All writers strive to be creative. From our first five-paragraph essay to our most recent blog post, our mentors have been telling us to be imaginative and think outside the box. Sure, being creative and finding new ways to express yourself can get you noticed. However, when it comes to the title of your posts, you should start thinking inside the box. This doesn’t mean you have to think of boring titles to dumb down the topic of your writing. Instead, you have to be smart and strategic when you name your post.
Think about the way people search online. Maybe even to find this post, you searched for a simple question. People often go to Google with questions in mind. “What should I feed my cat when he’s sick,” or “How do I know if I have heat stroke?” These questions are simple to answer, but many websites make them more complicated by getting creative with the title. For example, a medical blog might answer the second question in a straightforward article, but might name it “The Dangers of Hyperthermia.” The person suffering from heat stroke is not going to take the time to even look at this lengthy article, and they probably don’t even know offhand that “hyperthermia” is the technical term for heat stroke. Even though that website has exactly what the heat-stroke sufferer needs (aside from a cold glass of water), it will not receive this valuable click. Instead, the curious web surfer will move on to the next search result hoping for answers.
So, what should you name your post to get traffic? The answer is simpler than you might think. You need to answer people’s questions directly in the title. If the person with heat stroke saw, “How to tell if You Have Heat Stroke” in the list of results, there is a good chance he or she would click it right away, because it is the answer to their question. It’s impossible to know exactly what your audience will be searching for, but if you include one of the following six words in your title, you’re bound to answer hundreds of the questions that pop up around the web.
First of all, anyone searching for a specific question will probably use the word “what” in their search, which will put you higher up on the Google search results. Obviously, if you answer the question they typed in but there’s no indication of that in the HTML code or title, you might not even come up in the search results. Second, there is a higher chance of people clicking on your page if it seems to answer exactly the question they have in their head. If they’re wondering what foods are low in carbs, or what the best airline is, you can answer their question in the title. It’s essentially reading their minds and beating them to the punch. Articles such as “What to Avoid in Your Next Job Interview” or “What Foods Help Your Kids Concentrate” are irresistible even to people who just happen to stumble upon them.
When you use the word “how” in your title, people will assume you have some sort of secret to share. “How-to” books have always been popular, and it’s because the word “how” indicates that there is a simple and direct way to learn something new. If you’re going to tell people how to do something in a single post, there’s a good chance they’ll grasp the concept and walk away that much smarter. The word “how” can appear in titles of all sorts of articles. They can be simple, serious, funny, or informative. For example, some “how” titles include:
- How to Register to Vote
- How to Organize Your Shoe Collection
- How to Get Ready for Work in Ten Minutes or Less
- How to Impress your In-Laws
- How to Find Love without Dating Sites
Obviously, some of these articles are ones that people would directly search for to learn something. Upon their search, your article would be most appealing from a list. Others are funny and would catch the eye of anyone just perusing your site. When you set out to answer a single, simple “how” question, the answer becomes a secret that no one can resist.
This is another way to make your article sound like a simple article. It might seem difficult to pare down your title to contain any of these words, but with a strategic attitude, anything can apply. The “where” titles are perfect if you’re writing for a local site or if you’re simply doing a regional article. For example, you might have a post called, “My Favorite Burger Joints in Memphis.” People that know you will be excited to read this, like your mom. Otherwise, people won’t really care which you like unless you’re a world-renowned expert. Instead, try titling your post, “Where to Get the Best Burger in Memphis.”
Everyone loves to gossip and hear about other peoples’ victories and failures. It’s why sites like Facebook are so addictive. For that reason, using the word “who” in your title ensures readers that they’ll get some juicy information on a single person, and that’s almost impossible to resist. Articles like, “Who Flashed the Paparazzi on her Way to the VMA’s?” “Who Made Oprah Cry on National TV?” and “Who Bought a $300 Dress for Their Baby?” are all enticing to readers. Obviously, the “who” question is more applicable to celebrity, TV, and political news, but you can try to spin it to fit your article.
Using the word “when” in your title will give your readers a sense of urgency to hear what you have to say immediately. Even if they didn’t ask “when,” they’ll probably read your article to make sure it’s not already too late anyway. For example, your audience might have searched, “How do I start a new career?” and you might have a post titled, “When to Change Careers.” Your post sounds even more interesting than the one they were looking for, so you’ll get more traffic that way.
At the root of all questions is a resounding, “why?” You can answer more serious and more complex questions with a “why,” so you should try putting it in your title. “Why You Need to Stop Eating Meat,” “Why Your Boyfriend Left You,” and “Why You’re So Stressed All the Time” will certainly get your article attention. People see the statement, and even if they weren’t interested when they started searching, they’ll find it difficult not to click and at least browse the page.
By using one of these six words in the title of your article, you are giving up on more flowery, artistic titles. However, you are also making your post irresistibly appealing, which translates into getting more visitors for your site. These titles make your article sound simple and straightforward, which charms the waning attention spans of most people searching the Internet every day.
On a daily basis, the volume of pixels expended on the right way to do SEO could fill a virtual Library of Alexandria. We’re so awash with great ideas on how to correctly promote and perfect quality content that we sometimes lose sight of what not to do. Poorly executed SEO is a major hindrance to your goals. Here’s a quick summary of the techniques to avoid when optimizing content for the search engines.
The typical web user is searching for relevance and meaning in a sea of generic content online. So many webmasters try to “phone it in” with mass produced web spam, and it’s no surprise that they often fail to achieve the desired results. Your SEO success starts with the basics, which is original and unique content that actually delivers value to the end user. Put some serious effort into your content first and foremost.
A major mistake made by bloggers and marketers every day is the practice of stuffing irrelevant keywords into articles in an attempt to dominate Long Tail queries. Google’s wise to this practice, and they have ways of figuring out if your keyword-stuffed content actually delivers the goods. Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs, and only include the major keywords that assist your pages in being indexed properly by the search engines.
Building Spammy Links
While a solid 25% to 30% of SEO revolves around content creation, the rest of the formula is largely inbound links that show Google and Bing how valuable a site is to readers. Link exchanges are dead, and they’ll do you more harm than good these days. The same goes for forum spam and mass referrals from sites with low PageRank. Build organic links the right way through viral social media promotion and guest blogging on reputable sites.
If you’re a decent human being, it’s likely that you don’t know what Content Cloaking even is. Still, it’s important to understand how it works. In a nutshell, it’s all about using server-side script to identify search engine spiders based on their user agent and IP address. When a potential Googlebot rather than a regular user is detected, a different version of a page is served up. If you’re running a website of any note, you’ll eventually get caught using this tactic and be consequently punished in the SERPs.
Taking Shortcuts in General
In spite of the best efforts of Google and Bing, it’s still possible to temporarily trick the search engine algorithms and slide some weak content through their filters. In all your SEO efforts, stop and think about what you’re doing before proceeding. If it’s fundamentally disingenuous, don’t do it. Trying to cheat won’t get you anywhere in the long run, and it’s also a huge waste of time. Last but not least, mind the fundamentals like canonical URLs, 301 redirects, sitemaps and basic meta tag implementation.
Running a Tight SEO Ship
When you foolishly choose to deploy the tricks described above, the consequences can be ultimately catastrophic. Each one is a surefire way to incur algorithmic penalties courtesy of Google’s Penguin and Panda, and can even lead to manual penalties if not kept in check. Put in the time to produce high-quality, well-optimized content and the search engine gods will reward you. Otherwise, don’t be shocked by the inevitably low SERPs rankings that result.
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Just wanted to share a quick announcement about a very special offer we’re running:
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Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!