As most SEO copywriters know, to maximize the impact of web content it’s important to expertly craft a title, perhaps as carefully as the content itself. The content title is typically used as both the page <title> and the main page heading (<h1> or <h2>), both of which heavily influence search engines rankings (EDIT, 21 June 2010: latest research suggests <h1> is actually not that important). The relevance and attractiveness of title also influences whether or not a searcher will click-through an individual search result on a results page.
Check your web content titles against the following list to maximize impact:
- Use relevant site target SEO keywords. Your website content strategy should have included an exercise to identify the search keywords and phrases that you want to target. These are the words that will match potential customers’ searches to your business offerings. For example, we have a list of generic target key phrases (content strategists, content strategy), together with target key phrases for individual pages that offer our services (website content analysis, SEO content optimization, web content writing services). Your titles should ideally include one or two of these target key phrases.
- Check other key phrases with Google Keywords Tool. For non-target key phrases – other important words or phrases in the title that aren’t on your ‘hit list’ – run them through the Google Keyword Tool to see if an alternative phrase or synonym might attract a higher search volume and/or have lower competition. For example, I recently recommended that a blog title slightly change the phrase ‘test case management software’ to ‘test case management tool’, because the new phrase attracts nearly twice as many searches, against similar competition.
- Prioritize important keywords. If possible, re-phrase your title so that the important keywords appear near the start of the title. This blog post could have started, “6 simple steps for…”, but these words are not the target keywords, therefore they were de-prioritized in their positioning.
- Check attractiveness. You can be as scientific as you want with keyword analysis, but eventually you need your potential reader to find the title interesting enough to click through. Rather than just stuffing your title with key phrases, make sure you include phrasing to attract the click-through (in this case: ‘6 simple steps’ – people like lists!).
- Check relevance to content. With the most compelling, keyword-targeted title in the world, if your content doesn’t match the expectation of the title, your reputation will suffer – and with modern social media, reputation is key to the viral success of new content. Bottom line: don’t dupe people (“Free Nude Celebrity Photos!” should not click through to a blog post about car insurance).
- Check length (under 64-66 characters). The number of title characters that a search engine will display on a results page differs from engine to engine, and over time. As a rule of thumb, you typically don’t want a total title length greater than 64 to 66 characters (and if your CMS or blog engine appends your blog/site name to the title, take this into account).
And in case you were wondering, the original draft title of this post was: “How to craft great titles for your web content“.