10 Factors to Remember When Writing Article Headlines

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Whatever happened to the creative and playful article titles that we grew up with? Well, the Internet gobbled them up and Google determined that they were irrelevant.

Search engine optimizers have known the importance of article titles for some time now and traditional media (newspapers, magazines, etc…) are just now starting to catch up. Chris Sherman on Search Engine Watch highlights this in his article, “Getting The New York Times More Search Engine Friendly.”

The Times, like most newspapers, has a long-standing tradition of writing compelling headlines that grab human-readers, but that may not literally describe the news story. For example, when the Pope died, Times reporters headlined stories with titles like “Papacy Change” or “Pilgrims converge on the Vatican.”

Marshall has now trained many editors and producers to write content friendly to both users and searchers. “We encouraged them to use “Pope John Paul dies” and offered a more literal approach based on keyword research and internal metrics,” said Marshall. “The response has been great. Everyone so far is very excited to reach audiences through search and help users find our content.”

Aside from the semantic and code elements surrounding article titles — like placing the title inside of a header element and including it in the page title and URL — the words chosen for a title are extremely important for good search engine performance. Advertising Lab did an excellent job listing the key factors to consider when writing headlines for search engines and people.

  1. For others to read the article.
  2. For others to notice it in the RSS reader.
  3. For the author to like it.
  4. For the author to find it.
  5. For others to find it.
  6. For others to find it, for a different reason.
  7. For others to find it again, in their own information universe.
  8. For the AdSense funnel.
  9. For AdSense robots to display the right ads.
  10. To influence social forces.

There’s a lot more to the above list, so go read 10 Forces That Shape Headline Writing to get the full scoop.