How to Write Great Headlines

Have you ever wondered How to Write Great Headlines which catch people's attention?  More importantly than catching people's attention is making sure you get clicks, right?  I am going to share with some of the “secrets” that professional bloggers, journalists, and copywriters use to not only make sure that you want to read their articles but make you need to read them.

how to write great headlines

Be Appealing to your Audience

This is pretty obvious but if you want to create killer headlines for articles you write you need to make sure that they appeal to your audience.  What is a good example of this?  How about this title I came up with for a CarNewsCafe article I wrote;

Russian Chick crashes a Nissan GT-R, which makes us Cry!

The title is not only funny but appeals to our audience of car readers which is composed of mainly guys.  (Yes, I know women read about cars too just not nearly as much.)  They not only like the beginning of the title, “Russian Chick” but the fact that a Nissan GT-R crashing would make a couple of auto writers cry is just plain ridiculous.  Of course the craziness and appeal of the title is what drew clicks to this post.  To be honest that is not the greatest article I have ever written but the title is great.

Keep Titles Short

This is not always possible but it's best to keep titles short and as much to the point as you can.  The above title example I used included everything that it needed and something funny which caught readers attention.

Titles that are too long are bad for many reasons.  It can confuse a casual reader who is scanning lots of different articles and makes the likelihood that part of the word will get cutoff if it's shared on Twitter or another social network.  (Even if you don't use or like Twitter, a lot of people do.)  Short titles make it easier to digest and make your articles more shareable.

Use Keywords

This is obvious and something a lot of seasoned writers know how to do for creating killer headlines, but something a lot of beginners don't know about or are not aware of.  Using keywords, terms that people search for in Google and other search engines, greatly increases the chances people will find your articles.  For instance let's take this article as an example;

Swedish Biker Babe breaks Motorcycle Speed Record at Bonneville

This article is about Eva Hakansson from Killacycle who broke an electric motorcycle landspeed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  Since I know a lot of other people were going to be using “Killacycle” and “Eva Hakansson” in their titles I decided to go for different terms.  It never hurts to be different, ya know!

I knew people probably type in “Biker Babe” and even “Swedish Biker Babe” if they want to be really specific.  In addition “Motorcycle Speed Record” is another good keyword phrase I put in the title.  While this article didn't kill it in the search engines it does ok.

Sometimes it's actually better to focus on making a headline keyword friendly than it is to make it appealing.  Sad but true.  Why do you think I titled this article “How to Write Great Headlines?

What most people are probably wondering is, how do you find keywords?  The tool you should use is the Google Keyword Planner.  You will need a Google Adwords account to use it but that should not be a big deal since it's free to sign-up.  You won't need to pay Google anything to use it, just login into a Google account.

Make it Informative

If you want to create killer headlines you not only need to make sure the title is appealing, short, and uses keywords but is informative too.  “Russian Chick crashes a Nissan GT-R, which makes us Cry!” is not only fun but is informative and tells you what you need to know.

A lot of websites, even major publications, like to skew headlines to garner clicks.  While you could argue some of my headlines are a ‘stretch' I never try to mislead readers about what the article is about.  You want to build trust and keeping your titles informative and on topic will do that.

Final Thoughts on How to Write Great Headlines

Writing killer headlines that catch someone's attention is never easy.  I think you should realize that it takes a lot of writers a long time to master this skill.  Honestly I am still learning more about it everyday and sometimes you can never predict when readers will like or dislike a headline.  It can sound great in your head and to your, but that might be the only person it works for.

If you find my guide on How to Write Great Killer Headlines useful, please let me know.  If you have a suggestion I'd love to hear it.

6 Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer BEFORE your Hire Them

Hiring a Search Engine Optimizer is no easy task.  For one thing there are a lot of people out there that claim they know how to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and build quality links, when in fact they don't.  Also there are Search Engine Optimizers that will give a great price that undercuts what everyone else told you.  However, what they don't tell you is they will use all BlackHat (meaning Google doesn't like it) link building techniques to rank your site.  You could very well rank for 1st for some keywords for a couple days or weeks, but most likely your site might get deindexed from Google or face penalties.  You could still be listed in other search engines… but who really cares about those?

search engine optimizerAs someone who's seen and heard of waaay to many people getting ripped off by SEO scammers out there, here are 6 Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer BEFORE you make the decision to hire them.

1. What SEO Software and Tools Do you Use?

Search Engine Optimizers need quite a few SEO tools and software to pull data about competitors websites and to try to figure out how to rank your site for certain keywords and terms.  Typically they will have a subscription to some sort of rank tracking software or monitoring service, link analysis software, and have one or several VPS (Virtual Private Servers) for running some of these programs.  In addition they might have to hire workers via oDesk or another freelancing service for doing small tasks and jobs they don't want to do.  This could be writing articles, contacting blogs or websites where they might be able to post an article with your URL above the fold (this means not as a comment or forum signature link), link analysis, filling out forms, etc.

Any legit Search Engine Optimizer should be honest with you about what SEO tools, software, and subscriptions they are paying for and what tasks they sub-contract other people to do.  Many feel sharing with clients is giving away trade secrets, but that just isn't true.  If you bought SEO tools, guess what, other people bought use those SEO tools too.

