SEO is a term you’ll see a lot when learning about writing online. It stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the generic way of saying something is written well to the point where search engines will pick it up. Think of SEO as the friend who fixes your hair for you or points out there’s a booger on your shirt before a big date. It’s your best friend when writing online.
A lot of SEO depends on the site you’re writing for and takes a lot more than following the basics to get the full benefits. Sites with built-in SEO are incredibly helpful as nobody is quite sure how to keep up with all of the constant changes by Google. Along with backlinks and those other fun time consuming things you should do to get more readers, creating strong titles are necessary and a really easy way to grab attention.
Let me give you an example of a good title and one that needs work. We’ll use New York Yankees’ pitcher Andrew Miller as an example since I wrote about him recently on Innings Eaters and took it into consideration.
Good Title: Andrew Miller Trade Possibilities
Bad Title: Possible Andrew Miller Deals
The same amount of words with the name present and sending the same message, there’s a big difference.
“Andrew Miller trade” is the real key. Anything else practically doesn’t matter. Maybe you’d want to list out some of the teams he could possibly get dealt to with a comma between each. You want to deliver keywords, the basics of SEO, but also remain very clear in what your article is about. A lot of people try to get too creative and smart for their own good. Use your actual writing, not your title, to show-off what a great writer you are.
I don’t like the second example because “Andrew Miller deals” is not a strong sports term with a clear message. Deals means a lot more than trades. It’s called MLB Trade Rumors for a reason and not MLB Deal Rumors. Deals are what we get on food at the shopping market. Although we think of them as synonyms in the sports world, as you should when making sure your vocabulary is stretched, when putting a title to your article it’s not going to help you any.
Of course, one you have a big following, this doesn’t matter as much. Still, you’ll want to follow these practices as it certainly does help you get more hits through Google, Yahoo, and your Bing using grandmother.
Let’s look at one more example while we’re at it. Bad titles are a pet peeve of mine because I’ve seen some perfectly capable writers fail at it. Here are two more about a made-up trade involving Miller and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Good Title: Andrew Miller Traded to LA Dodgers
Bad Title: The Yankees Send Andrew Miller to Los Angeles
There are a few things wrong with the second one. First I want to go over why I like the first. The first is good because it starts with the simple statement letting everyone know Miller was traded. When people are searching on the Internet keep in mind they will half-ass their searches and not type in verbs. Sometimes, to sound intelligent, you should include them. I know I do often to keep from people realizing I’m a complete moron.
In the case of the bad title, the use of “the” at the beginning is completely unnecessary and looks bad. You’re writing the title to an online article; leave it out. I also have a problem with the word “send” as it doesn’t strike me as a sports-centric choice. Go with trade, always. In your actual article you can and should mix it up.
Hopefully you also noticed another problem with the title even in regards to basic grammar. Saying the Yankees sent a player to Los Angeles is not clear. First of all, you should stick with cities or team nicknames in the title, not switching between the two. When the city has two teams, like Los Angeles does, you’re better off going with the nickname to avoid any confusion. Plus, nicknames are more sports specific.
There’s a lot to learn about SEO. When I write about a certain subject I’m always mindful to use the big piece at least one other time in my story. WordPress offers plug-ins that can help you with this where you can specifically target search terms to direct people your way. There will always be new information on SEO so make sure you read up on it. Use keywords in your title and keep things as simple as possible. Read other successful news-related blogs for ideas on how to do this to the best of your ability.