How to Optimize Headlines for Keywords?

SEO is all about optimization, but how do you optimize your headline keywords?

Video transcript:

David: So, you asked a question about title tags.

Tim: Really more of the page or post title itself and optimizing that. Like, even brainstorming on a content plan and putting together a list of articles coming up. Like optimizing that title specifically for the keyword focus that I’m kind of building a plan on.

David: Sure. Sure. So, I’m presuming you’ve already done the keyword research.

Tim: Yes.

David: Okay. So, you have a keyword research universe document.

Tim: Yeah.

David: And you’ve organized that into different pages because most pages are going to have a topic, and those are going to have several keywords.

Tim: Yeah.

David: Okay. So then, have you started with the SEO blueprint? Which kind of says, okay, here are the pages I already have; here’s the keyword focus area for each?  

Tim: Right.

David: Okay. And so then from there, you decided, you need to add some pages.

Tim: Right.

David: Okay. Okay. Great. That’s the right…

Tim: Pages or blog articles, however, you want to refer to them. But pages essentially, right?

David: Well, I actually make a distinction between the two. And I think they’re kind of valuable distinctions. Someone articulated it this way to me that helped. Think about your website as a hub and spoke system. Landing pages are main pages that maybe exist in your main nav. These are pages because they feature a service or a product that you offer. They are going to be more salesy in nature.

Tim: Yeah.

David: Someone reading that is not offended when you say, “and that’s why you should contact us today.”

Tim: Yeah.

David: And talk about how you do it better than others. A blog post, on the other hand, is informational in nature. And if it is too self-promotional, it loses credibility. And so, at the end of the blog post, I think it’s appropriate to say, “oh, and by the way, we do this, so contact us for help.” But the article itself should be neutral in perspective, altruistic in the generosity of providing solutions and answers, and then at the end, you could say, “if you need help, call us.” Right?

Tim: Or go to this page based on that service.

David: Right. And then that’s the hub and spoke idea. So, you have one landing page focusing on a topic. And then, the blog posts each link to that same topic. So, I have an SEO page on my website, and I have blog posts that mention SEO linking to the SEO page.

Tim: Right.

David: So, what that does is a couple of things. Number one, the interlinks help the SEO page do better. Two, if you land on a blog post that’s related to SEO in some way, humans can get there too. So, it’s a search engine advantage and a human advantage. Right?

Tim: Yeah.

David: So, that’s why I approach landing pages very differently than I do a blog post. So, I’m definitely optimizing the landing page. I only built a landing page because it’s proven that people are looking for it. I know how people refer to it, and so I know what to optimize for. With the blog post, I might know that people are asking this question, for instance. The problem is, almost everything’s already written about. Right? So, what makes my blog post different or better than everybody else is always a challenge. So, in some ways, if I’ve identified a topic that I think someone wants to read, I think then that’s great. But even if I don’t have that, I will still write a blog post about it because I still get the value of that link in the hub-spoke system. So, when it comes to the headline or the title of the post, which is distinct from the title tag of the post, then the guidelines for that are to be direct about what you’re talking about. And by that, I mean, don’t use a cute, catchy title, don’t be nebulous or obscure or unclear about what you are talking about in your article. The other thing we’ve talked about is evergreen. It needs to be always true if it’s dated in any fashion. A year from now, even if the article is still up to date, it’s going to look out of date because it has data associated with it. Right? And ideally, these will ask a question that your article answers. So, if you can follow those guidelines, you’re going to have a blog post that is clear and could get search engine traffic from people who might look for that. Like we had a client use some of its internal resources to write a bunch of blogs for them. And apparently, the writer working for the client fashioned themselves to be a good writer. So, the titles of the blog posts were so nebulous and catchy that you had no idea what you would be reading about. And so, we saw there were no impressions and no clicks. The article was good. And if you have gotten to it, you’d find out this is a very interesting article. But it didn’t do well on the search engines because it wasn’t clear what this article was about. This is where we run into problems with social media people. Because your title of a social media post probably should be clickbait. Right? Get the click, a little controversial, a little catchy. But that doesn’t do well in search. So, social media people sometimes do the worst job writing a blog article by the title because you don’t know what you’re getting. It might work well in social media to say oh, this is kind of catchy and pithy, and I want to read that article. But from a search engine perspective, tell me what it is. Make sure this article answers a question I’m asking.

