Thursday, June 30, 2011

Headline Matters - By: Amy Schubert

Good morning! I am Amy from Lemon and Raspberry, and I'm so happy to be here helping Emilee relax a little with all the wedding and honeymoon mania going on!

I've been blogging for over 5 years, making plenty of mistakes along the way ... so today I wanted to talk about one of the most important pieces of your blogging that may get overlooked.

Question for you:

When you blog, do you write your headline FIRST or only after your post has been written and has a good structure?

I know it may be fun to do flippant or intensely clever headers, but blog titles are one of the most important aspects of your blog post.

You’re writing your headline for people AND for search engines, so making the headline both interesting and clear is always a tough one.

Yes, you MUST have good content within the blog post itself, but all other factors being equal, a great headline can aid in increasing your blog traffic.

2 reasons your headline is important:

  • For SEO - When you publish a blog post, you are essentially creating a web "page" for Google to find and index. One of the ways Google figures out what that "page" is about is from the title (or, in the case of a blog post, the headline). So, if you want Google to find your post about vintage shopping, try putting "vintage shopping" in the headline.
  • For human interest - All that said, sometimes it IS effective to get readers to click through if the headline gives an aura of mystery or subtlety. Think about a headline like, "How I got my best friend to wash my car" ... the post itself may be about how you won a bet (about something totally different than a car), but the mystery of the blog post attracts real-person readers in a way very different than Google indexing.

Your headline needs to do several things all at the same time:

  • Catch the reader’s attention (by mentioning how you’re solving their problem)
  • Be relevant to the body of the post (no bait-and-switch)
  • (ideally) Use one or more of your site’s keywords

Personally, when I am putting together my Sunday DIY project link roundup post, I visually scan my Google Reader list of unread blogs. I look specifically for the headlines that say “How To” or “DIY” or “Tutorial.” If you have posted a DIY but don’t tell me that in the headline, you may not make the weekly list.

That’s just an example, of course. You can also write your headline as more of a teaser.

If you blog about your handmade children’s aprons, maybe you can write a headline like ‘How to Make a Mess’ and blog your story of how your daughter and her 3 friends baked together the other day (and made a mess, but it didn’t matter because they were all wearing your aprons). The headline is relevant to the text of the post, without being too explicit.

If you use a blog reader like I do, scan some of the headlines in your archives and recognize what pops out at you. Do you gravitate more toward the clear, I-know-exactly-what-to-expect headlines, or the teaser, hmm-I-wonder-what-she-means headlines?

Here’s your homework:

For your next blog post, try to write your headline to both draw in readers AND to help Google know what you’re talking about.

It’s a delicate balance, but with practice you can really work some internet magic.

Want to read more? Check out these helpful resources on headlines

Amy T Schubert blogs tips and inspiration for creatives on Lemon and Raspberry. More info on blog post formatting and headlines is expanded into a full chapter in her Better Blog Content Workbook. For more from Lemon and Raspberry, follow Amy on Twitter or subscribe to the L&R Newsletter.


Rhiannon {Hey Gorg} said...

What a great post!! Wonderful advice here :)

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