You have spent quality time researching and writing an article. You’ve tweeted it out, Facebooked it and read it over three times to make sure there are no typos.

But the most important step to generating a sizable traffic jump is much easier and less time consuming than all that, and it all has to do with the headline.

As I wrote last year on the subject of Amare Stoudemire at the 2010 trade deadline, the formula is simple: Write about a relevant topic in the news, include that person’s name at the very beginning of the headline and in the title tags and watch the traffic pour in!

Kelly Reeves from provides five more useful tips: length matters (eight words is optimal), pictures get clicks, odd-numbered lists get the best CTR, colons and hyphens are beneficial and questions work best.

I personally use the latter two strategies all the time. Doing something like “Keyword: Witty Relevant Title” works well because that allows you to craft a compelling title that will interest the readers to click through after the keyword brings the article to their attention in the SERPs. That also prevents you from writing an awkward title just geared around a keyword.

I use the question title when the post is written to answer that central question, although oftentimes the keyword you are trying to optimize can’t be included until the end of the headline.

The best way to find hot topics to write about is just to know and understand your industry. Like in the example from my previous post, as a Phoenix Suns blogger I know that there will be incredible interest in Suns players on the trading block in the weeks leading up to the trading deadline, especially if it’s a big name like Stoudemire. In that way I was able to anticipate the increased demand that far exceeded what the Google Adwords Keyword Tool will show you for the three weeks leading up to the trade deadline in 2010.

If you want to know what is trending at the moment, Google Trends is the place to go. Trends will show you hot searches at the moment, and then Google Insights for Search allows you to drill down even deeper. For example, the latter tool can show you that a particular keyword or genre spikes the same time every year (as I know is the case with basketball players around the trade deadline), so then you can build your content schedule to take advantage of this by writing topical posts during the time of year when that keyword trends.

Furthermore, Distilled’s Kate Morris created a spreadsheet whereby users can find topics to write by letting eHow do the leg work, as she explained at Distilled’s proSEO conference in Boston in May. Don’t copy the content, but rewrite it and make it better, Morris preached.

But sometimes you don’t have to worry about analyzing trends from the past five years or making anything better. Sometimes the hottest name on the Internet falls right into your lap for an easy story to optimize.

I started drooling when I thought about the traffic that would ensue when I first saw the video of Justin Bieber crossing over Steve Nash (never mind the travel) that somehow attracted over a million views in half a week and made the front page of Yahoo!

Yes, Justin Bieber, he of the 45.5 million global monthly searches, was newsworthy in my niche just long enough to optimize some title tags, and that’s how my Phoenix Suns blog landed above the fold on the first page of Justin Bieber’s SERP just below his Twitter account last Monday:

Justin Bieber SERP

I ended up getting 1,028 views from people searching for “Justin Bieber” after the post went up on 3:23 p.m. Arizona time on Monday and another 365 on Tuesday.

That may not sound like much but for a basketball blog ravaged by the NBA lockout and a lack of compelling topics to write about, it’s quite a the boon. Off a day and a half of traffic, “Justin Bieber” is the top keyword to draw traffic to my site since late June.

Of course, this isn’t exactly qualified traffic. The downside to this surge is that 95 percent of it bounced after spending an average of 13 seconds on the site. The upside to me is 98 percent of them were new visitors. Perhaps a few Beliebers are also Phoenix Suns fans that will be back?

Situations like this are the exception more than the rule, and if you tried to just insert “Justin Bieber” or whichever highly-searched celebrity you prefer into your headlines, you will end up looking ridiculous if there is no legitimate reason to do so.

But by keeping abreast of trends, knowing your industry and being ready to pounce when someone like Bieber becomes relevant in your area of expertise if only for a day, you can optimize titles that take advantage of Google’s propensity to send traffic.