In many ways, the title of your blog post is the most important part. It’s what people will see first, and must catch their attention and get them to click, all in a skimmable microsecond.
No pressure, though!
This post is part of my series looking at the 20 questions Google suggested for digital content creators to ask themselves to optimize for SEO. Here are the two questions, related to the title of your post, that Google suggests thinking over:
Sign up for my weekly newsletter and get a free monthly holiday planning content calendar.
- Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
…provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content
Let’s break this down. What does “descriptive” and “helpful” mean for a food blog post title?
At first this seems intuitive, but often there is a mismatch between what users think they are clicking on in Google and what is actually delivered. This is one reason why food blogs are notorious for frustrating the user.
Many feel, when they read what the title of the post says in search, that when they click, they will get a recipe, but when they get to the post, the recipe is either very hard to get to, or in some cases, non-existent.
The actual content of the blog post is often something very different (like about your cat or laundry, or how your cat likes to sit on the laundry) than what the title suggests. The title suggests recipe, but the content is often, at best, full of only semi-relevant information.
Think about it from the perspective of a person searching on Google.
Imagine you go to Google and search for a recipe, for “Summer Lasagna”.
You get a page of links that show up with basically the same title and same description.
You decide to click one, and…what happens?
Can you EASILY find the recipe that you were searching for and were promised in the link title? Or do you have to scroll through a bunch of pictures, text, q&a’s, and ads?
This is what Google’s talking about.
…avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature
We have all read headlines like these, ones that are super clickbait-y. And we know not to do that, but there are some things to be careful about.
- Too many adjectives. You may think you are just hyping your recipe but, “The Most Awesome Ever Delicious Pumpkin Bread” can be a little much.
- Playing too much on emotion. Yes, some recipes may have been life-changing for you, but be sure to keep it reasonable. “The Chocolate Cake that Saved My Marriage” is unlikely to save anyone else’s marriage even if it did yours.
- Simplifying something that’s not simple. Keep in mind the person making your recipe and that they aren’t as skilled at prep and cooking/baking as you. Having a “Super Simple Apple Pie” recipe with lots of prep time, complicated steps and needing specialized tools isn’t going to fly.
How does Google know?
This is a good time to answer the question, how does Google know if a headline is descriptive and helpful and not exaggerating or shocking?
Two main ways.
First, Google can scan your content for alt tags, h-tags, specific words and phrases and see if that matches.
Second, Google will take into account the bounce rate, time on page, returning users and other factors it can read read from your analytics.
If someone clicks on your post, interacts with your site, and hangs around awhile, Google will assume they received the content they were looking for, meaning your title was both descriptive and helpful.
How to write amazing descriptive and helpful titles
Draft a title and edit at the end
Adding a title is the first thing you see in WordPress when you start a new post, so it kinda begs you to do it. So, go ahead and add a title!
But, use that as a rough draft and then be sure to go back and edit the headline to match well what you actually ended up writing about in your post, and optimize it for SEO and usability.
Also, be sure to change the permalink before you publish to match the content and keywords. It doesn’t always have to be the same as your title, but similar.
To change the permalink, (if using Gutenberg in WordPress) go to the right bar and click “Document”, then scroll to the “Permalink’ feature. Change to your heart’s desire before you publish, but then never touch after it’s published live.
How to match user’s expectations
To write a title for a post that creates matched expectations when users click will depend on your goals and your post’s actual content.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is what you write about solely about the recipe at hand, or does it have some lifestyle themes thrown in?
- Is your goal as a food blogger to teach everyday homecooks or to showcase quirky baking, (or whatever it is you do)?
- Do you have a specific niche or are your recipes fairly general?
These questions can help you formulate a match between title and content.
Let’s go back to the “Summer Lasagna” example.
If you wrote a blog post, and it covered how to make a standard summer lasagna for a homecook, and details the cooking step-by-step and answers several questions, you could title it:
“How to Make a Summer Lasagna”
“Summer Lasagna: How to in 5 Simple Steps”
Both of these titles are much more helpful and descriptive of what users will actually receive when they click on the post title than just the generic recipe title.
Here’s another example. Say your blog post is about making a high-end artisanal vegan lasagna. You could say:
“How to Make a Vegan Summer Lasagna That’s Sure to Impress”
“Create a Special Vegan Summer Lasagna [Pics Included!]”
Okay, one more example. What if your blog is more lifestyle oriented and you do spend a good deal of your blog post talking about your life? Here are good title examples:
“Why My Kiddos Love Summer Lasagna [Plus Recipe!]”
“Laundry, Cats and Summer Lasagna: How I Survived Today!”
These examples all show how to tailor your title to fit the recipe you are posting, what’s in your actual blog post and have it match your niche so user will know exactly what to expect from the link they click!
Articles & Tools
Below are some of my favorite articles and tools that will help you finesse your title-writing abilities.
- Article: Microcontent: A Few Small Words Have a Mega Impact on Business
- Article: How to Write Catchy Headlines and Blog Titles Your Readers Can’t Resist
- Co-schedule Headline Analyzer. You need to register, but then it’s free and gives you feedback on your headline length and word use.
- Capitalize My Title. Will automatically capitalize (or not) the correct words.
Think about what people actually will be reading when they come to your blog post, and write your title to match. What will make the person who clicks your link in Google think, “This is EXACTLY what I thought I would get when I clicked.”?
Not only will this help your SEO, but it will help create loyal readers of your blog. And happy, returning readers = more profit for you!
Looking for more in-depth help with your blog? Check out my site audit offering just for bloggers!