Why we use SEO headlines

At present, the most comprehensive SEO strategy for journalists is to keep writing articles the way we were taught. Search algorithms adapt to the way people – both the casual user and the dreaded “spammer” – use the web. Journalism’s “inverted pyramid” aligns well with the way Google and Bing are crunching search data at this moment in time. But for journalists who made their bones in print, the SEO headline is a relatively new animal.

SEO headlines are direct, sometimes repetitive, and devoid of puns, and they often begin with a number or keyword. Why? Because they’re written for people who arrive at your site from Google or Bing.

Print subscribers and readers who visit your site at least once a week know your publication’s tone and will appreciate a quirky or clever headline. But what about the people who come from Google and are unfamiliar with your brand? B2B sites are specific by nature, so people who come from Google are likely to become repeat visitors and are potential new print subscribers. The trick is getting more of them to click that first, gateway Google link.

Most people are searching for answers – in the quotidian rather than the existential sense. They either type in a direct question (What does space sound like?) or some keywords (space noise.) A user will click on a search result when she’s confident that an article will tell her what she wants to know. In the example above, the NASA story “The Sounds of Interstellar Space” was the first search result for both queries.

Bottom line: your headline needs to stand out from the competition on Google as well as within the context of your site. (I’ll cover five SEO headline strategies in my next article.)

Kate Mulcrone is Web Editor at Convene in New York City. She has worked at business-to-business publications in both the travel and events industries since 2008, and blogged and written entertainment features for MSN.

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