This guest post is by Garrett Moon of Todaymade.
There are so many variables to a great blog post. There’s the topic. There’s the writing style and overall quality. But few things compare to the headline. After all, your headline is the first thing that your readers will see, and is probably the most important factor in determining if they will actually read your article.
While getting actual human readers is our primary goal, search engines also matter—a lot. They can, however, add complexity to the original problem. Your headlines need to be written for humans and robots, and they need to bring in big traffic from both sides. In blogging, there are two big headline goals:
- Get your viewer to actually read the post.
- Provide Google with the fuel you need to bring you big traffic.
How do we write headlines that win big for both readers and robots? Here are a five things that you can do to improve your headlines right now.
Step 1. Become a student of great headlines
It may sound like a beginner’s move, but learning to recognize a great headline is vital to writing headlines that excel in search. How can we execute this simple step? Easy. Observe your own actions.
Day in and day out, we are all using Google to perform a variety of searches. What is it that you are searching for? Like it or not, Google knows. If you are logged into your Google account, you can view your web history at https://www.google.com/dashboard/. Review your results to see the headlines that you ultimately clicked on. Your readers are probably similar to you in what they would choose, too.
There is, of course, oodles of information out there about writing great headlines, including the famous Copyblogger course on writing magnetic headlines.
Step 2. Know your audience
After viewing your own search habits and gleaning insight about headlines that mattered to you, put yourself into your reader’s shoes. What matters to them? Who are they, and what are they searching for? It is amazing how often we can go on blogging without even taking time to consider who our audience really is.
Step 3. Use Google’s related search to define key search terms
One my favorite tools for writing great headlines that rock is search itself—use Google! If you put a little strategy into your writing, you can write SEO-packed headlines using Google’s own related search terms.
The process is simple: when you search for keywords related to your blog topic, Google will automatically suggest alternative terms and phrases that other visitors have used. It is important to remember that these terms are based on crowd-sourced knowledge gained from millions of searches per day. These are the most popular keywords surrounding your topic.
It is very important in this step to refine your terms a bit and collect additional terms from a series of other popular searches. Let Google make suggestions and then revise your terms using these suggestions. This process can help us think outside the box and discover what our customers are looking for.
Step 4. Rewrite your headline at least three times
I can’t stress this step enough. Too often, we put a lot of our time and effort into the blog post, and forget about the headline. While the blog post will always matter and we do have to deliver in its content, the headline has to be great. Repeated iteration is key to great headline success. Write at least three alternative headlines for each post, for three reasons:
- We explore new territory: Admit it. You tend to write the same things over and over. We all do, but when we write more than one headline we force ourselves to work beyond the boundaries of our habits.
- Practice makes perfect: The more we write headlines, the better we become. More practice is always a good thing.
- We find new ideas: I can’t tell you how many “new posts” have come out of this simple habit. By writing three, you will regularly find a new spin on an old topic.
Step 5. A/B Test your headlines using Twitter or email marketing
Every time you publish or release an idea into the world, you are opening up to the opportunity to learn something new. Publishing new headlines should be no different. Improve your headline writing skills by putting them to the test.
Schedule a few tweets that link to the same post using alternative headlines. You could use several of your “extras” from step four of this blog post. The trick is to use a custom bit.ly link or other short URL service that allows you to track clicks. At the end of each day, calculate the clicks, retweets, and comments that you received with each headline. Which headline methods worked better than others?
The same test can be done with an active email marketing list. Most email software allows you to A/B test headlines and email subjects. Get into the habit of trying headlines against each other. Make sure you document the results and use what you lean to improve your writing abilities.
Better headlines, better traffic
No matter how frustrating it might feel at times, writing great headlines is not impossible. It just takes practice and a little bit of effort. SEO-driven headlines that are written to motivate readers and perform well in search are the goal of many but the achievement of few.
Follow these simple steps, and watch your headlines and traffic get the boost they deserve.
Garrett Moon is the marketing director at Todaymade, a web software and design company that created TodayLaunch, a fast and affordable social media dashboard.
This is a great post! In this article a learned a lot!
Glad to hear it! Thanks for reading :)
I’m curious as to if you are using an SEO plugin to make sure the URL, title, summary and content are all in sync? Got a favorite?
We are currently trying Scribe, but have generally done this the old fashioned way. We have used All in One SEO Pack for awhile.
Insightful post, another tool we like to use to suggest topics/keywords is ubersuggest! I also try to write my headline first and then re-visit it at the end of writing the post and see how well it still fits the article. Sometimes having a coworker glance over it is all the pressure I need to turn out something worthwhile!
Thanks Laura, and thank you for adding the Ubersuggest idea.
Excellent post. I think that you have given the nice details. I usually make my headings really attractive so that users would love to read it. I also try to write headings or titles so that more traffic can come from long tail keywords. I usually search on Google Adwords before adding any keyword on my title.
Also right audience can decrease your bounce rate.
The balance between SEO and human readability is both tricky and very important. You can’t have one without the other. Thanks for reading :)
They are tricky indeed !
But if you have good content writer who have good experience then they know hot to write content according to Google updates and they can increase the chances of content to look natural. I would suggest you to always hire an experienced writer to write articles for you :)
Great list of tips. I always try to focus as much attention on my titles as possible, but I have to admit I could put in more work. A/B testing in particular is one I haven’t tried.
