How to Optimise Blog Post Titles

How many times have you visited one of the many “professional” blog advice sites, and left with little more advice than the ubiquitous (and unhelpful) “build great content?”

If building a great blog was as simple as writing quality posts, we’d all be tied for number one on the Technorati Top 100 blog list. I’m not about to start my own ProBloggingPilgrim.com web site, but I did want to start sharing tips that I’ve personally found valuable when building the traffic to Sitemaster.

It’s possible that these tips have been shared before–perhaps they were lost among all of the “great content” on the web–but I’m pretty sure these will be fresh ideas. I initially thought I could fit half a dozen tips in a single blog post, but as I started writing, I realized that each tip easily fills a single post. So instead, I’ll start with Tip #1 and see what you think. Leave a comment if you’d like to see more tips in the future.

Tip 1: Your Blog Post Titles Have Two Audiences

You’ve no doubt read that you need to make your blog post titles “search engine friendly,” but doing so often kills the creativity and initial appeal of your writing. Instead of trying to appeal to your loyal readers and Google at the outset, approach the two difference audiences in separate stages.

Stage One – Your initial blog readers

Your initial audience is likely going to be those that have already subscribed to your blog’s RSS feed–or happen to check your blog every day. They want to be thrilled, excited, and given a reason to not only read your post, but also share and link to it.

When you first publish your blog post, follow this advice:

  • Make your post title interesting – it could be that you ask a question, share a scoop, or offer a cryptic title that peeks your reader’s curiosity. I’ll often use a blog title that sounds like a scandal/scoop, but is really just a question. For example, “Microsoft Buying Yahoo?” I ran that headline last year–before Microsoft made its bid. It generated a lot of traffic then and even more so now.
  • Keep it short and sweet – if you make your initial post title too long, you run the risk that you’ll either confuse a reader or give them so much information, tthere’s no need to read the post itself. Back to my example, “Microsoft Buying Yahoo?” leaves a lot of unanswered questions that just beg the reader to click through to view the entire post. If I had used “Rumors that Microsoft May Buy Yahoo, but No Confirmation Yet,” how many of you would have clicked through to read the entire post? Not many.
  • Appeal to keyword scanners – When you read posts in your RSS reader, do you sometimes scan the titles looking for keywords that you know will interest you? Apple, Google, Wii, and Blue-Ray are all examples of keywords that might appeal to your specific audience. This is not the same as keywords for SEO–that comes later–at this stage, you’re simply looking to include words that will make your post stand out to your readers. Use popular keywords in your post titles and your post will have a greater chance of standing out among all of the other posts in your reader’s RSS aggregator.

In stage one, your goal is to appeal to the initial readers that will likely view the post on the day that you publish it. But what happens after your post is relegated to the archives? It’s unlikely someone will spend hours just wondering through your archived posts. Instead, they’ll likely discover your “great content” via one of the search engines. OK, only one search engine: Google.

With this in mind, you need to massage your post’s title so that it can go to work for you in Google’s search results.

Stage Two – Your Google readers

That cryptic, enticing post title you used to attract your initial readers isn’t going to cut-it when it comes to attracting Google search engine users. Sure, you want your post title to entice a click from the SERP (search engine results page) but if your post is sitting on page 10–and not page 1–it doesn’t matter how engaging your post title. In stage two, you need to give your post title the Google-juice it needs to make the first SERP.

  • Add keywords to your title – you should have already included a relevant keyword that appeals to the human “keyword scanners.” Now that it’s Googleblot scanning your post title, it’s time to pump-up your keyword count. Now, don’t go overboard and add half a dozen keywords to your post titles–you want the title to remain targeted and enticing–but you should look for opportunities to include additional keywords. Compare this before, and after post title. Before: “Ten Ways to Avoid a Google Reputation Management Nightmare.” After: “Ten Ways to Fix Your Google Reputation & Remove Negative Results.” Both are engaging, both convey the same meaning. Yet, the revised title removes keywords that are not likely to be Googled such as “avoid” and “nightmare,” while adding keywords that are searched often, such as “fix” and “remove negative results.”
  • Change the word order – I always try to take into consideration my potential Google ranking, when writing my post titles. However, there are many times when I see my post sitting at #11 on Google, because the word order I used–while appealing to my initial audience–isn’t doing me any favors in the SERPs. So, like a good optimizer, I go back and change the word order so that the beneficial keywords are closer to the beginning of the title (which is where Google prefers to see them). Here’s a before: “26 Free Tools for Buzz Monitoring.” And after: “Buzz Monitoring: 26 Free Buzz Tracking Tools.” (Notice I also added the keyword “buzz tracking” to the title).
  • Optimize your TITLE – When you first publish your blog posts, you’ll likely want your TITLE (aka title tag) to match your actual post title. Once you start focusing on your Google audience, it might make sense to tweak your page TITLE so that it’s even more optimized than your post title (side note: most blog software will simply match your page TITLE to your post title). If you’re using WordPress, consider installing the SEO Title Tag plugin to do just that! I don’t use it on Marketing Pilgrim, but on other blogs, I’ve found it a great way to further optimize my TITLE–which is what is displayed in Google’s SERP.
  • Don’t play with slugs – I’ll write more on the topic of page “slugs” (aka permalinks) but I’d be negligent if I didn’t warn here that, while you should change your post title, changing the actual page slug is to be avoided.

I hope you’ll find the above tactics to be fruitful in your quest to increase both initial, and Google-referred, visitors to your blog. I’ve got plenty more tips I can share, so let me know what you think and if you’d like to read more blog promotion tips.

[marketingpilgrim]

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