Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Writing Headlines Optimized for SEO

(The words ‘page titles’ and ‘headlines’ have been used interchangeably, but refer to the same thing.)

Writing great headlines is a skill, and something that is extremely important from a SEO-perspective as well. A well-written, compelling and SEO-optimized headline could very well be the difference between a successful blog post that gets tons of traffic, a great CTR and feedback, and one that doesn’t!

The headline is the first thing that a reader reads when he or she (a) lands on your blog, or (b) when your post shows up in the SERP. Therefore, an optimized headline will allow your post to rank well in the results, and a well-written headline will immediately grab the attention of a prospective reader, tell him/her what the post is about and compel them to click on it in order to read the complete post.

Here are a set of tips and tricks on how you can write headlines that will grab the attention of their readers, and rank well in the SERPs as well:

1. Always write headlines that accurately reflect upon the content of a post, and provide an accurate, precise and true idea to the reader about what the post is about. A misleading or inaccurate headline, which turns out to be unrelated to the content that accompanies it will certainly not sit well with your readers; don’t expect them to stick around if you do this!

2. Keep the headlines short – preferably less than 60-65 characters and ideally not more than a few words. The shorter, the better; because people – especially those looking for information on search engines – want their problems to be solved as quickly as possible and won’t bother reading particularly long headlines. For instance, an example of a poor headline would be ‘A List of the Best, Most Interesting, and the Highest-Selling iPhone Apps in the World in the Year 2012’, but something like ‘Best iPhone Apps 2012’ pretty much does the same job in fewer words.

3. Always include your keywords in your headlines. Keywords are one of the important aspects of search engine optimization and getting organic traffic, therefore your choice of keywords, along with where they’re used, is vital. Your most important keywords – important with respect to the specific page/post, as well as your blog in general – should be included in the headline. Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs – the objective is to include keywords while making the headline look and sound as natural as possible.

4. Create compelling headlines. Remember that one of the objectives of your headline is to attract visitors and readers towards your post/page and have them click on it. No one will probably bother to read a boring/generic headline, let alone read the whole article. Which is why it is important to write a catchy headline which lures readers and visitors. A headline that says ’10 Reasons Why Blogging is the Best!’ sounds better than something like ‘Guide to Starting a Blog’ or ‘How to Start Blogging’.

5. Add variety in your headlines in order to keep them interesting. You’ve got many different types of headlines to choose from – news headline, a ‘how-to’ headline, asking a question, direct and indirect headlines, the ‘reason why’ headline (10 reason why…), the informative headline, the command headline (do this today) and so on and so forth. (More on different types of headlines here.)

6. Use an SEO plugin (such as the one offered by Yoast for Wordpress), to optimize any page’s title tag. This plugin, among other things, also allows you to optimize the title tag of each and every post and page on your Wordpress blog, whilst providing you with a live count of the number of characters. Include keywords, and write a compelling title here, as we’ve discussed above – as this is the title that will show up in the search engine results.

Questions? Comments? Got any headline-writing tips of your own to add? Do leave us a comment!

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