How to write great SEO-friendly headlines
Written by Kyle McCarthy
If you’re not familiar with search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, you may never have considered how your headlines influence your organic search rankings or blog performance. Instead, you’ve probably done your best to write clever, engaging headers that you hope will resonate with your readers. But even the most brilliant headline might never be read if it isn’t properly optimized for search.
When you need to drive organic traffic to your site, a carefully crafted, good headline is the first place to start.
In this blog, we discuss why header tags are so important. We also dive into how to write great SEO headlines that improve search rankings, drive better traffic, and generate more conversions, sales, and revenue for your business or law firm.
Header tags: What they are and how to use them
Header tags include the page title and section headers that appear on a web page or blog and are an important tool in any content writer’s toolkit.
People who read on the internet are on the hunt for fast answers and information, so long blocks of text can be challenging to focus on and cause people to navigate away from your page. Adding header tags at the beginning of your article and throughout the page breaks up the text, adds structure to your piece, and improves the user experience.
However, header tags also serve a purpose in SEO. Including important keywords you want to rank for in headers helps Google and other search engines understand what your content is about and sort its ranking in their algorithms. To ensure your content is readable by search engines, properly label your headlines as header tags in your CMS (content management system).
What kinds of header tags are there?
There are six types of header tags ranging from H1s to H6s. The higher the number, the more importance you are attributing to it.
- H1: Your H1 is the title of your page as it will appear on the screen. Along with introducing the page’s topic, your H1 has a strong SEO impact, so it should include your primary keyword. Never use more than one H1 per page. (The header tag can also be the same as the title tag, but not always.)
- H2: Your H2s are the main headlines you should use to describe the topics you cover in each section of your page. These also have a strong SEO impact, so be sure to include primary and secondary keywords in these headers.
- H3-H6: Use the header tags to break up your copy into sub-sections. These headers are less critical for SEO, but they still influence your rankings, so if it makes sense, try to include secondary or long-tail keywords.
Craft great headlines with these 4 writing tips
Writing headlines doesn’t have to be a puzzle. Here are just a few ways you can use header tags to improve your SEO and start driving great traffic to your website.
1. Make your headers scannable
Powerful headlines should be easy to read. You should also use concise, direct language that makes your content more scannable. Most readers—a whopping 79%, only scan a web page rather than reading it word-for-word. This means your target audience is more likely to glean the main points of the page and potentially share your content on social or link back to it in their own content.
This is called backlinking and is one of the most important SEO ranking factors. Scannable content holds your reader’s attention, which leads to higher rankings and more traffic.
2. Write to rank for featured snippets
Featured snippets are the highest possible organic page ranking in Google search. They provide a small sample of the relevant content for a given search query directly on the search engine results page (SERP).
A few strategies to help you rank for featured snippets include:
- Framing your headers as questions or including valuable statistics.
- Write a catchy headline followed immediately by a helpful list that answers what you wrote about in the headline.
- Provide the most important information in the first paragraph or two of your article.
Securing a featured snippet can be difficult, but about 8% of the traffic to that search term will go to your article if you manage to achieve this coveted ranking. And, if your page is the first result after the featured snippet, that’s an additional 19% of traffic directed to your site—an incredible amount of internet real estate that will positively impact your click-through rate.
3. Write naturally and don’t keyword stuff
While inserting keywords into your header copy can have profound SEO benefits, search algorithms are extremely sophisticated and can recognize when content creators are stuffing irrelevant keywords into their headlines. Keyword stuffing is an old SEO technique that involves packing content with keywords, usually at the expense of readability and user experience. For a while, keyword stuffing was an effective strategy, but Google and other search engines quickly adjusted their algorithms to penalize sites that employ this strategy.
To avoid getting penalized by Google for keyword stuffing, write naturally and only include keywords when appropriate. If it doesn’t make sense to include a keyword, then don’t. Google wants to connect readers with the highest quality content, so if you write thoughtfully and strategically, you have nothing to worry about.
4. Set expectations and follow through
Every headline on a page should set an expectation for what the user will read about in that section. If your copy doesn’t match its headline, then you’re failing to follow through on that expectation. In writing, this principle is known as “Chekhov’s Gun:” if you introduce an idea, you need to do something with it.
For example, if you’re writing an article about the statute of limitations and you mention that there are exceptions to the rule that readers should know about. Failing to discuss those exceptions not only creates a terrible user experience but it also signals to search engines that you either don’t know what you’re talking about or are attempting to game the system.
Great SEO headline resources
Even the best content creators use tools to create, optimize, and improve headlines for organic search. If you’re interested in improving your headlines and on-page SEO performance, here’s where to start:
- Screaming Frog: This tool will help you perform a rapid and accurate SEO audit of your entire website. Doing so will uncover major and minor issues while also providing helpful suggestions for noticeable improvement. Screaming Frog’s headline analyzer also alerts you to any duplicate header tags on your site and provides you with the URL for each instance.
- Moz Pro: Moz is one of the original SEO tools. Moz has stood the test of time because of its excellent keyword recommendations, site crawling capabilities, and digestible site performance metrics. The page optimization tool tells you the specific improvements you can make to pages on your site, including suggesting specific keywords to use in your header tags.
LaFleur’s SEO experts can help you drive more web traffic
LaFleur produces informative and engaging content for law firms, healthcare institutions, and businesses that helps them drive more traffic and close more business. We stay up-to-date on the latest SEO trends and search engine algorithm updates, putting our extensive knowledge and expertise to work for our clients every day.
If you’re looking to improve your SEO and content marketing, or if you have any other digital marketing needs, please reach out today by calling (888) 222-1512 or completing this form. Our team of expert marketers and copywriters is excited to hear more about where you’re at in your digital marketing journey and offer practical recommendations that can produce rapid results.
Schleyner, E. (2016, July 12). The Art of Scannable Content: How to Write for Today’s Online Readers. Hubspot. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-readable-web-writing
Soulo, T. (2017, May 29). Ahrefs’ Study Of 2 Million Featured Snippets: 10 Important Takeaways. Ahrefs. Retrieved from https://ahrefs.com/blog/featured-snippets-study/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.