When someone does a search, they look at the:
Title of the page, and then the...
Snippet (the search engines description)
...before they decide whether or not they want to click on the result. In order for them to click, the Title and Snippet must be compelling.
If the above two are great, they will click. Only then will they click.
If they click, they want to be rewarded by finding what they are looking for - the quality must be very good, or at least exceed their expectations. If the visitor reads what you have written and yells out “I have found what I was looking for!” you have done a good job creating search engine relevance. When that happens, you have closed the deal.
But no one will get to the content unless the Title (headline) is compelling.
Once they read the compelling headline and click on it, the planets must align between Article Title, Article Description, and the important first paragraph (which must include the key phrase). They all work, in a specific order, to lead the reader in.
As you can see above, its a 1, 2, 3 approach to getting someone to click. But a good article isn’t just relevant, it must also make people want to share it - emotion helps with that bit. You can make someone happy, laugh, angry, whatever. But the emotion drives shares.
This type of article is called ‘Link Bait’. You might say that creating a hyperlink or a social media mention is step 4. Getting someone to step four means you did a stellar job creating your web content.
Statistics in the introduction, and placed near the search phrase in the content dramatically improve readership. So put statistics in the first sentence when it makes sense. Put one very near the embedded search phrase too because google will often use it in the snippet in search results, which in turn gets people to click on it.
“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest”. Did you get that? 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest!
Here is a list of trending topics from a couple of years or so ago - before Trump. These topics were trending at the time, which means they had inertia, inertia you could use if you hitch your content wagon to these terms as they are heading up in Google Trends.
This article has some pretty good information: http://goo.gl/S4NLyy but here is a summary:
"Number" headlines worked best by far — a full 15% more than the second place.
Eight (8) is the magic number of words. Research has shown titles with eight words had the best click-through rates and performed 21% better than others. It's SCIENCE so you can't ignore it!
Research shows that titles ending with ”?” tend to have a higher click-through rate than titles ending with an exclamation mark or period.
Negative superlatives in titles perform 30% better than the control, and more than 60% higher than positive ones. This is probably due to human negativity bias.
Everything you write should be relevant to the user's search, and compelling to read. But sometimes when writing for online reputation the project the subject just isn’t that compelling. When that happens it's time to get creative. In this case, co-brand. Find a key phrase people are searching for, or that is far more popular than the one you are writing about, and use it in your writing - especially in the headline of the article.
Every article includes at least one key phrase. In addition to the main key phrase, another should be chosen. The ‘other’ key phrase is bait. To find a trending key phrase that is relevant to whatever you are writing about you can go to Google Trends to see what people are searching for. The key phrase you choose depends to a large extent on what type of Link Bait you are writing.
Here are a few of our favorite types of Link Bait. At the end is an excellent article from Distilled in the Further Reading section.
Writing a how-to article that is helpful in an industry is a good way to get linkbait. People always want to learn how-to-do something. If they to-do article you write is better than all the others, especially if it has an extra element (see the rest of the list below) you could do quite well.
If your headline is fantastic, a How-To is a good idea. But there is a difference. Consider these two headlines about ‘How To’ when washing a dog:
How to Wash a Dog
How Not to Get Bitten When Washing Your Dog
People tend to follow the leader. Leaders have followers. Write something flattering about someone with a lot of followers (the leader) and they may post a link to your article. If they post the link, their followers may too. Instant-links. In reputation management, it’s important to have some logical tie in between your key phrase and the person or entity you are baiting. This can go horribly wrong if the article is written badly, or the tie in between the keyword and the entity being written about is tenuous at best.
Compiling lists are a great way to get links. You need to find a way to artfully and naturally insert the key phrase into the body of the lists. For example, let's say you are performing online reputation management for an attorney. Here are some ideas for top ten lists:
If the reputation management project is for an attorney, the attorney's name can be used as the author, or just as someone interviewed to create the list.
Factual writing about an industry can be a great link bait. The facts must be ‘true facts’, in that they must be verifiable. You don’t want to write an article that is untrue for reasons you can surely imagine.
If you write a wonderful article for someone else to place on their site, you can give them the gift of linkbait. Ideally, the article you write has a link embedded somewhere in the first paragraph back to your own site that you want to promote.
As always, the headline and article must be compelling. If you can’t make the whole thing compelling, then at least make the headline and the first few sentences compelling.
If you interview someone with fame, it can garner a lot of links. But if you don’t have access to someone famous, you may be able to do a ‘fake interview’ of someone. For example, find someone whose name is trending upward in search. Be clear that you didn’t actually interview this person. If the person you write about also thinks it's funny, perfect. The more readable it is, the more linkable it is.
The “Z-Axis” pertains to depth. We use the term Z-Axis Link Bait to pertain to articles or other content that contain multiple types of bait in them. For example, an article about Lindsay Lohan that is:
… would be an example of linkbait with multiple angles. That is, depth.
The headline should make people stop and read it. Imagine if you tweeted just the headline, would people click on it? Is it compelling? In short, a good headline is compelling. Using the lawyer example with the top ten lists above, notice that each headline draws you in. Wouldn’t you click on ‘Top Ten Lawyer Jokes?’.
Other headlines that are compelling (imagine John Smith is the key phrase):
Ideally, your key phrase should be in the headline. If it just looks weird, or doesn’t work, then don’t put the key phrase in the headline. You can see in the examples above that not all of them have the key phrase in the headline. Of course, you need to put the key phrase in the body of the article one or two extra times if you can’t put it in the headline. Using the key phrase as the Author can also help.
The headline of the article should be no more than 70 characters - five to eight words. If possible and natural looking it should include the key phrase. The most a search result in Google shows is 70 characters, more than that tends to ‘wrap’ and look bad on the web page.
A sub-head in addition to the headline is preferable if you can squeeze it in.
The meta description should optimally be between 150-160 characters and should contain the key phrase in the first sentence. It should also accurately and relevantly summarize the content of the article in a way that makes people want to click on the search result.
The Page Title should, if possible, include the key phrase in it. Page titles should not always start with the key phrase as it is un-natural. Often, the Page Title and the Headline are the same.
The first paragraph of the article should include the key phrase in the first sentence one time, two if it makes sense.
Here is a wonderful article on Link Bait and writing for SEO.
Once the awesome headline and content have been created, it needs to be promoted. If you did a good job with the above and you don’t promote it - you wasted your time (bad).
But if you did a great job, and you promote it, then WOOHOO!