Increase Web Site Traffic
with Compelling Page Headlines

by Steve Jackson

Your web page headlines can make or break you in your search engine rankings. But what good does a high rank do you if the listing isn't attracting the right kind of visitors to your site? Here are several tips to help you tackle both sides of the problem.

If you need to improve your search engine visibility and write more compelling headlines for real people then this article is for you. By writing the headlines that actually appeal to a human being while also improving your search engine visibility you can greatly improve the quality of visitor that arrives at your website. By attracting more relevant website visitors it stands to reason that you will improve your conversion rates. The mantra is if you have what they want there’s a chance they will buy it, if you don’t then they won’t. You first need to know how to use these tags technically and what to watch out for.

Getting the techie stuff out of the way

It’s pretty common knowledge in the search engine optimization (SEO) world that using the HTML <h1> tags around key phrases puts emphasis on the key words. For instance, within the HTML code on your site <h1>search engine optimization</h1>, denoting the headline (and from the search engines perspective what the page is about) works better than simply having the words “search engine optimization” in an ordinary paragraph.

To read more about the <h1> tag I suggest taking a look at

http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/Use_h1_for_Title

Using CSS (cascading style sheets) is a good idea so that the headline blends in with the rest of your site rather than be the default large font size.

Why do the search engines look at the H1 tags?

This is important for you to know. The point is that search engines actively seek out the headlines in your content so by simply using <h1> tags to denote your headlines you give the search engine something to focus on, you’re telling the engine what your page is about. As the search engines look at the <h1> tag as a reference to a headline it means that you should use is as a headline and not try to fool the search engine. Don’t whatever you do put all of your text into <h1> tags or abuse the method. The bigger search engines like Google will pick up on misuse of <h1> tags and at best ignore everything within them, at worst they will blacklist you as a spammer and you don’t want that. So stick to a simple rule, put headline length copy in the tags nothing more than that.



Writing the headline

Now you get to the interesting part. You need a headline that includes your key phrase but also is exceptionally good at getting the reader to continue reading your content. What you need to do is target your audience by pinpointing their problem and tease them into reading the next paragraph. Writing the headline the hardest part about web copy writing in my opinion, but getting it right can dramatically improve results. Without further ado lets assume you want to be found for the key phrase “loose gem stones”. The next few steps will show you how to write a headline for an audience looking for “loose gem stones” online.

Loose Gem Stones

Let’s imagine you have hundreds of different types of loose gems for sale in your e-store. As a key phrase “Loose Gem Stones” is good because it’s specifically describes what it is you have to sell. However on it’s own it’s a bit flat and not very interesting or inspiring. What you need to do is apply these psychological triggers to your text. I’m shamelessly borrowing the technique first described to me by Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics.com.

Psychological trigger number 1 - the question versus the statement trigger

When you ask a question you are forcing the reader to ask themselves something, you’re not simply making a statement which is forgotten immediately, you’re forcing the reader to think. So what you need to do is write 3 or 4 examples of question based headlines for your target audience. So in our loose gem stones example you might get the following;

1) Are you having difficulty finding loose gem stones?

2) Do you need high quality loose gem stones?

3) Are you looking for reasonably priced loose gem stones?

Now you have potentially 3 headlines with your key phrase in them. They are aimed at 3 different target markets, those who can’t find them, those looking for good quality and those looking for good prices. You would have to decide which one was best based on what your USP was, but that’s a different article. Next you should apply the second psychological trigger to each headline and see where we go from here.

Psychological trigger number 2 – problem versus solution headline

When you pose the problem to the target audience rather than give the solution you make the headline even more powerful to the reader. You also target the audience far more specifically because as you can see in these three examples you communicate to those who want to save time, get better quality or cheaper price. Three completely separate markets.

1) Are you tired of wasting your time trying to find loose gem stones? (where time is the problem)

2) Is your loose gem stone supplier selling you rocks and sand? (where poor quality is the problem)

3) Do you pay through the nose for your loose gem stones? (where price is the problem)

Now you have 3 headlines which are focusing more on the audience’s problem but still with the key phrase as the most prominent words as far as search engines are concerned. Now we move onto the final part of the process the third psychological trigger.

Psychological trigger number 3 – curious versus non curious headlines

By adding simple words like “these” you imply more than one reason to read on. Numbers could also be used for instance “3 reasons” or “5 simple facts that can save you money”. You could also use secrets for instance “do you know the biggest secret”. By adding a curiosity factor you really get the reader hooked into reading about your offer. So you might apply this to our sample headlines like this;

1) Do you want to know 5 simple ways to save time finding loose gem stones?

2) Is your loose gem stone supplier pulling these dirty tricks on you?

3) Do you pay through the nose for your loose gem stones? 3 things to look out for

Summary

If you apply these methods and write powerful targeted headlines but because they’re also in the <h1> tags you get more exposure on the search engines, you’re well on your way to attracting the right kind of visitor from search. You also need to use good methods of keyword selection and combine your headline with title tags as well as write content that continues to persuade before you will start to close more sales. In the end though, you’ll get there!

Steve Jackson is CEO of Aboavista, editor of The Conversion Chronicles and a published writer. You can get a free copy of his e-book sent to you upon subscription to the Chronicles web site.

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