A headline of an online article has more impact than just catching the reader’s interest. It is also hugely important in getting found on the internet in the first place. Headlines are a major factor in search engine optimization (SEO).
Before we can explore headline ideas we must first understand the basic SEO guidelines.
SEO Headline Guidelines
Headings in source code
Headlines of a website are read by search engines in the HTML code of the page. Headings have a so-called H-Tag (H = Headline) consecutively numbered from one to six (H1 to H6). An HTML tag is represented in the code as follows:
SEO Headline vs Title
There is a difference between the headline and the SEO title. A common mistake in online marketing is that the headline gets the main focus, as it is assumed that this will be seen by the user and then generate the click. While this is true for website visitors who are already on the site or blog feed, it is not true for Google search results. On the search results page (SERP), the blue clickable link is the SEO title, not the H1 headline.
The title is then also displayed in the browser tab.
As you can see, the SEO title in the browser window is identical to the title in the search results, and the SEO heading is slightly different.
SEO tools for page structure analysis
SEO tools like the Chrome extension SEO Meta in 1-Click can show the heading hierarchy with the H1 and all H2 to H6 subheadings at a glance.
Alternatively, the source code can be inspected.
On-Site SEO Headings Guidelines
Technical SEO is also called on-site or on-page SEO. Google and other search engines create guidelines that make it easier for their crawlers to understand the page or article, and thus present it in relevant search queries in the organic results.
For SEO headings, the following on-site SEO guidelines apply:
SEO headings should…
- be between 20 and 70 characters long
- contain more than one word
- not be identical to the SEO title
- be unique and only appear once per page
- do not be duplicated (e.g. duplicate H3 headlines with “Schedule a demo”)
do not skip any level (go from H2 to H4 without having an H3 on the page)
Keywords in SEO headlines
Keywords should be strategically placed on the page. Headings are identified in the HTML source code by the H tags. Thus, they receive a higher weighting than the words in the text and are one of the most important ranking factors.
Similar to a book with a title, chapters, and subheadings, headlines help to understand what the following section is about. SEO headlines act in exactly the same way. Therefore, headings should strategically contain SEO keywords for better rankings.
When designing headings, as a rule of thumb, the primary keyword should always be included in the SEO title and heading. In addition, subheadings should contain long-tail keywords.
7 SEO Headline Ideas
What makes a headline attractive and creates curiosity? In online marketing, the SEO title is often more important than the headline. Nonetheless, we’ve compiled seven ideas for headlines.
Question vs. statement
One on-site SEO guideline is that the SEO title and the main headline must not be identical. A trick to get around this is to phrase one of the elements as a question and the other as a statement.
Title: How fast can a leopard run?
H1: A leopard can run up to 60km/h fast
If your article is a listicle, advice compilation or similar, the number of tips should be mentioned in the headline, e.g. 7 Headline Ideas.
Active language & strong verbs
Active language gives a direct incentive to read on. Moreover, so-called strong verbs increase engagement with the article.
Examples are save, increase, scale, or drive.
Causal correlations or developments
A headline can suggest connections and depict development processes. X will lead to Y. Example: These 7 books will make you a better manager
Another idea for headlines is the unexpected. “Despite diabetes, this man ran a marathon record”. Highlighting a special feature to catch the reader’s attention.
Revealing the result makes the reader want to know how it happened. “I lost 40 kg in 4 weeks.” Often, this is a combination of the previous tips.
Get inspired by others
See what works for other publishers in your niche or what your buyer persona is reading. Identify their style and try to apply it to your own blog posts.
Nowadays, many headlines (especially the mentioned examples) have a bad reputation as clickbait. They only aim to generate a click. However, clickbait is not always bad. However, it should be kept what is promised and not unnecessarily exaggerated.
From the SEO point of view, the keyword should always be included.
It is also important that the headline alone is often not enough to generate clicks. The combination of SEO title, meta description, and headline must be well crafted together.
Sascha is a Lifecycle Marketing Consultant with over 8 years of digital marketing experiences in Silicon Valley, the UK, and Germany.
After leading the demand generation for a 100+ million company, he decided to venture out on himself. He’s now helping clients to attract and convert more leads and customers.
His main focus are SEO, paid media & marketing automation – all with the focus to tie marketing campaigns to revenue.
Sascha has been featured in industry publications.