Writing Article Titles for SEO: A Lesson on Bullseye Keywords and Title Tightness
If you’ve been following my articles on meta title tags – the single most important SEO element on your website – you know how important good titles are in Google’s algorithm, how bad titles can nullify the effect of your blogging, and the necessity of including transactional keywords in your titles.
But you’re not quite an expert in writing titles yet. To get there, you need to understand two more concepts: Bullseye Keywords and Title Tightness. I promise I don’t just make up phrases like this to sound fancy. These are crucial concepts in writing title tags that generate revenue from your blogging.
A bullseye keyword is a keyword that a searcher would type in when they’re ready to buy. On the scale of “I’m just poking around and am not ready to buy your product” to “I want to buy what you sell immediately,” bullseye title tags are the latter. Let’s take an example.
Say you own a restaurant franchise like Pizza Hut, and your goal is to attract new franchisees. There’s a myriad of topics you could write about that this target audience might search. For instance, a potential franchisee might be doing research on the most profitable franchises to invest in and search “restaurant profitability trends 2017.” Therefore, an article called “10 Restaurant Profitability Trends You Need to Know in 2017” would be an excellent attractant for those searchers. That’s not a bad keyword. But it’s not a bullseye.
A possible dartboard For the Pizza Hut Franchise niche
On the dartboard of this particular niche, the bullseye is probably “pizza hut franchise opportunity.” Anyone typing that in is as close to the moment of “buying” as I can imagine. Another bullseye keyword, maybe not in the dead-center red part of the bullseye but the green outline of the bullseye, would be “restaurant franchise opportunities.” Further out than that would be the aforementioned keyword “restaurant profitability trends 2017.” And even further out on the dartboard — the point where I’d say it’s not even targeted enough to consider a good keyword — might be something like “are american consumers eating more healthy?”. (Presumably, that searcher is trying to figure out whether investing in a fast food franchise is a good idea; but it could just as easily be typed in by a student doing research for a class project, and for that reason it is not a targeted keyword.)
When writing articles, a good practice is to identify bullseye keywords first. Once you know which searches are closest to that moment of conversion, write articles on all the variations of the bullseye keywords possible, as long as they aren’t too competitive for you to rank for. (That’s an important consideration: if you wanted to target “restaurant franchise opportunities” and the first page of Google is filled with large franchise websites that it would be nearly impossible to outrank, you would need to find another equally-targeted keyword that is less competitive, or possibly go further out on the dartboard until you find a targeted-yet-achievable keyword.)
Besides avoiding overly-competitive keywords, the only reason I can think of to target keywords that aren’t in the bullseye of your niche is when you feel creatively drawn to a subject and know you can do a bang-up job on an article about it. As long as that subject is still commercially valuable, go for it. Passion is magnetic.
In sum, while keeping your keyword inside the bullseye is paramount, it’s not the only consideration. You also want to think about whether your article has a real chance of ranking for that keyword AND whether you can produce a truly phenomenal article around the keyword you’re targeting. Hitting on all three factors is what makes for high-ROI blogging.
The other major factor for you to think about when creating an article title is how tightly the keyword is embedded into your title. I use the word “tight” to mean that (a) keyword appears at the front of the tag and (b) it represents a reasonably large percentage of the total title. For instance, if your keyword were “restaurant franchise opportunities”, the tightest possible title would be, simply:
Restaurant Franchise Opportunities
Now, that’s not a very interesting title. This is why human-friendliness (otherwise known as interestingness) is an important balancing factor when creating a tight title. An actual title I might write that targets this keyword would be:
The Best Restaurant Franchise Opportunities Available in 2017
This title has the added advantage of including the words “best” and “2017”, which open up new keyword possibilities, such as “best restaurant franchise opportunities 2017”. It also happens to be human-friendly, so someone might actually be drawn to click on the article in the Google search results. But don’t take the fact that I snuck in “best” to mean that you should jam in as many keywords as possible. If you add too many keywords, you end up with a loose, unfocused title. For example, if I made my title
The Best Easy-To-Operate Restaurant Franchise Opportunities For Small Business Investors
then sure, I’d have a lot of opportunities to rank for various keywords, but Google probably wouldn’t allow me to rank for any of them because I’d have gone in too many directions. I call this the mish-mosh style of title writing; it’s very specific but not tight and focused. It also makes for boring titles.
If title tightness is beginning to make sense but you need another visual, think about it this way: Let’s say your spouse told you to go to the grocery store and get perfectly ripe gala apples. You say “Wow, that was a very specific directive, but ok” and are off to the store. Once inside, you spot the apples and on their display stand, there happens to be a sign that says “Perfectly Ripe Gala Apples.” You are amazed at how perfect the coincidence is and proceed to buy the apples with complete confidence. This is exactly what your spouse asked for. That’s what a tight title feels like to a searcher.
Now imagine that the sign had instead said “Ripe Gala Apples.” You’d probably still feel pretty confident that those apples were going to satisfy your spouse’s needs.
But let’s say the sign said “Assorted Ripe Gala Apples, Pink Lady Apples, and Red Delicious Apples.” You’d probably say to yourself “Hmm, I need to do some extra thinking here.” It would take you longer to buy those apples because the sign didn’t promise the exact thing you were searching for. That’s what a loose, unfocused title feels like to a searcher.
If you remember one thing from this article, remember this: Google loves showing searchers exactly what they’re looking for and nothing more. If your article matches the precise topic a searcher typed into the box, Google will reward you. And of course, if you choose to write about topics that your target audience would only search when they’re close to making a buying decision, you’ll not only be satisfying your potential buyers, you’ll be satisfying your most valuable potential buyers.
I hope these lessons in advanced article title writing have been helpful. If you have any questions, or would prefer that First Page Sage do all this thinking for you, contact us anytime.
Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership.