Optimizing Headlines for Search Engines and Social Media
Many of you have heard David Ogilvy’s quote, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.” It’s safe to assume that online readers see hundreds of headlines and read only a few stories.
Consider the number of websites online (1,018,540,900 and counting), the number of tweets per day (58 million), and the number of “life-changing” videos and top-ten lists we see every day on Facebook. Whenever we go online, we encounter a dizzying parade of headlines. A small percentage of those headlines are relevant enough to read or save.
Using SEO principles, you can improve the odds that your ideal prospect will read your headline (and the body copy).
Keyword research: Find out what search terms people are actually using
You can’t hit a bull’s-eye without choosing a target. And you can’t measure your search engine success without deciding what keywords and phrases to use.
Finding the best keywords is crucial because at least 80% of all online purchases begin when someone types a keyword into a search engine. The million-dollar question is, What are they typing?
Your keyword list will grow and evolve over time, just like your website will. Begin brainstorming keywords by listing specific products and services that you — or your clients — sell, questions that customers ask, and problems that people are trying to solve.
Get to know the prospect, and the language they use, just as you would when writing a sales letter. You want to use the prospects’ words when devising the keyword list, so do everything you can to find out how they talk about your product.
Once you have a list of phrases you think your target audience is using, trim it down to two, three, and four-word combinations.
The next step is to find out which phrases are valuable enough to focus on.
“What you think people are searching for and what they are actually searching for are often two very different things,” explains SEO pioneer Heather Lloyd-Martin.
Lloyd-Martin recommends using a paid keyword research tool like KeywordDiscovery, WordStream, or Wordtracker to search for keywords because they have more valuable features compared to other free search tools.
Place keywords at the beginning of the headline for optimal impact
Using keywords at the beginning of your headlines and subheads is one of the best ways to improve your ranking, because it appeals to search engines and to actual people reading the page.
“When you first glance at any type of copy, the headlines, subheads, and boldface text jump out at you,’ writes Lloyd-Martin. “The engines assume that words in emphasized text are ‘more relevant’ — and they may give those words a slight positioning boost.”
Placing the keywords at the front end of headlines makes them more likely to be noticed by people, many of whom scan instead of read.
Nick Usborne wrote in How Good Are You At Writing For Web Page Skimmers and Scanners, “Heatmap studies show again and again that readers online give their full attention only to the first few words of a line of copy. They might read a page width of a page headline, if it’s a good one. But as they move down the page, they give less and less attention to subheads and body text beyond the first few words.”
Use keywords to reach prospects at different stages of the buying cycle
Some of your keywords and phrases will be very specific (for example, the name and model number of a product) while others will be more general.
If you organize the words from general to specific, you will be one step closer to writing articles that support your sales funnel.
Prospects at the beginning of the sales cycle will search for general terms, and may even type in a problem they are facing or a question they have. You can reach those prospects with information pages that have general keywords in the title, FAQ pages with subheads that are made up of specific questions, and white papers with titles that describe the problems a typical customer might face.
Create headlines for this audience that offer a “how-to” or explore a specific aspect of a problem or product.
Prospects who are about to buy will use very specific keywords. For example, they might want to compare two competing hybrid cars to decide which is the better value or double-check the dimensions of a shelving unit to make sure it will fit in their child’s closet.
For people who are close to buying, including product names in your headlines can be a powerful attention-getter.
Meta Data and Meta Tags are your first opportunity to get the click
When a web page you wrote shows up in the search engine results, the Page Title and Description are the first things your potential visitors see. I would compare this blurb of information to the envelope copy in a direct-mail piece; people decide whether or not to open the website based on looking at it for a second or two. As an SEO copywriter, your job is to create a search engine result that will get prospects to click through to the site.
Treat those tags as you would any other headline, and include the key phrases for the particular page.
Worried that you might skip an SEO step when adding content to a WordPress site? WordPress SEO is a plugin that helps you to complete each step. It also lets you see a preview of what your post or page will look like in the search results.
Now you’re ready to share your post with social media
Isn’t it frustrating when you share a link on Facebook, and are surprised by the preview section of your post? When you follow the SEO steps above, the preview section will be an accurate reflection of what the page is about, so it will look good when you (or someone else) shares it on their social media pages.
The final step is to add a social media post that will encourage people to read it and share it. In her article in SearchEngineWatch.com, called “How to Write Headlines Google Will Love and You and I Will Click Read and Share,” Salma Jafri writes that stories that trigger strong emotions are most likely to be shared and go viral. But the search engines still need to see the keywords at the beginning of the headline. Jafri recommends starting a headline with a keyword and building drama with emotional keywords.
In addition to triggering emotions, you can get readers to share and read your content by offering useful benefits, paying particular attention to the needs of a specific audience, or helping people achieve a goal or solve a problem.
This article, Optimizing Headlines for Search Engines and Social Media, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »