The combination of words used in your blog headline are the most important strings of letters and spaces that you can type into the screen when writing an online article for your business. The title is what gets users on Google to click through to your site and what gets them to click once again to read the other articles displayed in the archives. It is one of the most misunderstood elements in blogging and often what leads blogs to fail, or succeed. Since maintaining a weekly blog is a major part of your SEO strategy (right?) it is essential that you understand how to write effective headlines so that the effort spent is rewarded with increases in visitor click-throughs, traffic, and consumer engagement. The following eight tips will set you on your way.
Best Practices for Writing Engaging Blog Titles
1. Perform Keyword Research
Set up your free AdWords account in order to access the Google Keyword Planner. Once there you can begin searching for keyword strings that have a significant monthly search volume so that you can come up with a headline that will actually attract traffic. Begin the process with an idea of what you would like your most recent article to be titled as and slap that combination of words into the Planner to ID whether or not it, or a variation of it, is being searched enough to justify its use.
2. Ignore the Keyword Research that You Just Performed (Sort Of)
Say what? No, I am not wasting your time by having you read item #1 then following up by telling you to outright ignore it. The Keyword Planner is a valuable tool for generating blog title ideas but the results should be consumed with a hefty grain of sodium. Look at the Planner as a guide and nothing more. Far too often I see awkward blog titles devoid of “a”, “and”, “in”, or “the” used to naturally bridge words in a title together because users on Google don’t search using them. Writers also neglect synonyms that would make an article title more engaging simply because the AdWords tool “said” it wasn’t being searched. The Google Keyword Planner has issues and should not be considered scripture. In addition, Google itself has vastly improved to better recognize semantic variations of searched terms, delivering users articles based on content merit, and not exact match keywords.
3. Use Numbers to Lead the Headline
People like numbers when it comes to identifying articles that they want to read. It lets them know what to expect before clicking through – an itemized list that will answer their query in a timely fashion. They know that they can scan the numbered paragraph headings, summarizing the contents of the article enough to determine whether or not it is relevant to their query and worth reading. Don’t use numbers in your headings every time, but do use them frequently when appropriate to the topic.
4. “How To…” Attracts Those Looking for Guidance
Users, your customers, are taking to Google to have questions answered on a wide variety of topics. Much of the time they are looking for instructions on how to accomplish something. Two words that let them know that they will be delivered a set of precise instructions are “How to…”. If your current article details a set of instructions or advice on something relevant to your industry’s consumers then use those two words to launch your headline. Combinations of numbers and “How to…” can be very effective, as you can see (since you’re here) by the title of this very article.
5. Ask a Question (Sometimes)
Asking a question in your headline can be effective if used from time to time, with restraint, and completed with words to identify that the answer is found within the article. People perform search all of the time by plugging a question into the Google search bar and bloggers have had a lot of success by using that exact same keyword string to grab their attention on the search results page. Quite often you will see titles match searches such as “Where is the Best Place to Live in Florida?” (example for a Florida Realtor). However if you are only using the question as a headline you are simply echoing what they searched, and not directly indicating an answer. Don’t confuse the searcher, give them what they want. Using the same example, a title such as “Where is the Best Place to Live in Florida? 5 Towns You Will Fall in Love With!” would be better.
6. Use “You” and “Your”
You better engage searchers when you talk to them. Frequently use “you” and “your” where appropriate in the headlines of your blog. For example, “5 Reasons California is the Best Place to Live” would be trumped by “5 Reasons California is the Best Place to Live for Your Family” for a group of Realtors selling family homes in the golden state.
7. Don’t Bait & Switch with Sensational Headlines
One of the worst abuses of blog titles is found in the act of writing sensational headlines to grab the attention of users on search. Users click through expecting one thing and end up with a bland accounting of a loosely related topic. Even authors in my industry are guilty of such tabloid journalism, quick to usher grandiose statements such as “Facebook Shuts Down!” when all that really occurred to spark the article was a social media hoax or a temporary glitch in one of its services. Save those headlines for the magazine racks of your local grocery store.
8. Make Sure the Title Matches the Content
The most important element of all is with respect to how well your blog headlines correlate to the content of your articles. No matter how well crafted your title is, if it does not match the content of the article users will vacate the premises (leave your site) quickly. Your bounce rate will go up and Google will deem your blog as irrelevant. Before you hit “publish” on any article, ask yourself if the content delivers visitors the experience that they were promised by the headline.
Look no further than the title of this very article for an example of how to write an optimized blog headline. I integrated all of the above aside from item #5, which I do indeed use with restraint. Make a habit out of running your mind through the above tips when developing your blog titles and you will be well on the way to increasing your readership.