November 14, 2013
Writing a great title tag / or headline has been something small business owners have worried about since before search engines existed, and rightfully so. A headline is one of the biggest ways that you can draw in your audience and get them spending time on your page. Even if you’re promoting something cutting-edge or cool like an infographic or video, the headline is what’s going to initially bring those readers in and earn you clicks.
So how hard could writing a headline really be? Unfortunately, because it seems so easy and so insignificant many people today don’t bother to research how to write a good headline. The one you come up with might seem to do the job, but with a headline-writing strategy in place, you could do a much better job.
According to an article on ProBlogger, “an average of 8 readers out of 10 will read a blog post title, while less than 3 out of the same 10 readers will read the rest of the article.” In other words, a great headline does have a lot of power. A few characteristics of a great headline include:
Example: The title “How to Write an Enticing SEO Headline” is better than “Writing a Headline for Readers and Google Bots: How to Keep it Enticing.”
Example: A vague question like “Why People Hate Writing Headlines” still stays specific (headline writing) while evoking curiosity (does everyone hate writing headlines?) and making people want to read.
Example: You can use special characters like a dash (-), colon (:), question mark (?), exclamation mark (!). You should not use special characters like ampersands (&), greater than or less than symbols (< and >), the “at” symbol (@).
Note: It’s hard to come up with an example for every single point because a headline should cover a few of these points. A headline that shows you’re unique might not be enough to draw in your readers. You need to show that you’re offering something unique while still staying focused and still being urgent. A good rule of thumb is cover at least 4 of the characteristics above.
The first step is always determining what it is your reader wants to know. Create something that is just too good to pass up in your industry. Answer a very odd question and really think about the selfishness of each of your readers. In other words, know what he/she wants and then create a headline that almost gives it to them.
It’s also a good idea to write your headline first. Many experts in the industry, including Upworthy, say that you should spend 50 percent of your content creation on your headline. Writing your headline first will help you stay focused when writing your article, but furthermore your article won’t be swaying your headline one way or another. You can be sure that you have a clear mind when writing the headline, so you can be sure you’ll use a few of the characteristics discussed above.
As you can surely see we’ve been using the term “SEO Headline” as opposed to any regular-old headline. One thing to keep in mind is that how you write great headlines for a newspaper or news organization could be different than how you’re going to write for your blog or your website. Headlines that you want to appear on search (which is the majority these days) do need to focus on keywords.
It’s true that Google is trying to move away from putting so much weight on keywords, but they haven’t been able to completely destroy them just yet. Today, a post or page title with 10 words that has at least 2 keywords is considered a good headline for SEO. The biggest thing to remember is not to overdo it or stuff too many keywords into a title because it won’t look natural to readers or to Google. This is a big reason you should always write your headline first.
So why don’t headlines always work? The reason that sometimes headlines don’t work is because they’re written as a way to summarize the entire article or they try to be too creative. Being creative is good, but a headline needs to have a few of the characteristics described above—and sometimes this isn’t creative and it’s not the best summary of the article.
For a great article full of headline statistics, visit the Heidi Cohen Blog.
How do you make sure that your headlines are drawing in your readers? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below.
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