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We have a page on our site with a listing of product categories. All the links point to other pages on our site.

Currently there's no text associated with the links other then the linked text itself which is just the name of each category or subcategory.

We're thinking of adding some descriptive text for each link. From a usability standpoint, I'd prefer not having this text appear on the page itself because all our users will pretty much already know what each category is without needing any descriptive text. From a usability perspective it would be better if it appeared in the title since then it doesn't clutter up the page and only shows up when they mouse over a particular link.

But from an SEO perspective, would it matter if the text appears on the page, below each link, or if I place the text in the title attribute of the a tag?

edit: I mean the title attribute of the tag, not the title of the page itself.

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"all our users will pretty much already know what each category is without needing any descriptive text..." Be careful not to over-estimate your users. –  Kenzo Feb 6 '13 at 17:27
    
It's a pretty narrowly focused website - anyone using the site will know the categories –  merk Feb 7 '13 at 18:33
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2 Answers 2

Search engines try to assess the content of a website using hundreds of indicators. As a general rule, the more visible something is, the more important it is for search engines.

Therefore titles and headings (h1, h2, etc) are more important than bold text which is more important than plain text. You should put the most important keywords in the title and then the h1 heading and keep going down from there.

Obviously links are very important to ranking algorithms and they get analyzed in depth. The most important part is the anchor text because it supposedly says something about where the link is pointing to and is easily visible to the user. The title tag of the link is part of the HTML element but since it is less visible, most browsers show it on hover after a few seconds, it is expected to get less weight for ranking. So, between the two SEO favors anchor text over link attributes.

Now crawlers are programmed with sophisticated algorithms to prevent abuse so if you stuff too much in your page title, it starts being weighed less. It is generally recommended to keep under 65 chars for Google. Headings too should be kept reasonably short and try to avoid having too many of them. Remember that ranking algorithms change periodically, so what works best one day will be different the next.

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I think the OP was referring to the title attribute on the a links rather than the title of the page but that's interesting about h1 > bold > ordinary text. –  Emma Burrows Feb 6 '13 at 13:20
    
@EmmaBurrows - Thanks for the clarification. Edited. –  Itai Feb 6 '13 at 14:46
    
Yes sorry if that wasn't clear - i'm talking about the title attributed of the <a /> tag –  merk Feb 7 '13 at 18:35
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The anchor title attribute does not affect SEO. Google doesn't consider it. It has no weight on ranking. The alt attribute, on the other hand, does somewhat affect SEO (it's so heavily abused that it's been devalued over time much like meta keywords.

To be super clear we are talking about...

<a title="whatever">

not

<title>whatever</title>)

You'll need to include the text on-page in order for it to be crawled and indexed.

References:

http://www.highrankings.com/useless-seo-tactics-303

http://ezinearticles.com/?Do-Alt-and-Title-Attributes-Help-With-SEO?&id=432783

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