Media Monday Edmonton: Title Junk

I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a while now. Back in December John Gruber wrote about title junk, also known as “poorly designed web page titles”. It is something I have thought about more and more since launching Edmonton Etcetera, because I link to so many things using essentially just the title of the web page. I like relatively clean titles, but unfortunately as John wrote, “an awful lot of websites use patterns for page titles that are ugly, hard-to-scan, and/or just plain stupid.” Let’s find out which local media websites are the worst culprits!

Here are the front page titles for some local media sites (in no particular order):

  1. Edmonton Journal | Latest Breaking News | Business | Sports | Canada Daily News
  2. Edmonton Sun
  3. CBC Edmonton | News, weather, video, audio, traffic, blogs and features
  4. iNews 880 On Radio. On Line. On Demand. – Edmonton CHQTAM
  5. CTV Edmonton – Edmonton News, Breaking News, Weather, Education, Mobile, Lottery Results, Contests
  6. Global Edmonton
  7. MasterMaq’s Blog – Edmonton Blogger
  8. Only Here for the Food
  9. the edmontonian: awesome since 2009
  11. City and Dale – Edmonton Happenings & Style
  12. Vue Weekly :: Edmonton’s Alternative News, Arts, Music, Film and Food Weekly
  13. SEE – Edmonton. News. Entertainment. Life. Weekly.
  14. The Charrette
  15. Metro – Edmonton : Home

And here are the article page titles for those same sites:

  1. Edmonton police detonate Groat Road pipe bomb
  2. Penguins beat up Oilers | myOilers | Sports | Edmonton Sun
  3. MLAs hold emergency health care debate  – Edmonton – CBC News
  4. iNews 880 On Radio. On Line. On Demand. – Edmonton CHQTAM
  5. CTV Edmonton – Man accused in death of Alta. mother makes first court appearance – CTV News
  6. Alberta opposition succeeds in push for emergency health-care debate
  7. Edmonton Notes for 3/13/2011 at MasterMaq’s Blog
  8. Only Here for the Food » Blog Archive » For the Love of Food: Eat Alberta 2011
  9. Divorceapalooza with CraigyFerg – the edmontonian: awesome since 2009
  10. gary mar’s peeps – supporters secret facebook group revealed. |
  11. City and Dale – Edmonton Happenings & Style – Win 2 Tickets to Western Canada Fashion Week
  12. Revitalizing debate  :: Front :: VUE Weekly
  13. SEE – Edmonton News & Views – News & Views – Exploring Our Complicated Provincial Psyche
  14. The Charrette » Blog Archive » The Heart of the City: getting people downtown
  15. Metro – Alberta health minister called in conflict

There’s a little bit of everything there, from nice and clean, to full of junk. There are all kinds of delimiters too – colons, dashes, arrows, pipes, etc. I think what is perhaps most interesting is the variety! Aside from the Edmonton Journal and Global Edmonton (which appear to have the same CMS), and a couple of the WordPress sites, they’re all different.

I like the cleanness of the Edmonton Journal’s article headlines, but I think including the source would be better. I love the “awesome since 2009” tagline of theedmontonian. And I despise the lack of anything meaningful in the iNews880 article titles – they’re completely useless as page titles.

I’ve thought about what to use on my own blog, and could never really decide. Source: Headline? Headline – Source? I’ve changed my page titles more than a few times. I settled on the “at” delimiter most recently, which I’m still not 100% sold on, for one reason only: it sounds appropriate when you read it aloud.

The bottom line is that page titles matter. They should be written for humans, not software!

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Media Monday Edmonton: Title Junk

  1. With different goals, companies are going to approach title tags in different ways. You can’t use a one size fits all approach because you’ve got to balance promotion, clarity, and SEO. Most are best off with landing somewhere in the middle. If you jam your title with too many keywords, it might look spammy (reducing traffic) or it might not let your brand name shine through. If you shoot for too much clarity, like “Apple”, you run the risk of losing traffic on phrases that would benefit you.

    Think Apple doesn’t care about traffic on general phrases? Try searching “MP3 player” or “personal music player”. Apple loses out to others who are more focused on SEO and as a result, they have to save ground by paying for Adwords instead. The iPod keywords they are bidding on could easily run 0.5-2 million dollars per year.

    For a news site, headline – source is the more common practice.

  2. At Vue we use “Headline :: SEO Terms :: Section :: Vue Weekly” for our story pages.

    We put the, somewhat user un-friendly, “section” in the title because we use the page title for other uses internally.

    We use “SEO Terms” in our titles because we don’t always use headlines that make sense to search engines, so we have to ensure that the tags that Google might be looking for are in the title when possible. (we’re still working on all of this stuff.)

    We’re open to suggestions. =)

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