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.