You can have the most interesting post in the world, but if you don’t use search engine optimisation – or SEO – people won’t read it, and a vital part of this is the title and first paragraph.
Search engines, Google in particular, use ‘spiders’ to trawl through content and bring up the most relevant results. And if you want to get onto that prestigious first page, you need a killer title to every single blog post. But what makes a great title…?
So you’ve written a blindingly good post, and you want the whole world to see it. Narrow down what it’s actually about. You could make a list of keywords. Take my post about The Simpsons being mispronounced by Channel 4 presenters. My list would include:
- The Simpsons;
- Channel 4;
So what did I call it? ‘The Simpsons mispronounced on Channel 4.’ There are more inventive names out there, yes, but it says exactly what it’s about. It gets plenty of hits because my audience know what they’re getting. And that’s the key:
Say what it’s about.
Celebs are popular. So if you’re writing about one, say who in the post’s title! People search for their favourite ‘personalities’ all the time.
My favourite writer is Steven Moffat; in fact, he’s probably one of the only screenwriters Average Joe could name. So I included his name in my post, ‘Steven Moffat on writing for TV.’ Combine his name with a few keywords associated with him – yep, ‘writing’ and ‘TV’ – and people will find the post. And more importantly, they’ll read it too.
You’re a funny guy. I can tell. I mean, ‘ha ha’ funny, not weirdo-funny, and you love puns. You have a great one to use as your title. But wait right there.
People don’t search for puns. Because great puns aren’t clichéd – they’re as close to unique as you can muster. So put them in the text, not in the title. You can try putting them in the first paragraph to show people that you’re a witty blogger who has interesting things to say, sure, but Google’s spiders don’t appreciate all that. They just search for what people type in.
Pay attention to the big news stories of the day. And comment on them. Simple. It all depends on how fast you are. If it’s breaking news, and you write about it on the day that interest has peaked, you’ll get hits. After that, interest will decline, but there’ll still be people interested. A few years down the line and you’ll still get readers who thrive on the question, ‘do you remember when…?’
But that’s not all. Because you’ve got to put the news story in the title. Think like a newspaper. What do readers want and need to know?
Let’s use my post on the BBC’s Project Barcelona as an example. It’s topical, and uses the three words – yes, again with the keywords! – people will be looking for: ‘BBC’ and ‘Project Barcelona.’
To remain topical, look on Google trends. Google’s suggested searches are also a great help. We’ll use my post on Jeremy Clarkson saying that all strikers should be shot. Firstly, I used his name. He’s a celebrity. Secondly, it was written soon after the controversy started. So it’s topical.
Then I used a direct quote. Why? Because people would’ve heard snippets of it, and certainly the most controversial point of his argument. It’s also suggested by Google.
We all know how annoying the phrase ‘political correctness gone mad’ is. But I put that in there too. People search for it; Google suggests it even as you type in ‘political correctness.’
All together, the final title is… ‘Jeremy Clarkson on strikers: “I would have them all shot.” Political Correctness gone mad?’ I’m sure it looks ugly and long, but it gets readers in and tells them exactly what my post’s about.
The first paragraph
The title goes hand-in-hand with the first paragraph. So make it good. Make your audience read on. Carry on with the keywords; that’s one of the ways search engines judge its relevance.
Once again, think about how newspapers tell their stories. In the first paragraph – or even the first sentence – journalists aim to tell you: who, what, where, when, and why. Perhaps ‘how’ too; it depends on the actual story.
So remember to tell the reader what your post is about using keywords in the title and first paragraph. While it’s not vital you’re topical or mention celebrities, it definitely helps. And don’t try to be too clever by using puns or witty one-liners in the opening: be clever by optimising your blogs so readers can find it easily.
(Thanks to Simon.)