The secrets of writing effective headers for blog posts and social media with SEO in mind
Do you know what the secret to getting more website traffic is? There’s something that attracts more attention than photos, videos or beautiful website design: Headlines. Inconspicuous headers that you read every day on the Internet or in the newspaper are the key to greater customer engagement. You just need to know how to use them and make them work for you.
How important are headers?
Let's start with the basics. The headline of an article is usually the first fragment of the text that the reader sees. Moreover, it’s said that 80% of users read headlines, but only 20% go on to read the rest of the text.
Think about it. When you browse the internet you are bombarded with images, text and other content, but what actually gets you to a website? In 90% of cases, headlines get you to click.
In just a few words the headline communicates the intention of the article and if it’s a good headline it jumps out and yells “I’m the one that you want!”
The mission the headline needs to accomplish, admittedly, is not an easy one - we live in times when attention is a commodity more in deficit than gold. The headline therefore has a few seconds to get the reader's attention, and say "Hey, this article might be interesting for you!" And get them to click. The number one most important role of the headline is to get the reader to read the first sentence of the article. What happens next is in the hands of the content.
Enough theory - time for practice
Before you sit down in front of the keys and start writing fantastic headlines, you have to answer two questions:
- Who are you writing for?
- What do you want to convey?
It sounds like the typical jargon you hear from marketing specialist types, right? So let me explain it for humans.
Ann runs a flower shop. Friends tell her that today a business website and a blog are necessities if you want to make a living running a business. So Ann made a website and started to run a blog. Only for whom? Daisy Lovers fan clubs are not very popular, so you should think of something else. Ann’s target group may be, for example, people interested in flower breeding, which Ann can present herself as an expert.
Once we know who we’re writing for, the question remains how to prepare the right headline? Good thing for Ann, she’s got options...
Types of headings
To paraphrase Orwell, all headers are equal, but some are more equal than others. For this reason, I have prepared a short list of the most effective types of headers - choose the one that best suits your text and methods of communication with your readers and see how your traffic increases.
1. Headers with numbers
Headers containing numbers are among the most popular and effective. Why? It's not long-winded articles covering several pages (like the one you are reading). The numbers are specific and there’s a trick - each of the points on the list itself can be a headline, further increasing the reader engagement and making the content easier to skim/scan. This gives the article good ‘flow’ and makes it easier to read. Just remember to put the number at the beginning of the header - then more people will click on the title of the article.
Examples of headers? 10 ways to make the perfect bouquet, 5 steps to beautiful interior, 7 ways to prevent a mess in the kitchen. If you doubt this tactic look at Buzzfeed's crazy success using lists and numbered headlines.
2. “Secret” in the headline
A secret, or rather a promise to reveal a secret to readers or viewers. Who wouldn't like to learn the secrets of wealth over the weekend? I certainly would. Remember, however, that this title, although effective and sometimes magnetic, is not always effective. For some readers, it will seem too forced and too salesy, which may even harm your brand.
Examples? The secret of home-made pizza, Discover the secrets of pastel drawing, 10 secrets chefs don’t want you to know.
3. Question in the headline
How do you find something out ASAP? Ask a question. So help your readers - ask a question and put it in the headline. Such a headline will not only help your visitors, but also positively affect SEO. And if you can kill two birds with one stone - why should we hold back? All you need to do is learn to ask the right questions.
Examples? How to get new customers in a month? Why is it cold in winter? Who gave John Johnson money?
4. Commands in the header
Do you remember what I wrote about the attention of today's Internet users? Fortunately, there is a simple and effective way to not only get the attention of customers, but also to get them to act. It’s a simple, straight-forward command. In times when we don’t have enough time to think over what we really want: a straight-forward command in the header is very effective.
Examples? Apply for a loan in 10 minutes, set up a company that earns money, open the bakery in 10 minutes.
Every second Google handles millions of questions from Internet users. How can you use this to your advantage? It's easy - write a headline that suggests how to do something. Questions starting with "how" and "where" are among the most popular on the web. Start using them as much as possible, they’re very SEO friendly and help pinpoint the intent of searcher. Google loves this.
Examples? How to start a florist shop with no money, How to build a house in six months, How to finish your medical studies.
Once you know the basic types of headers, you should learn more about how to craft them. You can, however, omit the rest of this article. It is technical and I intended it for those who REALLY want to know how to create headers that sell or don’t want to be deceived by marketing agencies or copywriters.
Problems with headers
When headlines were only created for the press, life was wonderfully simple. Some years later they started to be important for websites and blogs. How’s it looking today? Today we have hundreds of channels - social media, blogs, portals with information or portals like the Medium and they all need content. And where there’s content there’s always a header.
OK, you’re thinking: a header is a header and it’s something necessary for every article, got it. I don’t need to think any more about headers, I just need to create them.
You're right ... partly.
When creating content for the internet, we must take into account the various channels in which we’ll promote our materials. To make it simple, let's assume that only three are important:
- Social media
Now it's getting interesting - three different strategies compressed into three paragraphs.