It may also be worth distinguishing that these principals apply equally to blog post titles and also page titles. Of course these are usually the same thing if your blog is set up in a sensible way, but I’m sure some people are publishing blog posts with great titles and neglecting their page titles.
Great point. With some SEO plugins page titles and post titles can be different as well.
Awesome post. If I’m doing a hair post on my blog, I always try to use numbers out the current date. I try to think of what people will be typing into a search thatwwill lead them to my blog. When it comes to outfit posts though, I usually just give an adjective to my look. “Simple Stripes” or “Floral Frenzy”. It is difficult to come up with post titles that will garner major clicks!
Thanks you for share this article
Sounds like you are on the right track. Thanks Saroj!
Looking forward using the tips :-D
A headline is probably the mosy important part of a post so yes it does need a lot of consideration. There are many ways to write a great headline. A good tactic is to write a headline that intrigues the reader enough to compel them to click. It could be something like “Why Link Building Is Like Eating Ice-Cream”. This is also good if you have good active social network accounts to share them on. Or you can simply write a headline you know gets searched a lot in the search engines if you have an authoritive blog, as you have a chance of ranking high for a competitive term. So it can depend on how popular your blog is, and where most of your traffic comes from.
Great headline writing tips Garrett. Here’s a tool to assist with #5: Use the Advanced Marketing Institute – Headline Analyzer (Google this and find at the top of the search results) to evaluate different headline options. This free tool will analyze your headline to determine the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score which can be very useful in split testing. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the suggestion!
Great post Garrett, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I am a complete novice when it comes to SEO, in fact a couple of years ago I got fed up with not being able to understand it and proclaimed on my blog how it could kiss my a**.
But I am giving it another go with the help of Yoast’s SEO plugin and a small collection of helpful articles like this one. :)
I think it is important to remember that SEO isn’t voodoo science. No tricks. No games. You are simply trying to make your content more accesible to your users and more recognizable to Google. Don’t over think it. Use some good tools and make a regular effort at it and you will be fine. Thanks for reading!
Writing great headlines is an art! You can churn out the most interesting article ever written, but if it doesn’t have an attention-grabbing headline to get people to read it, what’s the point?
Whether you’re at a newspaper or blogging from home, a great headline (or “hed”) will always get more eyeballs scanning your copy.
BTW this is a greatpost…
That is right. The good headline stays written like: “For Jane, With All The I Had Which Was Not Enough. ” or ” Everything Is Broken”
Excellent post. You’re absolutely right that headlines are such an important part of SEO. Headlines, posts and tweets are what your readers base their decision to click on!
Very good post.
Normally people just write title tags/headlines by stuffing in keywords and not really thinking to much about it.
There is definitely a fine art to writing something that includes the keywords you want and induces high clickthroughs/engages the user.
These tips were really helpful. I really like the idea of writing the headline a few times and also using Google to help create the best headlines. We all know that headlines can make or break click throughs and conversions.
Thanks for the share,
awesome tips frnd, content is the king and headline is the queen.
Great tips! Some people always remember to optimize the content for SEO, and the title gets forgotten. I feel that the title is also the biggest factor in if something goes viral on the social networks. Without a catchy title it doesn’t stand a chance!
I never really thought all that much about the importance of Headlines before. I really like the suggestion about using the Google Related Search Terms to find additional wording. I am going to start using that right away. Of course you probably hit on the most important things of all, practice, practice, practice!
I also subscribe to several “big names” blogs and I check out their Headlines regularly for ideas.
Thanks for sharing Garrett,
I know from research that the most read articles on my site are those with titles that relate to items people are likely to search for, essentially a title related to a topic like ‘how to create a reverse bucket list’ or ‘pros and cons of …..’.
I used to write articles with cute titles but they never got found via Google. I think cute titles only work if you already have a big audience.
That’s my experience. Comments?
Sure great headline helps readers. Sometimes I stumble around blogs, some of them actually done a so great job that when I read the headline, it immediately makes me curious wanting to know what is happening next.
Thanks for Great Tip – Ferb
Thanks for this post!
I’m astounded by people who don’t pay attention to their headlines. I’ve seen one word, ambiguous headlines that do nothing to make me want to read more. Although I knew the importance of headlines, I didn’t start really putting more effort into them until 5 months ago and WOW what a difference it made. Before, I was just focused on getting a keyword in there; now I’m trying to craft a headline people WANT to click while paying attention to SEO. It wasn’t easy to do at first, but I’m getting better. I can see this by the clicks/comments I’m now receiving.
I’ve seen lots of information on this topic, but this post is by far the most helpful for a techno-idiot ;-) and I’m one of those.
Headline should be simple but yes,it should be catch and attracts the reader and force them to read it out.
Just like this one.
Good tips. I will implement them. Thanks.
Surely, Head lines have a great impact on Organic Traffic..Including keywords used in Headline..
These are some great tips. I do some writing, and I would agree that headlines can definitely make or break a piece. I try to spend a lot of time trying to come up with something that is relevant to my audience and that is insightful and fun to read. I definitely see a difference in traffic when I put something out there that will catch the eye. Great read!
This post is appreciable as there is enough material in it for the readers. Thanks for nice sharing!
I would like to know if launch could be used on Facebook? I set up a business page on Street photography on F.B and It’s a great place to communicate. I’m seeking for a way to change the menus of the business page which I think would help with the SEO. Write me if you know please. https://www.facebook.com/borkgren