According to CopyBlogger, 80% of readers don’t read beyond the headline. Additionally, over 90% of internet users are turning to search engines on a monthly basis for new information. If you’re not catering to what your target audience is seeking by factoring SEO keywords into your headlines, you’re missing out on valuable conversions, clickthroughs, and improving the ROI of your content marketing.

Writing headlines for SEO isn’t hard, and we shouldn’t see it as a chore. When we write headlines for SEO, what we’re really doing is effectively describing what’s in our content for our audience. Great SEO headlines should highlight the true nature of the content while also grabbing a reader’s attention.

SEO headline writing

Unfortunately not true.

Your goal, then, is writing a headline that audience members want to read and that Google wants to rank highly.

Here’s how to rewrite a headline for SEO while still maintaining your hook. Ideally, the process starts before you even put fingers to keyboard, but new research shows you should also apply all of the below steps to old headlines to keep them SEO-fresh.

1. Develop a content strategy that relies on your audience’s preferred search terms.

Writing articles with good SEO headlines is a lot easier when you know what your keywords are. In this very piece you’re reading, I’m following NewsCred’s content marketing strategy by including specific key words and phrases. This will help us get a higher ranking on Google! Once you identify your keywords, write five to ten articles featuring those keywords. Keep in mind, these articles should reflect the headline and provide real information to your reader – don’t just stuff it full of keywords and jargon and call it a day.

2. Write your headline first and keep your keywords close.

A well-written headline should be in the works even before you start writing. Keep that list of keywords close at hand or front of mind, and write your SEO-friendly headline before you get going on your piece. This part of the process will serve three purposes: 1) keeping you focused on the topic at hand, 2) getting your writing juices flowing, but with keywords prioritized, and 3) making sure all the hard work isn’t for naught when it comes to Google and its many caprices. Having a list of keywords as you’re writing will help you place them in the sweet spots: the headline, the page title, the first line and paragraph of your piece, and then throughout the story.

SEO headline writing

3. Rewrite your headline at least three times.

This is a real golden rule. Anyone who has a writing component to their job knows what it can feel like to get a trigger-happy finger, especially after you’ve written and edited something. Your last step to ensuring that you’ve written a headline that is SEO-approved is to go back and rework it at least three times. What can you move around? What phrasing makes the most sense? What is a good hook that includes your top keyword? If you have a sub-head, think about working this to include a related search term for extra SEO power. We use tools like CoSchedule to get the most out of our headlines, and NewsCred software users on WordPress have Yoast built right into the platform to automatically grade content for SEO ranking.

SEO headline writing

4. Use social media posts as a secondary A/B test to see which keywords to include.

Social media is a very fertile testing ground – it’s where your audience is. If they didn’t like your content, they wouldn’t follow you on your social media channels. So write headlines as a Tweet or Facebook post with your keywords included, and then see which versions get the most likes/favorites, comments/replies, and traffic. This should give you a good idea of whether or not you should change your headline or use a different format or keywords in the future.

Remember: we’re in the golden age of content optimization. That might not sound like a big deal, until you consider how #blessed we are to be able to re-edit headlines for SEO – among other things.

SEO headline writing