The thing with on-site SEO is you need to communicate what your articles are about to Google. There are a number of steps in doing this.
Perhaps one of the most important ways to do this is with your article titles. BUT, there are two titles you need to consider.
First, there’s the blog post title.
Second, there’s the SEO meta title. This is the most important title because it’s the one that communicates most stringently with Google. It’s also the title that shows up in the Google search results.
In most cases, I make them the same.
One exception is for Category pages which I explain and show in the Categories lecture.
Table of Contents
- Blog Post Titles
- SEO Title
- Meta Descriptions
- Keywords in Titles
- Tips for better titles
Here’s how to input both blog post titles and SEO titles.
Blog Post Titles
Scroll down in your post (or page) edit screen and look for the SEO plugin input area. Here’s what I’m talking about for the Yoast SEO plugin:
I also write meta descriptions for every article. I attempt to write them so that they grab attention but also clearly and succinctly explain what the article is about. You insert this into the “Meta Description” field indicated in the above screenshot.
Keywords in Titles
IMO it’s still helpful to ensure your target keyword is in both titles. The trick, of course, is writing an enticing title with the keyword.
That said, Google is getting very good at interpreting various phrasing and ranking for keywords that aren’t specifically in the title.
For example, I’ve seen on numerous occasions that if I search for product comparison and my search phrase input into Google is “Xvs Y” Google will return at the top an article titled “What’s the difference between X and Y”.
The returned result, based on words is quite different, but the meaning is very similar.
Therefore, an important aspect of coming up with titles is to write them naturally, targeting your main keyword and that entices people to click into your articles from Google search. That’s a tall order indeed.
One way to improve your titles is split-testing them, which I cover next. Split-testing Titles in Google Search
While I don’t run title split testing all the time, I have here and there and found it helpful for discovering which titles garner more clicks in Google search.
Fortunately, there’s software that does this. It’s not cheap and that’s why I do it on and off. Once I get the data, I stop using it until I need it again down the road.
There’s an SEO theory out there that Google favors content to a small degree that attracts clicks from Google’s search results. Assuming visitors stay on the page from those clicks, that’s a signal to Google that the article and title, etc. is good.
The software I use is called A/B Rankings.
I like it because it actually works and it’s very simple to use. The downside is it’s costly so if you get it, put a big effort into testing for a month or two and then cancel once you have sufficient data.
Tips for better titles
I have a few tips I use across all my niche sites that I believe help with both clickthrough and engagement. Here they are.
Numbers are good
Hail the listicle. Whenever you can include a number in the title, do so. It resonates with people. An example is “25 Reasons to Put a Number in Your Blog Post Titles”
Quotation marks and parenthesis
I like to include some words and I also like to add () to the end of a title. These characters stand out.
Questions can be good
Titles in the form of a question can work great or not at all. When I split-tested this, I had some titles dramatically improve when turned into a question while others didn’t improve. It’s a bit of a crapshoot, but when it worked, it really worked well.
Make titles read naturally
Don’t try to game Google with clumsy titles. It looks bad. I’m not saying to not put in your keyword phrase, but at the same time ensure your title is grammatically correct.
Don’t outright lie with titles hoping to cash in with traffic when your content doesn’t deliver. If you have a list of 10, don’t put 100 in the title. This will hurt you in the long run.
Once in a rare while I’ll ALL CAPS a word or few words in a title, but it’s pretty rare. I don’t care for the technique, but I suspect it CAN help with clickthrough rate.
Test different approaches
Returning to the example of “X vs. Y” you can try other comparison articles with the similar title “What’s the difference between X and Y”. Do a mix of both variations and check out what performs best in search (i.e. search rankings and clickthrough rate).