Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be a wormhole. The further you go down it, the more tools and analytics and best practices there are to sort through. But, if exploring the depths of the SEO universe isn’t your thing, don’t worry. You can still do some simple things to boost your chance of Google finding you and listing your posts in its top results.
One thing you must do is think seriously about your blog post headlines. Google uses your headline to determine what your post is about, and it gives headlines some hefty SEO weight.
That means that your headlines should be clear, concise, keyword-rich and targeted. If you’re going for SEO traffic, then, before you write one word of your blog post, you should know what the headline is going to be. What is the topic you’re going for? What have other people written on it? What keywords are you targeting? What results does Google serve up for those exact keywords? How can you create an even more valuable, more focused post than what’s in the top spot?
With some headline research, you can save time and energy and, ideally, get Google to love you. Back it up with quality content and you’re on your way.
Here are 6 headline hacks to help you boost your blog’s SEO.
1. Longtail Keyword Phrases
Don’t worry about getting found on Google for a single word or two, such as “coworking” or “Sacramento hikes.” There’s too much competition for those phrases—you’ll get buried in the search results. Instead, focus on longtail keyword phrases, such as “Best Coworking Spaces in San Francisco,” or “Family-Friendly Hikes in Sacramento.”
This way, you narrow your target to attract exactly the market you’re going for and increase your chance of getting onto the front page of the results, which is exactly where you want to be.
Further reading: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering Long Tail Search
2. Write in the Same Way that People Search
Google’s job is to serve up the best results possible for each search, and Google’s algorithms are getting smarter at doing that. Rather than static searches, such as “galleries art Brooklyn,” the search engine increasingly aims to return results in the way that people generally search.
For instance, if someone enters “What are the best art galleries in Brooklyn,” Google wants to serve them up the answer closest to their query. Knowing this, you can frame your blog post and headline around the keywords: “The Best Art Galleries in Brooklyn.” You can include additional information at the end of the headline, such as “for Newcomers” if you want to niche the focus of your blog post down, but keep it as concise as possible.
Further reading: Google Turning Its Lucrative Web Search Over to AI Machines
3. Put Your Keywords at the Beginning
Google gives more weight to the words at the beginning of a headline, so make sure your keyword phrase is as close to the beginning as possible. Compare the following for someone trying to get listed for the keywords “install solar panels.”
Solar Panels: How to Install Your Own in 10 Simple Steps
How to Install Solar Panels in 10 Simple Steps
In the first example, the keywords are sprinkled throughout the headline. In the second, however, they are at the beginning of the headline. If someone searches “How to Install Solar Panels,” your post stands a much stronger chance of being a result.
Further reading: 8 Simple SEO Tricks That’ll Help You Rank Above the Fold
4. Get to the Point
Don’t be clever, or poetic in your blog headline. Get to the (keyword-rich) point. There are places for vague headlines and cryptic titles, but your blog is not one of them. If your goal is to be found, in both the short-run and the long-run, by Google, be crystal clear what your post is about and get those keywords in there. You can get clever and poetic in the post, if you’d like, but make sure your headline reflects exactly what the post is about.
Further reading: The 10 Commandments of Great Copywriting
5. Learn to Love Lists and Numbers
The web is overflowing with listicles—numbered lists of content—because they work. Lists are easy to scan, easy to read, good for sharing, and easy to reference later. Look at the top Google results for just about anything, and you’re likely to find listicles in or near the top spot. Embrace lists to drive traffic and boost your SEO.
Further reading: Why Listicles Are The New Face Of Content Marketing?
6. Create How-To Posts
Like lists, how-to posts are very reader-friendly and therefore, very search engine friendly. Two years ago I wrote a post titled “How to Live Off-the-Grid in a Tiny House.” It’s gotten over 100,000 unique visitors and continues to get thousands of hits every month.
That particular post works well for a number of reasons, including hitting the longtail keyword search. Combined with the how-to element, it’s a magnet for traffic. When someone searches “How to live off the grid in a tiny house,” what post do you think is at the top of the results?
Further reading: How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula
You might have heard me talk about the moment I realized the importance of headlines. I was a newbie freelance writer and a colleague of mine told me that, unlike the old days of media, when the article was written and then a title decided on, that we were now writing headlines first.
I remember having my mind blown at this concept, but it has proven to be absolutely true. With the massive amount of content online, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they’re looking for, and writing clear headlines is a great way to do this.
Take your time with headlines. Be clear about what keywords you’re targeting, think about how people search for things, and build your headlines from there. It’s a good way to hit your target audience and boost your SEO.
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