Intentional Blogging [Lesson 7: SEO]

What’s the Deal with SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complicated system of optimizing content for search engines.

Basically, what it means is that it’s a way for you to create content that is found easily by someone searching for a term or phrase on Google or Bing or whatever search engine you use.

SEO can get really geeky and really complex really fast. I actually like talking some of the nerd speak, but you may not like listening to it. And ultimately, it can be a bit of a waste of time.

Because SEO is really quite simple.

It’s All about the Headline

It really comes down to just that simple practice of writing a good headline.

That’s not half your battle; it’s more like three quarters of it.

70-80% of the relevance of a page’s SEO comes from your title. That means that if you have a really well-written article with a bad title, you’re missing out. And if you have an okay article with a pretty good title, you’re doing better than most.

Take a moment and search a term. See what comes up in the top three spots on Google. Are they all well-written articles (don’t count Wikipedia)? Chances are, there’s a random one or two in there that just aren’t that interesting.

How’d they get in the top tier of sites listed in the search results?

They wrote a good title.

The fun part is that this is where copywriting and SEO collide.

How SEO and Copywriting Work Together

In copywriting, your first goal is to get people to begin the article. How do you do that? By writing an interesting title. Incidentally, this is also how you get found on search engines.

What does it take to have a good title? A few things:

  • Simple description of the article
  • Creative hook to grab the reader’s attention
  • Use of your main keyword or phrase

The artist in you (if there is one) may be lashing out right now. You may be thinking, “That doesn’t sound creative at all. It sounds boring.”

A lot of people – writers, especially – wince at the idea of SEO because it sounds like a limit on their creativity or ability to be clever.

But it doesn’t have to be.

You can write SEO titles that are clever and search engine friendly. And you should.

A Few Tricks with Titles

1. Begin with “who” “what” “why” or “how” (sometimes “where”) to capture people’s attention.

For example, “Why I Only Run in the Winter” is much more compelling than “Running in the Winter”.

2. Try this: [Number] + [Rationale] + Why/How + [Practice/Habit] + [Qualifier]
Another way to write it (since that looks ugly) is this: “X Ways/Reasons to/for ____ in/for ____ ”

Some examples:
“3 Reasons Why You Should Write Excellent Titles for Your Blog”
“10 Ways to Tell the Truth Politely Online”
“18 Ideas for Starting a Business Online for Free”
You can make it interesting by adding qualifiers, like “excellent” or “stupid” – this is where you can show your snark, cleverness, etc.

Here are some more examples:
“The 1 So-Easy-It’s-Stupid Rule for Telling Stories”
“The Best Dang Photo Apps for iPhone”
“How I Broke Up with my TV in 3 Easy Steps”
Key words that tend to generate attention are: easy, free, fun, simple, etc. If you’re writing newsletters on Mailchimp, there is actually a program in the software that does this for you – helps you find clever, eye-catching words that get your emails open and articles read.

A Warning

You have to be careful with this. Because you can come off sounding like a salesperson pretty easily, if you’re not careful.

It all comes down to your voice and how you talk.

You can’t write a humorous title, if the post doesn’t use any snark or levity.

Similarly, it doesn’t make sense to write a staunch SEO title for a post that’s full of fun and easy-going content.

Writing catchy titles is really important. But being authentic and true to your voice is even more important.

As I’ve said before, if you serve your audience, seek to add value first, and write with passion, people will listen. The title just helps you get the recognition your article (hopefully) deserves.

Got an idea for a post title?