When writing a headline for SEO, you think about a few things - above all you care about a high Click Through Rate (CTR). You also want your headers to be displayed in the Search Engine Result Pages (search results) to be clicked by users frequently and not to be misleading. You also want to minimize your bounce rate, because high bounce rate over an extended time period can negatively affect your SEO performance. You want the headline to be well positioned, contain keywords and generate backlinks and engagement.
If not SEO, it will be social media, where your goal is to strengthen the message as much as possible. You want the headline to best explain what the article is about and generate as much social media sharing as possible. You want readers to interact with your post, that is, comment on its content, shares and likes. You do not care if someone clicks on the post and leaves the article.
When publishing an article on your website you want to build loyalty - you want to attract the right people, make them stay on as long as possible, and return to it as often as possible. SEO and social media, attract traffic, but the content should keep the user on the site as long as possible. You are not going to make false promises, the clickbait headlines may harm you. The reputation of your brand and the effectiveness of other channels depends on how well and honestly you write headlines on your site. You do not want future users to bypass your website because they are disappointed by clicking on a deceptive header, right?
With such different strategies in front of you, there are sure to be conflicts of interest. What should you pay attention to?
Keywords in the headline do not always match social media
Keywords are often boring, if you do not believe - try to write an interesting and engaging headline with the phrase "toilet plunger". Promotion of this kind of header in social media will be difficult, but not impossible.
Badly selected keywords in the headline will harm the brand
By writing an intriguing headline, you may reach for keywords that aren’t necessarily associated with your brand or the subject of the article. It will attract users, true, but most likely it will turn out that the content of the article is not interesting for them, and consequently - they will leave the website, harming your position in search engines. Are you wondering what title can cause such an effect?
Some time ago I was preparing a mailing campaign about Screaming Frog - a website analysis tool. In the title of the mailing, to encourage people to click, I wrote "Meet the coolest frog in town". On the other hand, for the website this headline would be misleading - it would not attract the right people (people looking for cool frogs not SEO tools). Using it, I would not meet their expectations and lower the ranking of my site.
Chasing after social media attention, you can harm your brand
Titles that perform well in social media are often focused on making noise around you and motivate people to take part in a discussion, while making reliability a lower priority. In the long run, it makes people not only immune to your headlines, but also they start avoiding them.
Building a secret on social media is harmful to SEO
Sometimes, we want our headline to build a certain aura of mystery, to arouse curiosity, leading to a click. The problem, however, is that such titles usually do not contain keywords and are not specific enough for result pages, so the page rank and position are lowered and the number of clicks remains below expectations.
Too many keywords in the headline deter visitors of the website
Due to SEO, we often place keywords in the headline. The problem, however, is that the more keywords in the headline, the less readable the title becomes. This limits the number of clicks on the link, gives the impression of spam, which deters visitors and harms our Google position in the long run.
These few issues regarding channels to promote and channels to publish shed light on some of the difficulties facing would be headline creators. It can be challenging but you need to choose the right channels to publish or promote your content. You should have a basic understanding of what to do after reading these tips.
What can you do? In fact, the solution is quite simple and requires only a systematic approach to writing headlines.
Start with planning and prioritizing
Earlier, I mentioned target groups and that they should be properly matched to your business goals. Now is the time to prioritize your channels. When writing the headline, look at your article and answer the question: which distribution channel does this text benefit the most? Is this a blog entry that should do well in the search engines or do I have news the will create buzz in social media?
If a text is meant to be shared and commented on in social media, its success in SEO or on the website is of secondary importance. In the same way, if the text is meant to "do well" in search engines, its popularity in social media is not the main goal for you. Therefore, when creating the headline, specify in which channel the material should arouse interest, and in what success will only be a pleasant surprise.
What should you do if you want the headline to work on several channels simultaneously? Optimize it for the most demanding channels.
A simple headline for a basic channel
Once you know the channels in which you’d like to publish materials and which ones are the most important, it's time to write a simple title. This headline doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should convey everything important.
Ann (you remember our florist Ann, right?) could write something like "Simple ways to water a fern".
Why is it so important that this headline is simple? A well-written headline doesn’t distract you. Sometimes it’s tempting to give our best shot overworking a headline and letting our imaginations run wild - unfortunately, the headline is not a book. What works for a 400-page novel will kill clicks on the internet.
Header for the second most important channel
When you have a ready basic version of the header - time for the second channel. Ann also runs a social media business profile, so she could write something like "Inside the bell jar - managing fussy African violets". This is not the best title in the world, but it shows the concept I’m talking about.
Check for the last time that the correct keywords are in the title and remember that you should only think about the most important ones.
Having prepared different headers, well-developed distribution methods, keywords and target groups, we can publish our content.
A short summary at the end:
- Set recipients.
- Determine what you want to communicate with the header.
- Write the appropriate headline for the content.
- Consider which channels you will publish in.
- Write several different versions of the header depending on the channel.
- Do not be afraid to experiment with the different types of headings.