Writing a headline for SEO is like writing an online dating profile; it’s all anyone has to go on to decide if they’re going to engage with you or not. And like online daters, internet scrollers can be quick to judge if your content is right for them, and even quicker to cut and run if it’s not. We have only a split second to entice a reader in with a headline that screams ‘pick me’ in the right way, which is why it’s important to spend time getting them right. So, to ensure a high return of investment on your content, your headlines need to convince both search engines and your target audience that your content is the one.
SEO is broad and there are hundreds of factors that play into search engine ranking. Yet while headlines are just one part of this, 36% of SEO pros class headlines as the most important element of SEO.
As we’ll explore, there’s a knack to writing a good headline. So, read on for our best practices to write headlines that pack a punch, with examples.
What is an SEO-friendly headline?
SEO means search engine optimisation. In real-talk that means optimising your content to improve your website’s value according to a search engine like Google. And a headline is a short sentence that describes a longer piece of content. Putting both together, an SEO-friendly headline is a short sentence that describes your content in a way that helps a search engine see it’s value.
But while that might sound complicated, don’t worry. In recent years search engines have done more of the SEO heavy lifting by improving the way they value content, making our lives easier. Now, the algorithms search engines use to value content are based on human behaviour. So, if we can make sure our content resonates with humans first – the basics, really – our content stands a good chance of being ranked highly by search engines.
Why Are Headlines Important For SEO?
In a word: traffic. A good headline drives traffic, i.e. more people visiting your website. And getting more traffic tells a search engine that your content is relevant and valuable to users.
However, traffic alone is not enough to boost your content’s value in the eyes of search engines. Time spent on your content is a big factor in determining its quality. So, steer clear of writing click-bait headlines that promise more than they deliver. They encourage high bounce rates, a factor that makes you appear sketchy and low-value to a search engine.
7 Tips For Writing A SEO Headline That Works
Here are the seven ingredients we swear by for making our secret SEO-headline-writing sauce:
We’re emotional creatures that like to connect with others. In the split second that you have to attract the attention of your audience, use emotive language to spark a response. Think about what you want people to feel when they read your headline and use verbs and adjectives that elicit that response.
Use emotive language that cuts to the core and speaks to your audience on a deeper level.
Over-use certain words or use misleading language just to get attention.
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Break it down for your audience
Put your hands up if you’re a list person. Whether you admit you are or don’t, there’s something endlessly satisfying to our brains about breaking things down into nice manageable chunks. And content in this format gets more reads. A headline that tells readers upfront that the article will be easily formatted and they can skim read it if they want will win-out over those that don’t.
Use a number in your headline to show readers the article will be easy to read.
Overwhelm readers by using a high number in your headline. Stick to 10 and under.
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Whack in your top keyword
Use search terms that people are using to find information to help make sure your headline is as relevant as it can be. Keywords shouldn’t be used at the cost of a well-written, accurate headline, though, so prioritise using your main keyword. You can do keyword research using a tool like Semrush.
Include your main keyword so your audience can see your article is relevant to them right away.
Keyword stuff – this is really bad practice and will push your ranking down.
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Length does matter
The verdict is in: the length of a headline does matter. Too long and it’ll be cut off on the search results page with an ellipsis… Too short and it might not describe the topic fully enough, so people are confused and avoid clicking on it. This snippet optimiser is a handy tool that shows you how your headline will appear on the search results page.
Write a headline that’s short enough to appear fully in search results but long enough to be accurate.
Write a headline that’s too long and rambly or too short and vague. There is such a thing as the perfect size when it comes to headlines.
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Do what you say you will
Make sure your headline accurately reflects what’s in your content. When you deliver on your audience’s expectations, you’ll see time spent on your content increase. Search engines value accuracy highly as it’s another sign of good quality content.
Write a headline that accurately reflects what is in the article.
Write a misleading headline that ultimately wastes people’s time.
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Get on your audience’s wavelength
It’s a no brainer really, but speaking to your audience in their language and understanding their needs will help give your headline the right vibes. Avoid using overly-difficult technical language that alienates the people you most want to speak to.
Write a headline that speaks to your audience’s needs and motivations.
Use overly-technical language that puts people off.
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Go against the grain
It’s easier said than done, but original headlines will make you stand out in an overly-saturated content market. Rather than regurgitating what others have written, spend some time coming up with a fresh spin on a popular topic. Or take a leap of faith and be bold or daring with your content. Check if a headline has already been used by typing it into Google.
Put your own twist on a popular topic to stand out from the crowd.
Mistake abstract for originality and write a headline that goes over your audience’s heads.
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The good news about SEO is it’s anyone’s game. It’s a free way to attract traffic to your site and you’re rewarded for producing relevant, high-quality content that resonates with your audience.