After my post “Three Tips for Killer Web Headlines” Cheril Vernon asked a great question about SEO or search engine optimization in headlines:
I would like to see more suggestions for headlines and making them SEO friendly. Is it better to put your keywords in the first part of the headline or does it make a difference?
SEO writing for headlines isn’t as difficult as many make it out to be, especially traditional media journalists who often deride writing for ‘a machine’ as stifling to creativity. The key to making SEO headlines work is to make SEO a natural part of the headline. Already, the headline is comprised of a description of the article so the important keyword(s) should already be included in it.
To answer Cheril’s question, I don’t think keyword place in the headline makes much difference as long as it’s before the natural search engine cut off. Search engines give you anywhere between five to ten words in their listing before they cut of your headline with the lovely period of ellispsis (…), so if you’re title gets a little wordy, be sure to hit that keyword before it wonders off into nothingness.
Example: Freelance Writing Pros and Cons for the Person Who Wants to Eat and Earn a Living. Your keyword is freelance writing and Google would have likely cut your headline off at: to Eat and Earn a Living if not at for the Person. I’d like to caution you on long headlines, depending on the cut-off, you’re well researched, witty article may not see much traffic.
If I cut this article off at for the Person, I at least get the important/impact point of Freelance Writing Pros and Cons. If the article is not geared toward basic writing pros and cons, but toward specific markets or genre of writers i.e, freelance writing for technical writers; the cut off will make a big difference in reaching your target market.
Just like a well written SEO article doesn’t lose itself to its keywords, a well written headline isn’t chock full of them. Resist the temptation to throw in a bunch of keywords to generate hits. Honestly, it’s annoying and those headlines, while ripe with search engine juice, are likely to be ignored by readers.
Most internet users are aware of keyword driven articles. They may not have a name for it, but they resoundingly hate those sites that appear geared toward sucking in anyone looking for “growing tomatoes” by filling the screen with keywords, weirdly structured sentences and billions of largely useless links. Overload your headline and you may turn off the engines as well. Google is known for banning such blatant SEO work.
Check Your Competition
The SEO for Journalists blog had a good piece of advice:
A good test for journalists is to type their headline into Google News before the story is published. If you see results that are similar to the topic you’re writing about, it’s probably a good headline for search. If you see the exact same headline multiple times, you should rewrite it to stand out from the others, possibly by putting different keywords at the front of the headline. If you see a random assortment of topics, you need a new headline.
Got a great headline writing tip or question? Email me ([email protected]) or post below!