SEO headlines play a significant role in your content marketing strategy.
How, you may ask?
They can help Google understand your content and grab your readers’ attention. Besides, great headlines can greatly improve your click-through rate, drive massive traffic to your website, and ultimately increase sales or sign-ups.
But that’s not all.
They’re also one of the most important factors that you need to optimize for your on-page SEO.
But here’s the thing—learning how to write SEO-friendly headlines that drive traffic is no mean deal.
That’s why we’ve prepared this in-depth guide to teach you exactly that.
From using headline analyzer tools to understanding the search intent, there’s a lot that goes into it.
Stick around as we share practical tips to write SEO headlines that drive traffic and clicks.
So, let’s dive in.
Optimizing headlines for SEO can greatly benefit your content strategy in many ways. Be it driving traffic to your website or helping you rank higher up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), there’s a lot that these headlines can help you accomplish.
But why optimize headlines for SEO?
Here are a few reasons:
When creating online content, you have to focus on both the searchers and the search engine.
Because Google and other search engines scan your content, including the headline, to better understand exactly what it’s about.
So, while your headline shows the users what they might find on your page, it does so for search engine crawlers as well. This can help search engines index your page for the right set of keywords and get you targeted traffic.
Another reason why you should optimize headlines for SEO is that they can improve your search engine rankings.
When you optimize your headlines with the appropriate keyword, search engines will start ranking your page for that particular keyword in the SERPs. And when searchers looking for information related to the keywords used in the headlines see them, they’ll be more likely to click on them.
The higher click-through rate gives a strong indication to the search engines that your page is the right fit for the audience’s search intent. As a result, they’ll push your website higher up in the SERPs.
In fact, in a Google Webmaster Central video session in August 2020, John Mueller, the senior webmaster trends analyst at Google stated clearly that headings are a ranking factor.
These days, people don’t read online content but they skim through it. A study by NN Group suggests that 79% of people scan the content of a page and only 16% of people actually read the page word by word.
Creating well-optimized headlines and subheadings can help them scan your content and find the information they are looking for fast.
Now that you understand the importance of writing headlines with SEO in mind, let’s understand exactly how to write them.
It’s worth noting that writing SEO headlines that grab people’s attention and help Google understand your content is critical to the success of your SEO strategy.
Here are practical tips to help you write catchy headlines that search engines and people will love:
When writing headlines, optimizing them just for the search algorithm won’t help. You also need to keep your readers in mind. After all, if people aren’t clicking on your headlines, there’s no reason for the search engine to rank your page higher in the SERPs.
Here are useful tips to understand your target readers:
Once you have defined your audience, the next step is to understand exactly what information they are looking for. You need to find the main intent behind their searches as that’s the intent your content needs to satisfy and that must reflect in your headlines too.
Generally, there are four main types of search intent you need to put in mind:
Image via Semrush
Here are tips to uncover search intent:
Alternatively, you can check the “People Also Ask” section to get an idea of the intent.
Image via Google
You also need to identify the search terms or phrases people are entering on Google when looking for information related to your content. In this case, you have to research a mixture of headline terms and long-tail keywords.
You can do this by entering your primary search term on Google and check out the related searches section.
Or use autocomplete to get keyword suggestions:
Image via Google
Alternatively, you use a keyword research tool like Semrush, Ahrefs, and many others out there.
With a keyword research tool, all you need is to enter your primary search term and the tool will display important details about the keyword including the search volume, keyword difficulty, etc. Based on that, you can choose keywords with high volumes and low difficulty.
Up to this point, you have identified your target keywords. Now you need to include the primary keyword in your headline to start shaping it up.
This way, you will help Google understand and rank your headlines for relevant search terms. It can also improve your ranking in the SERPs if it’s relevant to the search intent.
So, where should you add the target keyword?
To optimize your headlines well, you should consider adding the main keyword at the beginning of the headline.
See how these blog posts have front-loaded their headlines with the term “keyword research”
Image via Google
Here are some other examples of headlines we’ve used for our posts. See how we add our target keywords on our headlines (underlined):
Remember to avoid keyword stuffing to avoid Google penalties and overcomplicating your headings.
