologized. Google is very transparent in how they rank content, why the rank content, and their general philosophy. You can find it all online. What you’ll discover is that while there are best practices, there are no hard and fast rules.

Not every variation of a SEO title tag, linked text or meta description has been a/b/c tested. And chances are they won’t be. Like SEO consultants do, you should use the information your provided by Google as a guide, but feel free to embark on the journey in the mode that suits you best.

Here are the clients questions, which I’ve anonymized:

1) For the titles I’m seeing I’ve got a variety of different structures and syntax for them
XXXX XXXXXX Photography-Bio & Clients
XXXX XXXXXX Photography Gift Certificates and Referrals
Pet Sessions with XXXX XXXXXX Photography in the San Francisco Bay Area
And then some of the newer ones you recommended for me to add to pages that don’t have them yet look like this:
Book of Canine Dog Photos | XXXX XXXXXX, S.F. Pet Photographer
Is there a preferred format/syntax and is it better to be consistent? And I want to keep it under 70 characters, right? 

2) I looked around and it seems the meta descriptions for pages don’t matter as much for ranking but may influence click-thru. Is that your take on it as well. The way my site is set up is if you don’t add a separate meta description it just uses the main one. Would it be worth my time to do separate meta descriptions for each page? 

And here is my response:

“Hey XXXX, there’s no go to title syntax. Some people use dashes or pipes. Feel free to go with what feels most comfortable. I prefer branded search words (like your name) in the back of the title tag. Any time someone searches your name, your site will show up at the top already. It is best to have your SEO keywords in the front, unless the page is specific to you, like your bio. And yes, keep them under 70 characters or Google will truncate them.

I would audit your meta descriptions to make sure they’re strong, well written and to the point. That will help your click thru rate. Also, when you include the keyword phrase a person searches in your meta description, that phrase is shown in bold on the search results page. That catches the searchers eye, which is why click thru rates are higher. So you should make sure that’s the case with your meta descriptions.”

Hopefully this article gives you some insight into SEO title tags and the SEO world in general. For a free review of your current SEO marketing, contact me at

For those in need of a S.F. / Bay Area SEO expert, I provide marketing services in that region as well.

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