How you go about getting your blog and its individual blog posts ranked in Google has changed considerably over the years. Google’s algorithm continues to get more complicated and more sophisticated with each passing day, so tactics and techniques that may have proven effective in the past could actually turn out to be counter-productive today.
“Common sense” advice might actually turn out to be detrimental if Google thinks you’re simply trying to game the system.
Keywords in the Title
One of the most common tidbits of advice you’ve likely received over the course of your journeys through the web is that you should include your target keyword in the title of your blog post. If you’re going to write about the Tesla Model 3, then you should include “Tesla Model 3” in your title.
What’s more, they’ll tell you that you should try to get that keyword phrase as close to the beginning of your post title as possible, as that will help your blog post rank more favorably in Google when people are searching for information about that car. This makes logical sense, because longer titles will get truncated on Google’s search engine results page too.
But does this advice still apply in the new age of the Internet? I’m not so sure anymore.
What Happens Next Will Amaze You
As Google starts to look into more and different ranking factors, including social signals, the actual format and wording of your title might not matter nearly as much as it did in the past. This doesn’t mean that the titles to your blog posts no longer matter. In fact, it might mean they matter more than ever before.
Clickbait. For better or for worse, it has become the name of the game.
When people are making their way around Twitter or Facebook, oftentimes all they will see is the headline accompanying an article. There might be a thumbnail image or there might not be. It is in that split second that they’ll make the decision whether or not they’ll click on through to read that post.
If your title isn’t enticing enough, if it isn’t titillating enough, the user will just keep scrolling through his news feed and your article will never get read. It won’t matter if it’s the best written, best researched, most humorous and most comprehensive blog post you’ve ever published.
Of course, a click-optimized title will never make up for a poorly written article, one that doesn’t provide any value to the reader. You still need to make great content, because great content will always be king. But you still need to work towards getting people to read that great content. SEO is only part of the equation. Clickbait, for the lack of a better word, is an increasingly important part of it too.
A Return to Traditional Publishing
This isn’t new. Way before Internet news feeds, there were (and still are) actual print newspapers (and magazines). While an exact “click-thru rate” doesn’t really apply, the principle still applies. You might have a great article, but you need a headline that grabs the reader’s attention. Then you need to have an opening sentence that pulls them in further. Then you need a great opening paragraph to really draw them in, hopefully encouraging them to read all the way to the end.
In the context of the web, you find the difficult challenge of achieving balance. On the one hand, you want your title to be click-optimized, possibly teasing at the content within to encourage people to read it. On the other hand, you want your title to be reasonably descriptive and search engine optimized. This is true for your email newsletter subject lines too.
While I’m not necessarily encouraging you to use the “you won’t believe what happens next” formula for clickbait titles, I am saying that you need to be mindful about how you put your blog post titles together. Keywords and other structural considerations might not be as important anymore, especially if no one wants to click through to read your content anyhow.