You need to give meaningful and reliable titles to your web pages so they are easily distinguished from one another in search results and browser history lists.
Set up a scheme for formatting the content that goes between the <title> tags in your web page code and follow it throughout your site. The title goes in the head section of the HTML code, like this:
<head> …meta tags… <title>page title information</title> …CSS styles and other head content… </head>
Other guidelines to follow include:
The page title is one of the most important and overlooked web page elements. Often without knowing so, web surfers use page titles to get to your web site and move around on it once there. In general, page titles are the linked text that appears in a list of search results (see Figure 2-6). They're also used to keep a running archive of recently visited pages, available through a browser's History or Go menu.
Web designers often neglect writing a useful (or any) page title for a variety of reasons. First, they may be focused on the content and design of a page's main section, and, after completing that, they forget to go back and add a page title. Likewise, their web page editor may have a default page title such as "Untitled" or "Designed with Adobe GoLive," but this title is just as useless as having no title at all, if it doesn't get changed to something more meaningful. Second, many content management and shopping cart systems do not provide a way to give unique page titles to dynamically generated pages, so every page gets created with the generic "Article" or "Catalog Item" page title.
Page titles are really a string of information about a page. At the very least, they should start with a summary of the page contents, then identify the site section or category the page lives in, and then the name of the site. On your home page, list the site name and/or URL, and the site's tagline. For example:
Figure 2-6. Search engines use the contents of a web page's title tag to build a list of search result links; Google's own meaningful page title (top bar of browser window) reiterates the search term
Each piece of information in the page title should be separated by punctuation, such as a hyphen, colon, pipe, asterisk, or (for novelty's sake) a combination of two or more of these separators. Choose one style, and then use it consistently for all the page titles on your site.
Start with something unique about the page, such as a short headline or product name. When seen together in a list of search results or browser history list, the first two or three words are what users will scan and use to differentiate one page from another. Then add information to the title in decreasing order of specificity.
For example, in this hypothetical page title, the information gets more specific moving from right to left:
Don't get carried away, though. If your site has a deep directory structure or hierarchy, don't feel compelled to list every section and subsection that lies between the current page and the site's home page. First, fewif anyof your visitors need that much information. And some browsers will truncate page titles in the history list after 40 or 50 characters. Keep your page titles short and to the point to maximize their benefit for your site's audience.
The art of creating page titles and link text are closely related. For more information, see Recipe 6.2. To add extra oomph to the way your pages appear in browser bookmark and history lists, see Recipe 8.3.