Written by Brian Cray on February 25th, 2010
Some SEO folks may scoff at the following statement. If you're one of them, just read the whole article.
The most important SEO factor in blogging is the title of your posts.
There, I said it.
Is it true? Yes. A post's title is where everything good in this world starts—awareness, then popularity, then the mother load: keyword-rich inbound links. Yummy.
How to choose a good post title for SEO
Start with the right SEO keywords
What you think are the best SEO keywords for your blog post may not reflect what people are actually searching. Luckily, Google offers a tool called Google Insights for Search, in which you search for a keyword—like "SEO"—and it returns common & popular searches based on that keyword.
Here's how to use Google Insights for Search to find the right SEO keywords:
- Choose a topic for your post (if you usually miss this step for your own blog, just stop blogging).
- Search the topic on Google Insights for Search to see popular keywords & searches related to that topic. For example, are people searching "blog SEO"? No. They're actually searching "Wordpress SEO."
- Write down all of the popular searches for that topic, filtering by geographic region if it's relevant.
- Google those keywords. Narrow down searches from the list created in step 3 that are a) relevant, b) popular, and c) the least competitive (don't try to compete against the big boys if you can avoid it).
Front-load SEO keywords
Having the right keywords in your post titles is very important. Furthermore, you will increase your search engine ranking if you can front-load those keywords, which is a fancy way of saying, "put those keywords as the first words in your post title."
Because web users usually scan the first few words of headlines, front-loaded keywords also gain the attention of qualified traffic that are scanning for keywords. Pre-qualified traffic usually provides a higher ROI.
Keep your post title under 65 characters
Over 65 characters and Google may cut off your post title with a masterful ellipsis (…), which makes you look bad in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Keeping your post title under 65 characters ensures people can see your full post title when they're Googling.
Bad (full title cut off):
Good (full title displayed):
If you need a quick tool for testing your post title lengths, paste your draft title into Twitter's tweet box and see if you have at least 75 characters still available in your tweet.
Set beginning of your <title> to the post title
While this is slightly off track from choosing the right post title, this plays a significant role in qualifying search engine traffic and increasing your search engine ranking.
Bad: <title>Brian's blog | My good blog title</title>
Good: <title>My good blog title | Brian's blog</title>
Best: <title>My good blog title</title>
SEO benefits of a good blog title
Good blog titles attract people
The more people that come to your blog, the increased opportunity that others will link to you. Plain & simple.
Good blog titles increase external link keyword density
Many external links to your blog posts will contain your post title, and keyword-focused anchor text from external links is the most important ranking factor.
Good blog titles increase search engine visibility
Using keywords based on actual searches increases your search engine visibility in natural long-tail searches, which comprises probably around 80% of your inbound search engine traffic.
In the past year I've gone from 100 monthly search engine visits to about 10,000 monthly search engine visits on this blog. How I've written my blog titles have played a significant role in that leap.