Are the Titles of Your Blog Articles Killing You?
After reading hundreds of company blogs each year, I can say with confidence that this message almost certainly applies to you.
The titles of your blog articles are killing you.
What I mean is that almost every company blog I see has articles that, even if well written, have titles that give the company no opportunity to attract new potential customers. Here’s the thing: when you write a title for an article, you are essentially pre-selecting the type of person who is going to find it. That’s because the title of your article automatically becomes your meta page title, which is what Google uses to decide which web pages to put in the running for a particular search phrase.
So if you sell apples in Peoria, IL, and you write a blog called “It’s Golden Delicious Season!” you are engineering a situation wherein people will find your posts when they type in any combination of those 4 words. That means that your post is in the running to rank on Google for a search of:
golden delicious season
delicious golden season
and so on. Note that only the first two phrases have any commercial value whatsoever to your apple business, and even those phrases are so general that they have little chance of attracting the right visitors to your blog post. How many pages on the Internet have “golden delicious” in their title tag? About 637,000 according to Google. That means that your site needs to have a higher Trust Score than 636,999 of those pages in order to be found by a searcher. Adding the word “season” to the phrase doesn’t help much either, as it simply brings the result set down to 13,000. And even if your post showed up at #1 for “golden delicious season,” you’d be getting all kinds of traffic from everywhere in the country. Assuming your apple business is local or regional, that traffic would be useless. So, as you can see, the title “It’s Golden Delicious Season” is ineffective. A far better title would be:
“Golden Delicious Apple Season Arrives at Peoria, IL Apple Farms”
If you liked the original title, then this title maintains its spirit; but now, you have access to keywords that are much more likely to be typed in by serious apple buyers. For example:
peoria golden delicious apples
golden delicious apple season peoria
apple farm peoria
apple farm IL
If you consider the intention of a person typing any of those 4 phrases into Google, and then compare it to the intention of a person typing just “golden delicious” into Google, you’ll realize that the latter phrases are far more commercially valuable to your apple farm.
And all of this is just to say that, in the 30 seconds it took me to improve the original title, I made it possible for actual business to come from my blog post. I took the post from no value to high value. That’s a big difference.
Utilitarian Title Tags
In the quest for blog titles that are both human-friendly and keyword-rich, it can be tempting to have overly bulky titles such as (staying with the apple example):
Why Your 2016 Apple Farm in Peoria IL Should Have The Proper Watering and Gardening For Ripe and Fresh Apples
The writer of this blog post shows the right intention but the wrong execution. This blog post is not human-friendly. It’s keyword-rich all right, but it’s bulky and awkward. Better to just focus on one keyword. So, if one of the keywords targeted in this post was “fresh apples peoria IL” it would be far better to simply title the post:
Where You Can Buy Fresh Apples in Peoria, IL
This kind of title tag is what I call a utilitarian title tag. The entire thing is basically one big phrase a customer would type into Google. In that way, it’s a super valuable title tag. Some might say it’s not human-friendly enough – it’s boring. To them, I say… not really! Sure, it could be more scintillating, but I think a lot of people like to get to the point, and finding fresh apples right where you live is a pretty appetizing proposition.
If you’ve read my article on why FAQs are the best SEO strategy nobody’s doing, you’d see lots of utilitarian title tags being used. Essentially, every question in a FAQ should be a phrase somebody would search who has the potential to be a customer of yours. For example, if you had a FAQ for your Peoria apple farm, one of the questions might be “How can I buy wholesale apples for my restaurant in Peoria, IL?” Or, indeed, the blog post we just pretended to write could be quickly converted into an awesome FAQ question as well, which reads: “Where can I buy fresh apples in Peoria, IL?” In that case, you would simply link the question in your FAQ to the blog post you wrote on that subject. (I do that with all the questions on my SEO FAQ if you’d like to check it out.)
Whether you decide to create blog titles that are simply a good balance between human-friendly (i.e. interesting) and keyword-rich, or just go right to utilitarian titles, know that you’ll at least be making your blog useful for SEO again. If you’ve followed my advice and started creating genuinely interesting and insightful blog articles, done so on a consistent basis, and managed to attract links to your site, you need only ensure that your titles have commercially valuable keyword phrases inside them and you’re golden.
For more on the ranking factors that determine your site’s presence in the Google search results, see here.
Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership.