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How to write for the web: Write better headlines, get better SEO

Writing effective titles and headlines for the articles and blog posts that make up your site’s content is an important part of SEO. It’s also the basic test of whether or not your content will be read.

Think about it: The headline is the first impression everyone gets of your content. If your headlines are weak, people are way less likely to click on the article. By the same logic, the more your headlines are catchy, funny, or otherwise eye-catching, the more likely people will check out your content.

Hey, this is what the Huffington Post does for a living: “Re-purposes” already-trending content and topics with SEO-themed headlines. Not that we’d dare endorse such a heavily criticized practice, but it does leave us wondering: Just what are the best ways to write headlines that get better SEO?

How to write for the web: 4 factors for powerful headlines

1. Be brief. Short and sweet makes for the best headlines. It’s helpful to use less than 65 characters, including spaces, and it’s ideal to use less than 50.

“Every word in a headline must have a purpose,” explains New Media Bytes’ Shawn Smith. “If it isn’t making the story clearer, then it should be dropped.”

2. Be funny (if you can). Even if you have to “borrow” a joke from a friend, if you can make a play on a headline that’s funny, you’re more likely to get people to read your post. And, of course, the wittier your headline is, the more likely people will be to Tweet it or like it on Facebook. And that’s when serious pageviews start to happen.

3. Use lists, and ask questions. A great way to catch eyeballs (and the attention of blog compilers) is offering a list of tips. Think of building articles around headlines beginning with “5 Ways to” or “4 Secrets of”.

Likewise, headlines that ask questions are inherently more interesting. Particularly if you can phrase your question according to the two above factors — brevity and humor.

4. Think like your readers think — and write based on how they’re likely to search. Think of what your niche is, and ask yourself, what would my site visitors be most interested in? What questions are they asking themselves? Those questions should decide the topics of the articles you write in the first place.

As we explained on Monday, your article should already be written around a certain keyword that you’ve hopefully found using Google’s keyword tool.

Now, think about how people will be searching for the keyword you’ve targeted. If it’s an article on your favorite casino welcome bonuses, then think of how people are likely to search for “casino welcome bonuses”. Put yourself in their shoes, and make the headline a question they’d like to have answered.

Taking action

If you’re blogging everyday, then each day offers a new chance to experiment with new headline formulas. Try posting articles in the form of lists one day, in the form of a question the next, and so on.

Over time, you’ll see what content readers respond more positively to, and you’ll know what types of headlines work better with your site visitors. And at that point, you’ll have heaps of valuable experience writing them.