A Practical System for Writing Snappy Headlines That Grow Traffic

garrettmoon
Garrett Moon Lead blogger and designer, Todaymade

Posted on October 11th 2012

A Practical System for Writing Snappy Headlines That Grow Traffic

Writing great headlines can be a hard job for any blogger. So much of our post’s success rests on the quality of the first few words. It can be daunting for even the most seasoned blogger to get that headline right, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a simple way to write great headlines, every time, without sounding repetitive or pushy.

Snappy headlines can bring traffic, and sales.

Snappy headlines can bring traffic, and sales.

 

As any writer knows, our primary goal is to simply get people to read what we have to say. This means that if we write an article, we actually want people to read that article! Shocking right? A major purpose that headlines serve is to motivate our readers to continue reading. In fact, one way to think about writing is that with every line of copy, our only goal is to motivate our reader to read the next line.

But, that’s not all headlines do…

Headlines are for more that just our readers. They are also for search engines. If we use WordPress (or any other major blogging platform) then the headline will also take the place of theand

tag on our posts. These are important HTML tags that make up two of the most important devices on our page for good search engine optimization. This means, that headlines play a big role on how our site performs on search engines!

That means that the real trick to writing great headlines is to find something that will not only motivate our reader, but influence our postion on Google. See why headlines can be so daunting?

Google Searches Are Performed By Humans

We’ve heard of the phrase “search robot.” This is how we tend to think of search engines like Google and Bing, but it really isn’t a fair assessment. While it’s true that the indexing process may be completed by robots, humans are the ones that actually use those search engines. We perform the searches that eventually lead to the sites they recommend. Essentially, search engines are people too. Headlines that work well for search can also work well for our human contemporaries.

Why Our Headlines Are Usually Bad

The reality is that most headlines are bad, and this happens for a few reasons. I can always tell when someone is pretty new to the headline writing game, because they do a few of the common traits that make up mediocre headlines.

  • They write them last.
  • They write them for themselves.
  • They try to be creative.

Too often, we treat headlines like personal summaries of our blog post, rather than motivating calls to action. This can easily happen when we write our headline last. By writing them last, it is difficult to avoid the temptation of summarizing our post in a few words. At the time the ending result might make sense, but ultimately it will not lead to a headline of great success.

We can also run into trouble when we try to be overly creative. While there is certainly room for creativity in writing, good headlines need to convey urgency and action. If we are trying to be cute, we miss the point. This is precisely why I always suggest writing the headline first. When we do it this way, we focus on strategy and whatever it is that we want accomplish.

How can we avoid writing headlines for ourselves and focus on our human (SEO driven) readers? Here are the 3 steps that will help us do that.

Step #1 – Use Google Related Searches

With our topic in mind, the first place that we should go before writing any blog post is Google. This may sound counterintuitive, but we need to see Google as not only a useful tool for search, but also as a useful tool for helping us understand our reader.

Google provides three simple ways for us to gather information about our topic.

Writing Great Headlines Google Search

  • Suggested search. The first method actually happens automatically when we search for anything on Google. As we type, Google will automatically suggest alternative terms based on the most popular searches in that topic. This is a gold mine for finding great topics that our customers actually care about.
Related search terms show up at the bottom of the page
  • Related search terms. The second method shows up at the bottom of the search page. This provides an expanded list of terms related to our own keywords. Each of the terms acts a link, allowing us to further explore the things that our readers are searching for.
Use Google more advanced search tools to write great headlines.
  • Advanced search tools. The left-hand sidebar of the Google search page is easy to ignore, but as authors we shouldn’t let it go so easily. If we click the link “Show search tools” we will see an expanded menu that allows us to see even more related searches on our topic. This is the best method for discovering what people are talking about online.

Step #2 – Write A Keyword-Rich Headline

Once we have collected a list of important terms that our customers use, we will turn that list into a effective headline. We don’t want to use the terms from Google verbatim; rather we should add our own spin to the headline. It could be useful to do more specific searches to identify the keywords that people use.

Use Google keyword recommendations to craft your titles

At this point it is important to follow some of the guidelines for writing rich and rewarding headlines. Copyblogger’s Magnetic Headlines course is continuous source of help for many bloggers out there. I highly recommend it.

During this step, we should develop a few keyword-rich headlines that could work for our post. For this post, the three that I came up with were:

  • Writing Snappy Headlines That Will Grow Your Traffic And Motivate Your Readers
  • Writing Snappy Headlines, Every Time, Without Sounding Repetitive or Pushy
  • A Practical System For Writing Snappy Headlines That Grow Traffic, Every Time

Step #3 – Blog Headline Optimization

The third step is of course to optimize our headline to fit our post. The obvious step is to set up the headline in WordPress, but don’t forget about the slug. For this post, I chose to optimize the page slug to precisely match the target keyword search term.

Don't stop with the headline. Optimize your page slug as well.

Summary

Writing great headlines that work for our readers and search engines can be a lot easier than we might think if we choose to adopt this method. Before long, we will begin to rely on the suggestions of Google for every single aspect of our post, including the subheadlines and bullet points. The index of terms that Google reveals is based on crowd-sourced information, meaning that the masses have voted on the things they care about most. By adopting this method for writing headlines, we can literally tap into the inner-psyche of our customer and provide them with an improved blog and the winning content that they want and deserve.

How do you decide upon your blog headlines?

garrettmoon

Garrett Moon

Lead blogger and designer, Todaymade

Garrett is the lead blogger and designer at Todaymade, a web design and social marketing company. He is also the author of the free Facebook Marketing for Business (todaymade.com/facebook-course/) course and the co-creator of Todaypulse (todaypulse.com), a social media marketing inbox for social pros and business owners. Garrett co-host's the Better at Marketing Podcast (betteratmarketing.com), an interview style show for social media leaders and online marketing game changers.

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Comments

Janet Brunner
Posted on October 12th 2012 at 4:09PM

Garrett, I just tried the Google related searches for a couple of my posts and came up with some good  ideas for headlines.  Thanks for the great article.

 

yoavburger
Posted on October 16th 2012 at 7:34PM

Great post, Garrett.  Headlines are very important because if you don't engage people immediately, they won't click on your link.  So your headline has to be engaging, and you should have a call to action in the content as well.  Great information on Google related searches and using keywords in your headlines.  So more people can benefit by your suggestions, I have included your blog post in ‘Best of the Web' http://bit.ly/j3bestweb, Facebook http://ow.ly/cMCDn, Google+ http://bit.ly/V0Mtov and now Pinterest http://bit.ly/RxRgtG.  Thanks, Garrett.

 

garrettmoon
Posted on October 16th 2012 at 7:38PM

Thanks Yoav! You make some great points about headlines. They are so important. Thank you for including the link in your blog. I hope it helps your readers!

StoreYa
Posted on December 13th 2012 at 8:28AM

Nice insights Garrett, thanks for sharing:-)