November 19, 2013
It’s like having bad breath. If your blog’s headline turns people off, they are not going to stick around to find out what you are really about.
You want people to be captivated, engaged and interested in the title of your article so they actually read it.
But you also want it to say to the search engines, “Look at me! Look at me!” And in order to do that, your headline must be optimized correctly for those search engines (hence, search engine optimization).
Five Tips for Optimizing your Blog Headlines for SEO
1. Take the time.
According to Copyblogger’s 50/50 rule, half of your time spent writing content should be spent on developing the headline. Half of your time. Know the importance of your headline: only 20 percent of online users read anything more than headlines. So before you get started on your blog, plan on devoting a decent amount of time to crafting the headline.
Sometimes it helps to write your headline after you have the body of the article finished, especially if you are one of those writers (like me) whose words often veer in a different direction than originally planned. Personally, I find it easier to think up a headline after my article has already taken shape.
2. Know your keywords.
Do you know what key words or phrases your business is trying to optimize? Make sure you know what these are (it’s worth consulting with an SEO firm if you haven’t figured this out yet) and incorporate one of them into the headline. If you are trying to increase your search ranking for the word “cupcake,” be sure to include that into your headline.
(I feel the need to point out here to only focus on ONE keyword in your headline; avoid cramming it full of multiple keywords. Remember, you want it to sound like a human being wrote it.)
Be very particular here. If your keyword is cupcakes (plural), use the plural form in your headline, and the same goes if you are using a singular keyword. But be careful not to focus so much on your keyword that you forget to make the headline enticing and engaging.
3. Know what your audience is searching for.
Here’s a nifty little trick: go ahead and plug your keyword into Google AdWords and you can see how many people are actually searching for that keyword, as well as what kinds of things about that keyword online users are searching for.
For example, when I plug my pretend headline, “How to Make Homemade Cupcakes” into the keyword field, I can see how many people are actually searching for information pertaining to my headline. In this example, there are 2,400 global monthly searches for this exact headline, and the phrase “homemade cupcakes” by itself also receives 22,200 monthly searches. I can also see people are searching for “fancy cupcakes,” “how to make cupcakes from scratch,” and “homemade cupcake recipe.”
4. Use numbers when possible.
For some reason, people like reading from a list. And you know what? Search engines like lists, too. So whenever it makes sense, include numbers in your headline, like “Seven Steps to Making the Perfect Homemade Cupcake from Scratch,” “Six Kitchen Tools you Need to Make Perfect Cupcakes,” and so on.
A big part of the reason people (myself included) like lists is because it is easy to quickly scan them. If I don’t feel like sitting down and reading a 1,000-word article, I can skim through the list and get the gist pretty quickly. It’s readable, organized and less intimidating than a large chunk of content.
5. Solve a problem.
Remember the whole point of your blog — you want people to read it so they end up on your website. That’s the second part to SEO; once people find your blog through the search engines they have to actually click on it. So do a little research. Find out what problems or questions your target market is dealing with and aim to address those problems/questions in your headline.
Headlines that include phrases like “How To…,” “Why…,” “What You Can Learn From…,” etc. are proven winners. You can also try mentioning words that are often keyed into the search engines like “benefits,” “tips,” “tricks,” “ways” and “reasons.”
When in doubt, start reading the blogs you follow with a critical eye; take note of which headlines tend to get you to click and start implementing those ideas into your own content.
Natalie McCatty is a content writer for Solutions 8, Arizona’s fastest growing digital marketing firm offering SEO, video production, content creation, web design and more. Follow her on Twitter @nmccatty8 or read more of her work on the Sol8 blog.