Photo credit to stephenjohnbryde

As a blogger, sometimes you may be caught between a seemingly impossible choice of catering to readers or search engines. You want to please your readers with a witty headline because they are the whole reason your blog is able to be successful…yet search engines are the biggest traffic driver in the world. So who do you try to please?

Good news—choosing between humans and search engines doesn’t have to be an impossible choice. By effectively using both a creative headline and an optimized page title, you’ll attract other humans and robots alike in no time. Let’s examine the differences between the two to see why they work better together.

Headlines: For Humans

In only .2 seconds, readers will make a decision about whether to read your blog–you need to hook your readers immediately with a great headline. Taking a page out of Copyblogger‘s book, great headlines are:

  • Useful: Why is the blog post worth my time?
  • Ultra-specific: What can I expect to get out of this blog post?
  • Unique: Why is this blog post compelling and unique?
  • Urgent: Why should I stop what I’m doing to read this article?

By following these four guidelines, your headlines will be much more attractive to your audience—they’ll know what they’re going to get from your post before they even read it. With the four U’s, you still have room for creativity and humor to entice your visitors to read your article. If you’re having trouble getting started with your headline, here are some great headline examples.

Page Titles: For Search Engines

Search engines don’t care about the four U’s—they look for relevant keywords in your page title. Your page title is what appears in search engines as the name of a webpage. It’s important to always optimize your page title for search as search engines rely heavily on your page title when ranking because it gives a good indication of what it’s about. Google also uses the CTR (click-through rate) to determine how relevant you are for a given search keyword. So titles that get people to click will also help boost your Google search rank!

To optimize your page title for search, you need to have the right keywords that people will use to find your post. If you need help finding the right keywords for your site, Google’s KeyWord Planner tools are a fantastic resource, as well as Also check out Google Trends (formerly Google Insights) to see how popular the keywords that you are trying to use are.

To set your page title, you have to go into your HTML and set your <title> tag. Don’t freak out if you’re not technical—there are many tools available to do this for you. If you’re using WordPress, you can download plugins like the All-in-One SEO pack to help you set a page title with each post. With a plugin, you don’t have to go knee-deep into code any time you want to optimize a post for search (which should be every time you post).

Winner: Both

Even though headlines and page titles accomplish the same objective of indicating what your post is about, they ultimately serve two different audiences. Optimize your page titles for search to draw readers to your page and then connect with your visitors on a human level with your headline. You don’t have to choose between a headline or a page title—ultimately, they work together to help drive traffic to your website.

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  • griffin631

    Very informative post and topic Ginny
    Someyimes being over imaginative with page titles can ber a problem
    I posted last week about survival in a foreign land
    I got a barrage of negative comments from readers
    Looking again at the post it couldnd was construed in the wrong pretext
    So now I am a little more caerefull with words and what the title infers

    • Thanks Gregory! I 100% agree with you–you need to deliver the content the title promises. That’s a great lesson for all of us. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • As a newbie I am still trying to find ways to drive both people and the search engines to my blog. I have been experimenting and I have also noticed that a catchy title gets me more mentions on Twitter. My last one “The amazing power of changing habits” did quite well. However, I believe the title should not be too detached from the content otherwise you get negative reactions from readers as Gregory Barr mentioned.


    • Hey Churchill, it’s definitely a process to figure it out as it’s different for everyone depending on the type of content you’re creating. Congrats on your success! :) Thanks for stopping by.

  • I wish WordPress had an option for a headline and a page title. That would make things much easier! :) How do you recommend accomplishing the headline/page title approach using WordPress? I often state the headline and then use a colon then put the page title. But, it would be awesome to have a way to separate these and make the page title smaller and a different font…

    • Hey Ali, I’d recommend the “All-in-One SEO Plugin” for WordPress–you can put the page title in the tool (located at the bottom of your editing page) and keep your headline normal at the top of your editing page. Make sense? Hope that helps!

  • We use WordPress SEO by Yoast and really like it! It’s a bit more robust than All in One but they both do very similar things.

    Question for you Ginny – how related or similar do the Headline and Page Title need to be to each other? I understand that they are for different purposes but considering that a human is going to judge whether to click on your post in search results by the page title, it would seem that you want to keep them similar?

    • Nice! Haven’t tried that plugin, but glad to hear it’s working out for ya. :)

      To answer your question: You’re right, page titles do have to appeal to humans as well, but they need to be run through the search engine’s ringer first. If the page title is wacky, you may not rank at all and not have anyone available to click it in the first place.

      Once they click through and see the headline, you have more wiggle room to be creative and catchy.

      Does that answer your question? Glad that you stopped by and shared your thoughts!

      • Good advice. Most of our pages are recipes so we include that in our page title and headline. If you haven’t already, a post on writing great meta descriptions would be really helpful! I’m not sure about All in One, but in Yoast you can set the meta description for seo purposes and also set descriptions for Social on FB & Twitter. It would be great to learn what are best practices for all of that!

        • Thanks! I’ve been loving what you guys have been putting together. I just bookmarked today’s recipe to try out! :)

          And thanks for that blog post idea–meta descriptions are so important. In All in One, the meta description is pulled into social sharing as well. Would love to expand on this in a post though. I’ll be sure to send you some link love when it’s live. Off to my writing cave…

        • Awesome! I’ll share it with our bloggers as well.

  • Jaxi West

    this was a great article. thank you very much.

    • Thanks Jaxi! Excited to have you stopping by the blog. :) Hope to see you around again!

  • Pingback: 高阅读量文章的标题怎么取?14种模板直接套用 | Richie's Blog()

  • This was a great article. Thank you for sharing this.

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