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The title is the first thing the viewer sees about a blog, and how compelling and relevant that title seems can determine whether or not someone clicks the link to your website or takes the time to read your content.
If your blog title is weak, no one will want to read your post. Furthermore, a poorly written title can even hinder your blog’s ability to rank in SERPs (search engine results pages).
But writing an effective title that includes the necessary keywords, speaks to your buyer personas’ pain points and is under 65 characters is no easy feat. I sat down with Senior Growth Strategist Nick Frigo and Lead Search Strategist Rider Gordon to discuss how to craft blog titles that appeal to both search engines and your buyer personas.
“[A blog title] definitely signals the post’s intent, so it’s a really good way of segmenting out people who aren’t relevant to your company or people who won’t find your content relevant.” Rider says. “In that way, it is the first step in providing the best user experience, as well as the best attractor of quality traffic.”
“From a topic point of view, the blog title can serve a couple different functions: it can serve as a summary of what someone can expect from a post. It can serve as a point to generate interest about the post,” says Nick.
An informative title like “How to Set Up an Email Campaign in HubSpot” and an enticing title like “World-Class CMOs Claim This Tool is the Key to Their Success” can both be successful if they’re served on the right channels and resonate with your personas.
To Clickbait or Not to Clickbait
Knowing what interests and motivates your personas can help you create titles that’ll intrigue them. For example, if you have a very data-driven persona, you might want to include a statistic in the title. On the other hand, clickbaity-style titles that leave the reader hanging might be more effective for a different persona.
“If you understand your audience — either because you’ve studied them a lot or because you’re writing for them a lot — your empathy with them should be robust enough that you’re starting with smart topic and title decisions,” says Nick.
Writing a title that appeals to your personas can be more important than fitting in all the keywords a search engine algorithm wants to see because your click-through rate will impact your search ranking and your readers might not even be finding your content in the SERPs.
“It’s important when creating content to identify the channel you want that content to perform best on. I think a lot of the time it defaults to SEO, but maybe for some posts creating a click magnet title will perform much higher on social or in your blog listing page,” Rider says.
Search ranking isn’t the only indicator of a blog’s success. Metrics like page visits and conversions matter too, and you can achieve those without being on the first page of Google. If your personas are spending most of their time on social media, it’s more important to create content that will reach them there than to optimize your blogs for search.
“I think it’s interesting to put yourself in the personas’ shoes and figure out micro-moments,” says Rider.
The time people spend looking for a solution online is only a fraction of the overall time they spend on the internet. Micro-moments refer to those brief high-intent instances when a prospect is actively seeking information.
“The trick to search marketing is ensuring that your solution/answer is present on the appropriate channel during that micro-moment — whether that’s someone searching for a specific keyword or browsing for information on social media,” Rider says.
Once you understand where your personas are most likely to see and interact with your content, optimize your titles around appealing to them there.
“When you’re browsing a [social media feed,] the title has to drive a little value about why this is important to learn about,” Nick says. “Whereas if you’re already searching for it, you don’t really need someone to convince you that this is information you need — you know that already.”
When you search, you’re looking for an answer or evaluating a purchase. The best titles for that situation are ones that help answer the persona’s question. Whereas on social, people are looking for engagement, education and shareability, thus they won’t necessarily click on an informative title if it doesn’t seem interesting.
Regardless of how you end up positioning your title, it is vital that the content in the blog match the expectations set by the title. If your blog doesn’t meet the expectations readers have, they’ll bounce from your site and look for information elsewhere.
How to Create a Blog Title for Your Buyer Personas
If you’re creating titles strictly from the SEO perspective, your buyer personas inform what keywords you target, but don’t really factor in beyond that.
“I think the biggest resource that I have is not ‘how can I address this one individual, this persona?’ but what I do is just search the term that we want to rank for, and then based off of that first page of results you already get an idea of what kind of content and the type of funnel stage that the search engine is prioritizing,” Rider says. “The reason that search engine is prioritizing it is because people are clicking on those links, they’re staying on those pages for a long time, and they’re not going back to the search engine results page and going to another link.”
So, to create a title for SEO, you:
- Identify keywords that your persona is most likely to search for
- Conduct competitive research on the SERP to understand what type of content the algorithm is favoring.
- Create a title inspired by what is performing well
Once you identify what types of titles the search algorithm prefers, you want to create a title along the same lines that still differentiates your content from the other blogs it’ll rank alongside.
“It’s finding a way to take the guidance of what the search engines are rewarding and using that psychology of search to help your title stand out,” Rider says.
From the content perspective, your titles still use all that information gained from researching the SERPs but focus a little more on the reader in order to appeal to both your personas and search engines.
“I think if you take the [SEO] strategy and run it through a more human and empathetic framework, you can really have both of those things,” Nick says
Empathizing with your readers can be the key to standing out.
“In a digitally saturated environment, the way to make that [post] stand out from the crowd of results is to talk to that person like they’re standing in front of you,” Nick says.
Using Meta Descriptions in Conjunction with Your Title
The character limit around how much of a title will be displayed on SERPs, social media or blog listings poses one of the biggest challenges in crafting a compelling blog title. Nick and Rider recommend using your meta description to complement your title and speak to your personas.
“Ideally you have a title that’s bold and interesting and includes all the best practices of search, and the content below it speaks directly to the title up there,” Nick says. “You don’t want to repeat yourself, which a lot of introduction paragraphs do. Ideally, you introduce a thought [in your title] and continue the thought right below it so on Google, somebody has already read 5–10% of your content on the search results page.”
Right from the SERP listing or link preview, you want to demonstrate that your content will definitely answer your buyer persona’s question and reading your post won’t be a waste of time.
“How can you distill this want or need that makes someone want to search for something into 65 characters and give them a sense of security that the answer’s in there?” Rider prompts, summing up what a blog post title should ideally accomplish.
If your title is too long and important words get cut off by an ellipsis, you hamper your ability to entice a viewer to click on your post. Your meta description gives you a little extra space to work with.
While it can be tempting to write solely for search algorithms in an effort for SEO success, Rider advises against that because your titles can come across as robotic to human readers. Instead, think about how to communicate in a way that will invoke an emotion.
After all, the readers who you want to gain value from your content and eventually convert into customers are people.
“The biggest struggle for me when trying to create titles for personas is that pesky character count limit. I think it’s the biggest thorn in everyone’s heel,” Rider says. “Other than that, it’s remembering at the end of the day that Google is now prioritizing the humanity of search engine optimization. So, prioritize communicating content in an effective way that doesn’t worry about where you’re putting keywords — it just has to be high-quality content.”
With all of the other content you’re competing with on the internet, appealing to search engines might not help you stand out to your buyer personas, but being genuinely helpful and speaking to their pain points will.
“At the end of the day, we try to resonate at the level of ‘you’re an expert at things you’re doing; but when it comes to the stuff you’re trying to do next, here’s some help,’” Nick says.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.