It’s an epic battle of biblical proportions in the blogosphere.
The search engine optimization camp says keywords are the most important aspect of a blog post title.
How else will you rank high in the results and get clicks by searchers, they say, if the right keywords are missing from the title? And right or wrong, don’t even try to get an article republished out of an article marketing directory without some sweet keywords in your headline.
On the other hand, you’ve got the purist “write for humans” camp, who collectively scoff at the notion of keyword research for headline writing.
What’s the point of search optimized post titles if no one reads (and links) in the first place? And search engine traffic isn’t really all that important to most bloggers anyway, they vehemently maintain, especially compared to high-quality referral traffic from links.
Well, here’s the verdict.
Keywords matter. But not necessarily for the reasons the SEO folks think.
Doing keyword research is a magical thing. It’s a free or low-cost window into the mind of your target audience.
Before search engines, there was no way to know the exact words that a large group of people would use when thinking about a certain topic. Oh sure, you could ask a small group of people, but anyone who has ever done focus groups will tell you that what people say in front of others is not the same as what they will really do.
So if you’re writing any type of headline, online or off, you should be doing search engine keyword research. Because any great headline should speak in the language of the audience, while wrapped up in a time-tested structure that catches attention and offers value.
But it gets better.
Any SEO pro worth listening to will tell you that you don’t go after the most popular keywords. You target the niche phrases. They may result in less traffic individually, but there’s a lot more of them, and less competition.
This is perfect for writing headlines for humans. The niche phrases are much more specific, and specificity makes for a much better headline. Further, better headlines lead to better content when you write the headline first.
Google and the other search engines really do want to reflect what’s important to people. That’s why they use links and anchor text as one of the primary determinations of relevancy.
Keywords matter, because when you speak the language of the audience, you attract more readers, more links, more retweets, more social bookmarks, and yes… more relevant search traffic. Both camps are right, for different reasons.
So… let there be momentary peace in the blogosphere.
This is the third installment in a series of posts called Magnetic Headlines.
Subscribe to Copyblogger today!