“Write for humans. Write an engaging title that will capture their imagination. That will pique their interest. That will carry their hearts and minds off into the golden sunset.”
“Write for the search engines. Write around a keyword. Pull in traffic from Google and Bing.”
Sooner or later, the arguments boil down to their core:
Truth About Blog Titles
As a writer for many blogs, I can tell you that – like most things in life – things just are not that black and white. The truth is that there are times when it is to you advantage to write colorful analogies for blog titles. And there are times to be less creative and to focus on the words people will search for.
Of course, if you can be highly imaginative and include a couple of the main topic words, that is the best. For instance…
“Scary coloring books to spook your kids”.
However, this is just a compromise. If you really want to capture the reader’s imagination, you might prefer something like…
“Three coloring books that terrified a nation.”
For the search engines, the post title might be better written as…
“Top scary coloring books to scare your kids.”
How To Choose Between Readers And Search Engines
First, let’s be clear. A blog post that is not written for people is useless. Whether they arrive at the post through social media, an email link or a Google search, the article has to appeal to the reader when she arrives. But sometimes it is best to choose between readers and search engines when composing the title.
Choose the reader when writing something current (like news or commentary), something time-sensitive, something sensational – the kind of things that might best be described as “cool” or “viral”. You want a title that will attract lots of people very quickly, while the topic is still news. A title that gets passed around on Twitter and FaceBook and through email.
Search engines are long-term traffic sources. More likely than not, nobody will be searching for this topic or at least not for long, so never mind the search engines.
On the other hand, if you are writing something evergreen, such as how-to posts or references, these are posts that you want over time to rank well for and draw long term traffic. These are ones that the search engines will want to know about and serve up to their users. These are ones that deserve a keyword-rich title.
This is not to say that nobody will pass these posts around in social media, but they ar a lot less likely to spread like wild-fire. Consider them more your slow-burn material. Share them multiple times over the years and link back to them from future posts. And make sure their titles include the main words people might search for.
There’s a time and a place for everything. Even readers and search engines can co-exist in the titles of your blog posts. Make sure to choose wisely which audience you want to focus on when you compose those titles. You can serve both readers and search engines.
David Leonhardt is a marketer and writer. He runs The Happy Guy Marketing, which is a ghostwriting service for blogs, books, press releases and almost everything except tattoos (not much of a market for tattoo ghostwriting).