Clickbait headline. What makes a great headline — both for searchers and search engines? Search intent and Google rankings You know how I feel about SEO. So what does search intent have to do with writing SEO-optimized and clickbait headlines? The headlines (or titles) all have the keyword “content marketing” in them. Clearly, Google wants to serve up content that’s obviously directly related to the keyword or search phrase. I’ve used it myself on occasion, such as for my article on how to write better articles. People want to engage with people who don’t mind sharing the details. The winning phrase was “Will Make You.” This is a great construction for an SEO-optimized title because it allows you to put your most important keyword at the beginning of the headline: These X SEO Tricks Will Make You 300% More Money Check Out X Social Media Hacks That Will Make You Insta-Famous Our New Paid Search Service Will Make You Sigh With Relief Evoke a trusted celebrity No, you shouldn’t turn your website into a tabloid rag. Let’s say you have two headlines for your article.
Which one wins? If you ask me, you don’t have to choose.
The battle between SEO and clickbait headlines has raged far too long.
If you optimize for both people and search engines — which we know works in body content — you can’t lose.
Google has one goal: please its user base.
If people are happy with the content in the SERPs, the search engine generates more advertising revenue and enjoys more traffic.
Similarly, people click on content because they’re enticed by the headline.
If your headline is written strictly for search engines, your prospective customers might ignore it entirely.
That’s bad for everyone.
So how do you marry SEO and clickbait headlines? What makes a great headline — both for searchers and search engines?
Before we answer those questions, though, we need to figure out how people and search engines evaluate content.
Search intent and Google rankings
You know how I feel about SEO.
It’s essential for your website if you want to rank the content you create.
However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore your audience in favor of search engines.
That’s like getting people through the doors of your restaurant and serving bad food.
We know from Google itself that search intent is one of the most important factors in ranking specific types of content.
When people search for a particular phrase, Google wants to know their goals.
Do they want to compare different products? Do they want to know how to find a particular business? Might they be ready to buy a product today?
From this, we can determine that Google and searchers are looking for the same things.
They want to know whether your content will help the searcher find what they’re looking for.
- Informational intent means the user wants to learn something new.
- Navigational intent suggests the user wants to visit a local business.
- Transactional intent demonstrates a desire to buy.
There’s also one more type of search intent: Comparison intent.
We know that comparison shopping has become extremely popular.
Comparison intent means the searcher wants to compare one or more products of a similar nature.
So what does search intent have to do with writing SEO-optimized and clickbait headlines?
If you can get into the minds of your searchers and figure out what they want to learn, you can respond with better headlines — not to mention better content.
Fortunately, clickbait and SEO don’t have to get in a headline war.
Let’s look at several ways to unite them both for maximum growth.
Get the keyword in your title
Perform any old search on Google.
For this example, I’ll go with my standby: “content marketing.”
If you scroll through the results, you’ll see one pattern remains consistent. The headlines (or titles) all have the keyword “content marketing” in them.
That’s pretty telling, right?
Clearly, Google wants to serve up content that’s obviously directly related to the keyword or search phrase.
You have to work your keyword into the title — preferably at the very beginning.
But what about the somewhat nonsensical searches we conduct on a daily basis. For instance, if I need to hire a plumber, I might type “plumber Seattle” into Google.
Google’s a lot smarter than it was 10 years ago. It understands contextual searches.
The results you see above have related keywords in the headlines, such as “Seattle plumbing,” “Seattle plumbers,” and “Plumbing in Seattle.”
One has “Plumber Seattle,” but that isn’t necessary.
When you happen upon a prime keyword that doesn’t make grammatical or logistical sense, feel free to add a stop word (such as a, the, by, or in) to ensure it makes sense.
For instance, if I wanted to rank for the keyword “plumber Seattle,” I’d probably include the phrase “plumber in Seattle” in the headline.
The stopword “in” won’t make a difference in terms of SEO.
Make something shocking, unbelievable, or amazing
It’s incredible to me how adding or changing one word in a headline can turn it on its head.
You go from boring, SEO-optimized headline to instant clickbait.
One option is to add words like “shocking,” “unbelievable,” or “amazing” to the headline.
But here’s the rub:
What you reveal in the article must actually be shocking, unbelievable, or amazing.
You see these words on the website BuzzFeed all the time.
Don’t abuse this clickbait trick. Only use it when you can back up your claims.
I’ve used it myself on occasion, such as for my article on how to write better articles.
Statistics and relevant news stories can often be turned into articles with this type of clickbait headline.
Add crazy-high numbers
Everybody’s impressed when you can walk out a huge number.
It could relate to money, percentages, or anything else.
I got a ton of engagement on my article about YouTube advertising spend.
In fact, I actually used two forms of clickbait in this headline.
First, I trotted out that huge number — $144,000. Second, I proved that I could be transparent.
If you’re not willing to be nakedly honest with your audience — metaphorically speaking, of course — you’ll struggle to build a following.
People want to engage with people who don’t mind sharing the details.
Is my entire life an open book? Heck no. But I’m willing to put some things out there.
Make controversial claims
Controversy isn’t always good for business.
However, sometimes it can get you more attention.
You don’t want to start controversy just for the sake of being controversial. That’s silly.
However, if you have an opinion that’s contrary to the status quo, go ahead and share it.
I did that very thing recently on a podcast I co-host.
That’s a pretty controversial claim, right?
During the podcast, though, Eric and I back up our claim. We explain why we feel marketers often exaggerate their claims.
Sure, we used an inflammatory statement, but that’s clickbait.
It’s also good SEO.
If you Google the title, our podcast ranks in the number-two position.