Why Writing Headlines For Search Engines Like Google Will Get You More Readers

googleI’ll admit, for quite a long time I neglected a HUGE source of traffic to many of my sites – namely, search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. And yet Google want to send you and I visitors to our sites and blogs – that’s their business!

So if you have a blog, Google would love to send you traffic… IF they can detect that your post is relevant to its users.

Headlines play an important role in Google deciding whether a page is relevant or not. And when it comes to writing headlines, many bloggers (and copywriters in particular) are great at coming up with witty, attention-grabbing ones that HUMANS  think are clever… but are lousy at attracting search engine traffic.

To my mind, that’s a big mistake. After all, search engines like Google can generate you a ton of traffic – and you don’t have to pay for it.

One of the keys to attracting this traffic is to optimize your headlines and posts for a particular keyphrase or set of keywords. (A keyphrase is just something that people would type into a search engine, such as “how to train your dog”.)

How important are keyphrase optimized headlines to Google? You can find out by running a couple of searches yourself, but let’s have a look at the Top 20 results for the phrase how to train your dog, in Google:

1. How To Train A Dog, dog training tips and techniques for home …
2. How To Train A Puppy | Puppy Training | Potty & House Training …
3. How to Train Your Dog Yourself | eHow.com
4. How to Train Your Dog | eHow.com
5. (Video results for how to train your dog)
6. Puppy and Dog Obedience Training
7. Training Your Dog
8. (News results for how to train your dog)
9. (Book results for how to train your dog)
10. Karen Pryor Clickertraining| dog training and cat training info …
11. How To Train Your Dog To Heel Off The Leash – Dog & Puppy Advice …
12. Teach Your Dog to Sit: Basic Dog Obedience Commands | Suite101.com
13. Amazon.com: Train Your Dog – The Positive Gentle Method: Nicole …
14. [PDF] Crate Training Your Dog
15. HowStuffWorks “How to Train a Dog: Tips and Guidelines”
16. Secrets to Dog Training | Dog Obedience Training to Solve Dog
17. Easy Dog Training, Dog & Puppy Obedience Training, Dog Grooming
18. Dog Training and Obedience Lessons
19. THERAPY DOGS – TRAINING YOUR DOG TO REACH OTHERS – Welcome to …
20. How to Train Your Dog & Puppy Obedience Training by the Experts

You’ll notice that none of the results in the Top 20 could be said to be particularly clever headlines, but ALL OF THEM contain some or all of the keywords in the phrase “how to train your dog”, or related words such as “training”, “teach” and “puppy”.

(Incidentally, in your searches you might find a clever and witty headline in the Top 10, but I’m willing to bet it’s on an already popular blog that is already well ranked on Google, OR the keyphrase is not very popular.)

In other words, the headline of your blog post is important to Google, because it determines how relevant the post might be to Google searchers. (It’s certainly not the only factor, but it IS a factor).

So here’s two steps you can take to increase your chances of generating Google traffic to your next blog post:

(1) If people wanted to find the information you wrote about in your post, ask yourself what keywords they might use in Google.

For example, this article is about writing headlines to generate more search engine traffic, so I think the main keywords would be: writing headlines search engines Google.

Don’t pick too many, otherwise you’ll find step 2 very difficult, which is…

(2) Create a good headline based around those keywords.

Remember, Google and humans have different ideas about what makes a “good” headline. For Google, it’s about RELEVANCE. If someone types in “how to write headlines for Google”, I would love for this post to show up… and it’s more likely to do that IF my headline reflects these keywords somehow.

So how do I get from “writing headlines search engines Google” to something that seems like a pretty decent headline for both humans and Google? For this post, I wrote down a brief statement of what the article is about, using those keywords:

Writing headlines that pull search engine traffic from Google, that humans also enjoy.

Then I thought about incorporating the benefits of doing this, which is “you get more traffic… and hopefuly blog readers”. So let’s see if I can convert that into a headline:

Why Writing Headlines For Search Engines Like Google Will Get You More Readers

Now, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not the cleverest headline in the world… BUT it’s nicely optimized to pick up traffic from Google for anyone searching for the subject of writing headlines for search engines. (Oh, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice the CONTENT of this post is doing that as well.)

Headlines are by no means the only thing Google uses, but it’s a factor, because a headline that closely matches the keyword search is likely to be relevant. So before you use that clever and witty headline, ask yourself:

If people are searching for that topic on Google, will my headline help them to find it?

By the way, I’m not telling you to stop using clever and witty headlines. I’m simply saying that, Google is a robot, a machine that attempts to deduce value and relevance automatically. So if you want Google traffic, clever and witty is not machine readable… but keyword optimized headlines are.

7 comments

  1. Yesterday I started using the Adwords Keywords tool to see what people usually search for each keyword. From now on I’m going to use this tool for Hiburrito and my blog.

  2. I have been using Adwords to help with post titles and it seems to be working pretty good. I noticed that like the How to Train a Dog example if you phrase your title in the manner that a normal person would be looking for information then they will find you.

  3. Please, Please, Please don’t encourage those people who write for the search engines. I know you mean well. I unsubscribe to so many blogs because they stuff their articles and titles with keywords.

    You are a copywriter so you know how to make a “keyword” headline flow. But that is not the case for your average Internet Marketer.

  4. I agree with Carl, content is for humans and not for search engines :) But it can still be a good idea to make sure it’s optimized for search engines.

    I read some where that “how to” is a stop word(s) in google/search engines, so those will not be relevant for the search. What do you think?

  5. @Carl, my post isn’t about writing for search engines, it’s about optimizing for them. Big difference. I know what you mean about keyword stuffed articles – they suck. Optimizing does not mean keyword stuffing. It simply means giving Google the opportunity to find and index it for relevant keywords. Believe me, I see many great posts that haven’t got a chance of showing up for a relevance search in Google, simply because they had no clue about optimization.

    @Klaus, if someone is searching for “how to train your dog”, why would Google treat “how to” as “stop words”? The Top 4 Google results in my example began with “how to”. That should tell you what Google thinks of those words :)

    Anyway, I agree that we should write for humans first… but optimize for search engines, so the post has the chance of being found.

  6. Hi Paul,
    excellent post! I personally try and do this every time I am writing a post for my blog. I think about what I want to write, and then I think about keywords other people might look for. Then I check out the search volume and competition and decide which keyword (phrase) to take. I then have the keyword (phrase) once in the title, once close to the beginning of the post and once towards the end. Depending on how long my post is, I might have it in the middle, too. Also, try to hyperlink your keywords, or bold them, or underline. Anything that might make them stand out a little. It all helps! According to Google Analytics around 54% of my visitors are coming from the search engines now, and I put that down to proper use of keywords. :)

  7. this post is spot on…….I have written great posts that have have had zero readers….until I decided to be more disiplined and base the headline and title tag of posts around keywords

    cheers
    Tony

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