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A Practical System for Writing Snappy Headlines That Grow Traffic
Posted on October 11th 2012
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.
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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
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.
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.