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Have Your Headline Cake and Eat It, Too: Headlines for People and for SEO [Slide Show]

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121018-0 Intro

Print journalism has a proud tradition of clever headlines—puns and other devices that grab a reader's attention. But the harsh realities of search engine optimization (SEO) have dampened online wordplay wit. And dry headlines describing the content of articles and blog posts have become the website norm.

But that doesn't have to be the case. Whether you use WordPress for your blog or website, or you rely on some other content management system (CMS), you can have both your clever headline and your SEO, according to Roger Dooley. How? With keyword-optimized page titles.

Those page titles are all but unseen by readers who come to your site (though you'll see them on your browser tab, and they're often, but not always, reflected in the article URL). The page titles are nevertheless easily visible to and relevant for Google and Bing. It's a titular sleight of hand that can earn more clicks for your content.

Major news organizations have been using the technique for a long time, and Dooley found examples like the following at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

121018-1 How Not to Blow It With Financial Aid

How Not to Blow It With Financial Aid

Let's say you're a parent browsing the Wall Street Journal's website and see a headline that appeals to any parent's fear of loss: "How Not to Blow It With Financial Aid." Are you going to click on it? Of course.

But what if you're using Google to research financial aid options? Will you search with keywords describing a negative concept like fear of loss? You probably wouldn't be searching for "how not to blow it...." So the WSJ page title is far more direct and SEO friendly: "How to Get Financial Aid."

121018-2 For the Fearful Who Have Everything...

For the Fearful Who Have Everything...

This Wall Street Journal headline also plays on a fear-based theme—but in a more mysterious way. "People will click the link just to see what it's about," writes Dooley. And that's why a page title—doubling as a subhead—makes the article's topic crystal clear for search engines: "The Latest in High-tech Security Gadgets."

121018-3 How Dangerous Is Your Couch?

How Dangerous Is Your Couch?

The New York Times tempts readers with a headline that implies treachery from a seemingly innocuous piece of furniture. But the article's page title tells a much more specific story with terms searchers will more likely use: "Arlene Blum's Crusade Against Toxic Couches."

121018-4 How My Mother Disappeared

How My Mother Disappeared

Another New York Times headline is even more intriguing. "You don't know if Mom was kidnapped, wandered off into the jungle, or was abducted by aliens," says Dooley.

Website visitors will certainly click to see what happened to her mother. But the children of parents with dementia would be more likely to find the article because of its page title: "My Mother's Struggle With Dementia."

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Christian Gulliksen is a writer who has authored several of the Get to the Po!nt newsletters for MarketingProfs. A former editor at Robb Report, he has also contributed to Worth, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter.

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