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A question that individuals ask who are embarking on their digital or online strategy is; how can I get a higher ranking on Google? As many people who have a basic understanding of SEO understand, content is very important to this goal. Keywords, backlinking and other on-page and off-page optimization activities are all part of great content.

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However, it’s important to remember that ultimately your content still needs to read naturally, as well as be informative. It can be hard to strike the balance between optimized content and also ensuring that it still engages the reader. After all, when we have real life conversations we don’t think about keywords, we think about how we can get our message across succinctly and clearly. This should also be taken into account when writing content.

A key element to great content is your headline. Without a striking headline, then more than likely your post will never get clicked on, whether it be via search engines or on social media. There’s no point having a great body of content, yet nobody will see it because they weren’t encouraged to click the link in order to read further.

So, how do you write a headline that is human friendly, yet still appeals to Google’s algorithms? When we write for humans, we think about tone and style. These are elements that algorithms don’t really care about.

Here are some ways you can still write a Google-approved headline without sounding boring.

Have different article and page titles

An article headline is what the reader will see and the page headline is what Google will see. Your article headline is topic of your article, and what may appear in the actual content itself. Your page headline is what appears on Google as the name of the page.

Your article headline can cater to the actual reader. For example, keeping in mind the common journalistic rules of being timely, newsworthy or advice driven. When it comes to your page title, it needs to concentrate on keywords. Using tools such as Google Keyword Tool or Google Trends can show you popular keywords and topics that will appeal to search engines.

Follow popular formulas

Another way to ensure you’re catering to both the reader and Google is to get creative and look at popular formulas that include keywords and reader engagement. For example, starting your headline with phrases such as “Top 5 factors” “Key ways to” “10 case studies to” or “Secrets to”.

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The rest of your sentence can then focus on keywords so your title is optimized. For example, if your keyword is “social media” then you could have a blog with the title “Top 5 ways to create a social media strategy for beginners”.

Remember social media

Social media engagement is all part of getting your content optimized. The more your links are on external sites of authority, such as popular social media platforms, then this will help with your ranking on Google. Social media also help building a strong brand for your business. The more your content is getting shared and liked, the more traffic your site will receive. Again, this all contributes to your site’s optimization.

If you have a headline that is too long, then this can present a barrier for social media. Firstly, social media is fast paced. Users don’t have the time to read lots of text or headlines that don’t get straight to the point. Therefore, if you have an optimized headline but it’s too long, that’s not going to help with getting your reader engaged.

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Also, social media sites such as Twitter only have a limited amount of characters that are allowed. Although Twitter allows for 140 characters, if you keep your headlines around half this length it will be easier for people to retweet because it gives them room to place their own links or text with it. Also, search engines cut their displaying of text after 69 characters.

Use powerful adjectives

As previously mentioned, the more engagement your post gets, the more traffic your website receives, and Google likes websites that get a lot of traffic, yet still have a low bounce rate.

A way to get people clicking on your headlines is the use of adjectives that are known to appeal to the human psyche and encourage click through.

Some of these words include:

  • Powerful
  • Free
  • Secrets
  • Surprising

We all want to access something that we feel we will get instant value out of. Using words such as those above gives the reader something that they feel is “unique”. A headline using these words demonstrates that it will give them a quick and easy way to solve their problem or provide them with a special insight into their topic of interest.

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Optimize your meta description

Although your meta description isn’t a headline, it goes hand in hand with your headline in Google’s search results. Your meta description acts as a guide for search engines and tells them a bit more about what your article is about and whether your content is truly suitable for a search query.

Meta descriptions aren’t long. They should be around 150 characters and should highlight your keywords. Even though meta descriptions are primarily for SEO purposes, they are also read by humans. So ensure that it is still succinct and informative.

Ask a question

The main purpose of a headline is not only to show the topic of your article, but to also draw a reader in. A key way to do this is to make your headline a question. Think about when you are asked a question, whether it is in real life or by something you’ve read. It normally makes you stop and think, for at least a few seconds, about your answer. Straight away, a question draws in a reader and gets them involved, even before they have clicked.

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Reader and SEO friendly questions just need to include your keyword within the question. For example, if your keyword is “business lawyer”, your headline question could be “Are you prepared for your meeting with your business lawyer?”

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Be mobile friendly

With mobile optimization being very important in the eyes of Google, everything you do should also have a responsive focus. So, check if your web has any mobile issues by using Google’s mobile test.

A way to do this is to always write for mobile first. Therefore, when you think of your headline and the way it reads, think about how it will look on mobile. If it looks good on mobile, then it will be fine for desktop too.

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Also, don’t just envision what it will look like. Actually test it and review it on a mobile device. You might find that a word is cut off or that it is visually too long, encouraging the reader to just scroll by.

Summary

Every marketer or professional SEO agencies know that when it comes to writing for humans as well as Google’s algorithms, it’s important to not sacrifice one for the other. This isn’t as hard as it might seem. Just some simple tweaks can really enhance your headline, making it engaging for the reader and popular with Google.

Firstly, understand that your page tile is what search engines will pick-up. When it comes to this, always put optimization first. Take a look at popular headline formulas used by other bloggers and news sites. More than likely, these people write content every day and are trained to know what a reader is more likely to click on. A way to do this is to remember to use powerful adjectives within your headline. Everyone wants to know more about something that sounds like it will add instant value to their problem or topic interest. Asking a question as your headline is another way to be creative, yet still include keywords.

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Meta descriptions help boost a headline. Meta descriptions is what Google will crawl through to understand whether your content really is something they should be promoting for a particular search.

Finally, don’t forget about social media and mobile. Nowadays, getting noticed online will almost always include mobile devices and social media engagement. Do real life tests by looking at what your headline looks like on a search result or on a Facebook feed. Is it catchy? Or is it too text heavy? Sometimes the best test is a test we physically do ourselves. It’s one of the best ways to catch out any problems or errors on the spot.

At the end of the day, if you want to increase your website’s ranking in the eyes of Google, then you need to write for Google as well as your readers. It doesn’t mean that your headlines need to be stale or boring. It’s about using proven techniques and commonsense, as well as visual testing until you strike that balance.

As you write more headlines, this will become second nature. In today’s modern online world, we all need to learn to write for these 2 different audiences, yet still sound natural and organic. By following these 7 tips, you will find that your click through rates will improve, which will make both your readers and Google happy.