Tim: Yeah.

David: Tell me what the value is.

Tim: That makes sense.

David: Does that kind of answer the question you’re asking?

Tim: Yeah. And I mean, essentially, as long as you’re using your keyword research, I think to help formulate that, you are pretty much optimizing it to the best of your ability or the direction that you’re trying to achieve out of the gate. And then just monitoring how well it performs to notice that it’s getting no clicks or no traffic. Right? Like, no impressions.

David: Well, yeah. So that’s the challenge because if you’re using keyword research to determine what you should write about on your blog, you might come up with article titles or topics that people have already written about. You know, “What is search engine optimization?” There are probably about fifty billion articles on that topic on the Internet. So, if I were to write that because my keyword research people want to know this, I might get zero impressions even though I might have the best answer to the question. So, when it comes to blog posts, there might be a philosophy to almost ignore keyword research to do a blog post. Now a better way to do it would be to make it uniquely yours, you know, relating it to your town. “How search engine optimization can change a Charlotte-based business.” So now it’s something very different than what everyone else has written about before. Maybe it’s “What is search engine optimization for a lawyer?” Okay. Well, there might be a lot of articles on that. But you have a niche you work with, so relate it to your niche, and now your article is not just like everybody else’s article. Right? So, you kind of use keyword research to give yourself an idea and then write the article. Does that make a little more sense? You’re on mute, Tim.

Tim: Oh, sorry about that. I was chewing and stuff.

David: We appreciate that.

Tim: Thanks, Instacart. You can cut that out, by the way. Yeah. That’s what I was looking for. It’s like, you know, just what those things to consider when formulating that plan. And not to worry too much, I think, about trying to over-optimize it. Even if it’s already been written, if I choose that, that’s the type of material that I want to put out and still write good content. Try to make it more geographically relative or something like that, or industry-specific. The more it could niche down is, you know, the better.

David: Right. Right. And I’ve seen companies obsessed with search engine traffic, so the blog post really missed the point. Like even if nobody’s clicking on your article, you still have an internal link to your page, which helps you from a search engine perspective. This is why we always recommend longer rather than shorter content. If you write eight hundred words of a question, even if someone’s already answered it before, as long as your answer is unique, you might accidentally answer questions that you don’t realize people are asking, and you might get traffic for this aspect of your article, and then you can reevaluate. But if you did the very broad thing, like what is web design? Right? Okay. You’re never going to rank for that.

Tim: Yeah.

David: Right. Realistically, even if you were to show up, it probably wouldn’t do very well because it might not be related to getting customers. Your customers might not be asking that question. It might be people looking for a change of career.

Tim: Yeah. Exactly.

David: Right? So, to ask it that way and then relate it to industries or locations or something unique. Now you have found a niche. So, you’re kind of using keyword research to generate ideas, not necessarily topics. And then, what I find is just the practice of regularly writing, sometimes, you stumble into something that’s really good. Almost all of my clients have one, two, or three blog posts that constantly drive traffic. And the vast majority of their blog posts just have a little trickle. That’s okay. It’s okay. And because we have other advantages for having the articles on the site. So, it would be a mistake, as some clients have attempted to do, to remove articles that are not getting any traffic from Google. Well, there’s still value in those articles unless they’re a duplicate or completely out of date or wrong. Okay. I’d still rather keep it up and improve it than kill it.

Tim: Yeah. Because then you have a bunch of redirections…

David: Right. I have a client whose last SEO person recommended they purge their blog. I told him don’t, but they did it anyway – traffic loss. Because they said, “oh, we don’t really like this article.” Guess what? Google did and sent a lot of traffic to your website. Why is their traffic down? This is why. You did kill posts. Better to improve them than kill them.

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