Are you sad that no one seems to read your blog posts?
It could be because of the lack of catchy headlines – more specifically, headlines that are both creatively written and contain a useful keyword phrase to help the search engines find you readers.
In short, you need to rank well in search engines for the phrases your audience uses to find your type of content.
You’d think that at this point, everyone understands Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the need to have a strong keyword phrase in the headline of their blog post. But that’s not my experience.
I’ve reviewed hundreds of blog-post headlines in the decade I’ve run my Freelance Writers Den community. And time after time, I see headlines with no keyword phrase at all. Generic headlines that have zero chance of helping you gain readers from online search. Such as:
- Watch Out for the Red Flags
- Head High or Body High (for a legal cannabis blog)
- How a Marathon Can Heal your Soul
What’s wrong with these headlines?
In that first one, we can’t even tell who the post is for, or what we’ll learn if we click and read it.
In all three cases, there is no strong keyword phrase that would help search engines deliver you some readers. At this point in the busy blogosphere, if you don’t take the time to weave a keyphrase into your headline, your post is basically doomed.
So how do you figure out what keyword phrase to use for your blog headline? And more importantly, how do you artfully weave it into your headline so it doesn’t seem spammy?
Let’s walk through five key steps to creating a winning, SEO-focused, catchy headline for your next blog post:
Step 1: Find a Useful Keyword Phrase
To get started in SEO, you need to think like your reader. What do they come to your blog for? What are they passionate about?
Now, find a keyword tool – Ubersuggest is a useful, free one that can get you started (but feel free to Google ‘free keyword tool’ and experiment until you find a site you like). Start doing searches you imagine your reader might do, to find your type of content.
The mistake new bloggers tend to make once they discover keyword research is thinking too simplistically about keywords. For instance, in the sample headlines above, I’d bet that running-blog writer thought using the word ‘marathon’ would be a useful keyword. But in general, single-word keywords may get lots of searches, but are too difficult to rank high for. (I pay for the keyword-research tool KWfinder, so my screenshots come from there.)
Weee, hundreds of thousands of searches a month! Sounds great, until you see that ‘79’ on the 1-100 degree-of-difficulty scale.
That high difficulty score means you’re unlikely to rank front-page for this word. More importantly, that word doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it might – you’ll see the top-ranked sites for it include one Marathon gas company, as well as a clothing company.
You’ve taken an important step. You’ve started exploring keywords, but you don’t yet have a truly useful keyword phrase, one with a low enough difficulty that you have a shot at ranking well. To succeed, we’ll need to dig deeper, to find a phrase that gets a decent number of searches – say, at least 1,000 a month – but is much less competitive.
Refine your Keyword
Thinking about a marathon-runner’s top pains, I imagine they might search on something more along the lines of ‘training for a marathon.’ That search looks much better, in terms of being attainable:
Yes, there are fewer searches for this more in-depth phrase. But it’s far more likely marathon runners are searching this phrase than the simple word ‘marathon.’ So it’s a better-targeted audience. This is the sort of phrase I’d recommend this running-blogger use, to draw traffic to her headlines.
Let’s do this exercise one more time – this time, for the topic of this very blog post.
Naturally, I started conceptualizing this post with the headline and with keyword research. (Save yourself a lot of time and write your headline first, including keyword phrase!)
After poking around with phrases like ‘blogging tips’ or ‘blogging,’ which seemed too difficult and broad-spectrum, I tried ‘blog headline’ or ‘blog headlines.’ As you can see below, ‘blog headline’ doesn’t even get 1,000 monthly searches.
But what-ho, look what popped up just beneath a search for ‘blog headline’ as a related search:
If you’re wondering why ‘catchy headlines’ is part of this post’s headline, now you know. That super-low difficulty ranking and over 2,000 searches a month put it in the sweet spot of a good keyword phrase for this topic. Sure, it doesn’t have the word ‘blog’ in it, but headlines are headlines. I still think it attracts the right reader.
Now that we have a keyword phrase to use, we need to put it into the headline. There’s an important thing to know about keyword placement within your headline, so let’s look at that next.
Step 2: Start or End?
When bloggers first catch on to using keywords, they tend to throw it into the middle of their blog headline. You get something like, ‘How Writing Catchy Headlines Helps You Succeed as a Blogger.’
BUT. Best evidence is that Google more highly regards what you have at the beginning and end of your headline than what’s in the middle. So you’ve kinda shot yourself in the foot by hiding your keyword phrase in the middle.
And now you know why the phrase ‘catchy headlines’ is at the very end of the headline of this post. Yes, it can be more challenging to make the keyword flow at the beginning or end, but my experience is it’s worth the extra effort.
Step 3: Check the Length
Once you’ve got a keyword phrase in a proposed headline, it’s time to do the other SEO check: We need to make sure the headline isn’t too long.
You see, Google only shows 60 characters of a headline in its search results. Beyond there, and it gets truncated (a fancy word for ‘cut off’). You don’t want your headline truncated, because it means some of your meaning will be lost.
An easy-fun way to check for length is by using this free Moz tool. As you can see, my headline is a good length.
If anything, this could be a bit longer headline than it is – there’s probably room for a word or two more. But I liked the conciseness of this construct.
There’s always more to writing a good keyword-focused headline than simply identifying and using a keyword. Let’s examine the secret sauce next.
Step 4: Add Sizzle
One of the most important things about a blog headline is that it feel fresh, new, unusual, surprising, or different in some way from the 1,000 other posts we’ve already read on the topic.
This headline is an unusual case, because my keyword phrase has a fun adjective built in: Catchy. If it didn’t have that, I’d be looking to insert a word or phrase to give the headline that special something.
In the ‘running a marathon’ case, I might want to say I’ve found unusual or dead-easy or other ways, to spice up the headline. Think about inserting an emotion word that activates the ‘feelings’ part of your readers’ brains. You could rank well with a good keyphrase, but if your headline is boring and doesn’t engage the reader, they still don’t click.
Step 5: Start Relating
If you follow SEO at all, you may know that Google is highly interested in the use of related keywords in a piece of online content. Beyond simply finding a single good keyword phrase, you need to weave in related words and phrases in your content.
Even better is if you can put a related phrase right into the headline itself. That’s what I’ve done with the phrase ‘SEO for bloggers.’ As you can see below, it’s a pretty decent keyword phrase in its own right, though it gets fewer searches and has a higher degree of difficulty than my chosen phrase, ‘catchy headlines.’
Stacking it on the front of this headline gives it bonus SEO juice. Killer!
Go Beyond Keywords to Build Creative, Catchy Headlines
Using these five steps to create your headline should help you build much stronger headlines that get better search results for you. Remember, the headline is all-important to your post’s success. If it’s not strong and doesn’t have a good keyword phrase you can rank for, nobody finds and reads your wonderful words.
It’s definitely a skill that takes time to build, hitting the right combination of strong phrase and creative headline that interests the reader. Remember to leave time to do keyword research for each post, and to develop the strongest headline you can. That’ll be time well spent.
How do you decide on keywords for your blog headlines? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.