Headlines in 2014 and beyond

I can’t use keywords in headlines anymore!! (Of course you can, although keywords suddenly stopped being important.) How then does one do Search Engine Optimisation? Wasn’t SEO all about keywords, keywords and more keywords? How does one get to rank online? If not for keywords, how do I get my website perpetual visibility?

It was so easy before! I would do my keyword analysis diligently and also top it up with competitor analysis. Then I would spend hours coming up with the perfect keywords that people were searching that were related to my business, and I would add them into my titles, headlines and meta descriptions and everywhere I could inside my page content.

Are these your thoughts?

Best way to write headlines

Writing effective headlines

Absolutely, every search engine optimiser knows how this feels. This is the reason why Google’s updates are so dreadful. But this article is not exactly about keywords.

This article is about titles and headlines.

And we all do agree that good content is playing a major role in the search engine rankings.

A typical piece of content usually contains a great catchy headline, a good introduction that gives you a peek into the article and goes on to speak about important aspects with a generous but judicious use of headings.

Looking at the evolution of headlines, it is interesting to note that there have been a lot of trends making headlines about headlines, pun intended. For example, content curation site Techmeme was recently in the news for writing its own headlines for curated content.

Going back to how headlines evolved,

The “Nothing special” Age: This was the age when the title would be just what we wrote in our school essays. For example, “The Evolution of Computers”

Not many knew about search engines and what optimisation was all about. Adding keywords to the title was just accidental or perhaps logical rather than deliberate and planned.

The “How to” Age: Then came a barrage of “How to make the best eggless cake ever” style headings that answered themselves in the body of article. Another example “How to optimise your page titles for search engines”

The “Question” Age: On the lines of “How to” came the “Question” age which spewed questions as headlines. For example, “Did you know that making an eggless cake is very easy?” Yes, with a past tense in the question!!

The “Countdown” Age: Tops 10’s of everything were everywhere on the Internet. This is still being used by many entertainment websites. For example, “Top 10 Hollywood actors who don’t smoke”

The “Number” Age: This interesting period saw the dawn of paragraphs and numbered side headings. So, if you are writing an article that has 3 side headings, you would title it “3 Awesome Ways to Write Catchy Headlines”.

Another example, “11 tips and tricks to make your computer faster that you didn’t know about”

The “Viral” Age a.k.a the “Emotional” catch: With Social Media Optimisation, writers started becoming smarter and headlines now appeared with something called a “hook”, which is basically a bait that says something interesting enough to click yet reveals nothing. Currently, you will find these headlines on websites like Mashable and Upworthy that publish a 1 minute to 5 minutes average length videos that most usually do go viral, if not in a big way.

Examples of these headlines from their latest content:

What The Hell Do People Believe In If They Don’t Believe In God? This Guy Has One Heck Of An Answer.” – Upworthy post on being human

This Video Shows Just How Crazy English Is As A Language” – Buzzfeed video on the idiosyncrasies of English language

“You won’t believe what this 8 year old did that left me speechless and shell shocked!”

“10 dog shaming pictures. The 8th one is unbelievably cute.”

So, the million dollar question, what should your headlines in 2014 look like? And beyond?

Well, search engines are now trying to understand content through semantics. Your best bet would be to write for the user. No matter what kind of headline you use, do not dupe your readers. Do not give them an impression through your headline about X and make them read Y in your article. If your users feel cheated once, they will never trust you. The best case study is the Upworthy title as mentioned above. It does look like a classic example of spam, but it isn’t. Click on the link and you will see an interesting video about how the meaning of life lies in giving meanings to life. Amazing thought, right? When your headline matches the emotions it evokes, trust is sealed.

So, the next time you write your headlines, debate on whether it helps build trust in your readers. Remember, once gained, trust brings them back for more like nothing else. For all you know, you will end up converting readers into subscribers.

Subscribers mean votes. And it’s no more keywords alone in a heading that are flagging the search engines about great content. It’s also the social signals that count as recommendations. And you can never go wrong with social signals if you write honest and great content that offers value for the time that a user has granted to you to read your article.

And if you cannot come up with great headlines, leave it to the professionals who can do a great job with creative experts dishing out awesome headlines that grow your website traffic by leaps and bounds. Talk to our experts here.

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If you have 'walked with me into the woods', a blog post at a time, do tell me how you felt in the comments section below :)

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