There are so many variables to a great blog post. There is the topic, writing style, and overall quality. But only a few things compare to the headline. After all, the headline is the first thing that the 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 your primary goal, search engines also matter. However, they can add complexity to the original problem. Your headlines will have to be written for humans as well as robots, and they have to bring in traffic from both sides. In blogging, Prologger.net says that 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.
So, as one of the SEO tips, how do we write headlines that will win big for both readers and robots? Martin Asser, senior product manager, news and knowledge, BBC Future Media, shares advice that he gives BBC journalists.
I have given colleagues a four-point checklist for their headlines as the most effective way of making that happen. (As long as they follow the basic principles of journalistic storytelling, the rest should take care of itself.)
The points are:
1. Use words that people would use in search in order to find the information being provided
2. Avoid words that people would never use in search to find that content
3. Put the most searchable elements at the front
4. Proper names are often used in search, so – following rules 1 and 3 – names should be included in the headline and if appropriate at the front.
There is no reason to dwell on why websites are important, because it has already been established. Poynter.org gives a checklist that you can refer to anytime you want to make an impactful headline. Put every headline that you write through this gamut of questions until they become second nature.
- Is the headline accurate?
- Does it work out of context?
- How compelling a promise does it make?
- How easy is it to parse?
- Could it benefit from a number?
- Are all the words necessary?
- Does it obey the Proper Noun rule?
- Would it work better as an explanatory headline?
- Does it focus on events and implications?
- Could it benefit from one of these ten words?
No matter how frustrating it might feel at times, writing great headlines is not impossible; it just takes some practice and a little 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.