In most cases, content/internet marketers and online business owners target a primary keyword and several related keywords (secondary keywords/LSI) in their content.
But you know what?
The best practice for headlines is to only stick to a single keyword. This ensures that the search engines understand what keyword they need to rank it for.
However, you could choose to go with two keywords in the heading too, with the second one being a secondary keyword.
Does this have any impact on your rankings?
Yes, the benefits of adding two keywords to your headlines is that your content ranks for more keywords, thus you can generate more organic traffic from people searching with both keywords.
To add two keywords to a headline, you must adhere to the two principles below:
Here is a good example of how to optimize your headlines with two keywords:
Image via Buffer
No matter how long your headlines are, Google only displays the first 50-60 characters.
Take a look at how Google truncates headlines that are over 60 characters long. This headline on WordStream is 68 characters long:
Image via WordStream
See how it’s truncated on Google’s search results:
Image via Google
Keeping your headlines within the specified character count ensures your readers can view the entire headline on the SERPs.
See this headline on our blog:
Image via Attrock
Note that the headline is 59 characters and 13 words long.
Now take a look at how Google displays it in the search results page:
Image via Google
To keep your headlines within the required character limit, you can use free tools like Word Counter or Character Count Online.
Ensure your headlines reveal enough detail to grab readers in.
Starting your headlines with numbers isn’t only good for better Google rankings but is also a psychological factor that can increase click-through rates.
Including a number gives your audience an idea of what they might find on the page and how extensive the content might be in terms of its length.
Numbering the content accordingly makes it easy for your audience to go through it as well. This can increase your time on site, which can help in boosting your SEO.
Here are a couple of examples of how we include numbers in our blog posts and their headlines:
Using power words in headlines has been proven to evoke emotions and can make your content more attractive for searchers who are looking for similar content.
Generally, power words or power phrases are strong, powerful, and bold words that are easily noticeable and can capture a searcher’s attention. They appeal to people more than words they see daily. This can help your headline trigger some emotions in them.
Power words can play an important role in compelling people to click on your headlines and opening your page to read your content.
Take a look at how Cosmopolitan uses powerful words to make a compelling headline.
Image via Cosmopolitan
And if you use one of the best headline analyzer tools, it’ll show you if you’re using power words in your headlines or not.
Your headlines should clearly communicate exactly what the topic is about. Also, ensure you promise the reader something that will encourage them to click on the headlines to read the content on the page.
Take a look at the headline below:
Image via Attrock
As you can see, the headline tells the reader that the tips shared in that blog post will definitely change the way they write. It’s a promise. And that can convince the reader to click on the headline as they’d start trusting it as a resource that might provide them with something useful.
To achieve this, you need to empathize with your target readers when writing your headlines.
Identify problems they are trying to solve then outline how your content will help them. This is the promise they will receive if they click and read your content.
Q1. What are the best practices for writing SEO headlines?
A. To craft SEO friendly headlines, follow the principles below:
Q2. What is a great headline?
A. A good headline is clear, concise, and detailed, and provides a compelling summary of the content inside to encourage the reader to click and read.
Q3. Why are SEO headlines important?
A. Search engine optimization headlines can significantly boost your organic reach. For instance, they aid search engines to understand your content better. Besides, they can increase click-through rates and increase time on page.
What’s more, headlines are a potential ranking factor and can provide quick answers to searchers.
Q4. How long should a headline be?
A. The accepted headline length is 50-60 characters or 10-14 words. Anything beyond that length is truncated by Google in the SERPs.
Q5. What makes a good headline?
A. A good headline is one that captivates the attention of your audience and compels them to click on them to check your content out.
Over 7.5 million blog posts are published every day. It means that there are more options than ever for online readers than you can imagine.
For that reason, you need to create headlines that set you apart from other headline options out there. You can achieve this by writing SEO headlines following the tips you have learned in this post.
It’s the key to impressing both the search engines and your audience. So, go ahead and start writing impactful headlines.
And if you have any questions, don’t forget to ask them in the comments section.
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