If you use HubSpot or another platform to optimize content for search engines, you’ve no doubt gotten those little red SEO flags that remind you something is missing.
Your blog title is one element of search engine optimization that deserves your attention. If you're not optimizing your blog title, your content optimization system will make it known. And it’s tempting to want to jam in a keyword to satisfy the search engines.
But what if you don’t?Will anyone find your post? Will it still get you a steady stream of traffic to your website or become buried in the archives?
There are some differences of opinion on this topic even among the experts.
The debate ranges from “Don’t even bother with a post unless you're going to optimize your blog title” to “Write great content for your audience, and SEO will happen naturally.”
Here’s a look at where Kuno stands on the issue and how to write blog titles that work well with your readers and search engines.
If you pay attention to Google at all, you’re probably aware the search giant is constantly making changes to its algorithm—that mysterious formula that determines where your company and its content will rank in search results.
The newest update, Google Hummingbird, aims to match the intent of the searcher with the content that is most relevant. That means if someone types in “MIG welding,” the algorithm will try to determine whether you’re looking for a job, a company or a how-to video.
That means if you’re a welding company looking for clients in the Cleveland area and you want to be found, you need to think about what your clients would be likely to type into a search engine, not just the one or two keywords you want to be ranked No. 1 for in Google.
The way people are searching is changing, too. People are more likely to use natural language and even type questions directly into Google, rather than one or two words.
Just to illustrate that point and show you what it means for search results today, I typed this question into Google:
As you can see, the first post that comes up is one from HubSpot that offers advice on how to attract more clicks to your blog posts. It discusses how HubSpot’s A/B testing on one of its blog titles revealed the title phrased as a question received significantly more clicks than the title that was not.
If HubSpot’s only goal was to rank No. 1 in a search for “inbound marketing,” this post might have had a different title. After all, that’s what HubSpot does. But “inbound marketing” is so broad it doesn’t make sense for HubSpot to try to fit it into all its headlines even though most of its content focuses on some aspect of inbound marketing.
At Kuno, we’ve adopted a similar philosophy that focuses not on a few “magic” words, but focused keyword phrases. For example, “budgeting for inbound marketing” is a more specific phrase and one that someone is more likely to type into a search engine.
Before putting the title in place, we’ll also run it through a quick Google search to make sure there are not other articles with that same title or a title that’s too similar. That can make the post less effective and shows we’re not creating something as unique as we thought.
Here are three quick tips for writing headlines that show up in search results.
Yes, you want your audience to actually read your posts, but what do you really want them to do? Consider budgeting for your product or service? Convince their senior leadership team of the need for it? Compare their options? Whatever it is, make it obvious in the title with clear, active language.
It’s tempting to tease, but the risk of an overly vague or mysterious title is that it’s too hard to find.
For instance, we published a post on budgeting for video marketing, but you have to click on the post before you find out what it covers.
Teaser titles might be great for videos, Buzzfeed lists and other viral content, but they don’t work as well in business blogging.
Here are two titles we should have used instead:
Setting a Video Marketing Budget: The One Tactic You're Probably Missing
4 Reasons Why You Need a Video Marketing Budget in 2015
Blog post optimization does not just happen naturally; you do need to pay attention to it, or you risk drifting away from one of your primary goals. But does that mean you should skip the occasional post that doesn’t directly relate to your products or services? Of course not. You also want to persuade your readers, but you also want them to enjoy what they’re reading.
Consider this holiday-themed post we ran last week, Tech Gifts For Everyone on Your List.
It’s not about measuring content marketing ROI, running a marketing campaign, converting customers or anything we do—but it’s timely, fun and something people are sure to share. In fact, it was our fifth most-popular blog post from November, and the traffic is sure to continue through the holiday season.
Remember, you’re not just writing for search engines. You’re writing for the people who use them.
What have you noticed about the titles in your most popular blog posts? Share with us in the comments below.