Even though I would let clients of mine know what SEO software I use, they obviously don't have the expertise or knowledge to use the effectively.  Of course if later they want to learn, that's fine with me.  The client is paying me for my knowledge and there is always plenty of SEO business out there. 🙂

2. What link building Techniques & Strategies Do you Use? Blackhat or Grayhat?

This is an important question you really need to be on your toes about.  If it's clear they completely use BlackHat techniques, then run away very fast!  (This is hard to know if you don't have any idea about search engine optimization.)

I assume most people that read my website are looking for long term benefits from SEO.  You need someone who understands that and isn't going to give you a bunch of crappy low quality links, even if they drive traffic.

Consider how your potential search optimizer answers question 1# and what tools they told you they use.  Guess what, you should Google it.  Is it SEO software that is mainly used for BlackHat link building?  Then ask how they use the tools and what strategies they use to build links?

To be fair and honest and what you do need to keep in mind… no Search Engine Optimizer, and I mean NOBODY, completely does whitehat SEO.  Everyone works in “Grayhat SEO” when it comes to link building.

Larger sites and companies will buy links, which is technically against Google's guidelines, for certain keywords they want to rank for.  Smaller sites and blogs don't care since they need the money.  (I know since I've been there.)  It's not like Google isn't aware of it but I've never seen Google do much about it since a lot of these companies have large advertising deals with Google.  Also there is no way the bots are smart enough to figure this out on ever single website out there.

A lot of SEO software is not necessarily considered “whitehat” by Google.  For instance I use a program called ScrapeBox, which everyone uses.  You can't use ScrapeBox with one IP address or Google would ban it.  ScrapeBox sends to many automated queries at one time, so if you are going to use it you need to buy proxies.  ScrapeBox is not a bad tool in my opinion, but Google doesn't like how it pulls data.

Bottom line, a Search Engine Optimizers should be honest about SEO strategies and link building tactics they will use for your website before you give them any money.  Like I said I'd keep in mind Google expects everyone to play fair, but nobody does.

3. What Keywords can you Rank me for within my Budget?

Before you talk with a Search Engine Optimizer you should figure out how much you can spend monthly or for a one-time upfront cost.  You need to understand that harder the keywords you want to rank for, the more time and therefore money it will require.

If you are told by a company they can rank you for some crazy competitive keywords such as “make money online” they might be able to… but it will cost you a lot of money.  That's why nobody posts pricing on directly on their websites.  It doesn't make sense since they are billions of searches for different categories and regions.  Cost and difficulty range with regards to what keywords and terms you want to rank in Google for.

There should be a discussion of what is doable within your SEO budget.  I'm not saying you should not expect something for your money, but understand some companies spend $500-$2,000 a month with SEO firms while other are spending upwards of $10,000+ for a whole range of SEO, social media, and website development services.

4. Can you Guarantee 1# Ranking?

This a bit of a trick question since the answer, should be “No!”  If you work with a huge SEO company that's been in the game for awhile and you are paying them tons of money each month, then it might be possible if they have the staff and resources.  Still there is no way any Search Engine Optimizers or company can “100% Guarantee” #1 sport ranking in Google for extraordinarily competitive keywords.

Even these large SEO companies can't always figure out how to get a 1# SERP (search engine results pages) ranking.  People who claim otherwise are blowing smoke.

Google rankings are NOT determined by the search optimizers you hire.  They are determined by Google and their massive computing power and stupid algorithms which sometimes nobody can figure out.  There are over 200 different ranking factors Google uses and they don't tell the public what all of these are.

5. Do you hate Matt Cutts?

The answer to this question, should be “Yes!”  (In case you don't know who Matt Cutts heads the Webspam team at Google and works on Google's search algorithm.  He wrote the family filter engine for Google as well.)

I personally don't trust a lot of things Matt Cutts tells people in the Google Webmaster Help videos on Youtube.  He tells you what Google doesn't like, not what doesn't work.  These are 2 very different things and SEO pros know the difference and will exploit them.

Watching the Google Webmaster Help videos is good for many reasons though.  For instance I wouldn't have been aware Google changed their stance on .IO domains for global use.  Also he gives straight-up advice like Don't Buy a Spam Domain and that you should always Link to Your Sources.

Often times it is quite difficult to figure out what he means in these Youtube videos though.  The issue is he is trying to appeal to beginners watching these videos that don't know much about SEO and people in the SEO industry, which doesn't work.  This was clear when Penguin 2.0 hit and his answers about regarding “Does site downtime hurt Search Engine rankings?” should have been more clearcut.  (That's why there was a website created call The Short Cutts.)  Additionally Matt Cutts SEO talk at WordCamp 2009 doesn't tell the whole story about Google and SEO.  There are a lot more factors that go into ranking than diverse keywords in articles.

6. Do you hate Google?

The answer should always be “Yes!”  🙂

Other Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer

Obviously I can't account for what your specific situation or website needs are.  There are too many factors or specialty areas.  So you need to feel out how the SEO company or Search Engine Optimizer you are going to hire seems.  Do they seem like an “SEO Diva?” or are they pretty chill.  Try to think of other questions and definitely get on Skype or Google+ to talk with them “face to face” if you can.  If they don't want to take a little time to answer your questions I'd find someone else.

Personally if I get hired by a small business to do SEO work I am always open about what I am doing and I keep them updated.  They are paying me to do work for them and it's my job to make it clear what I am doing and how I am doing it, so they feel they are getting value for their money.  I even try to provide clients with tools and resources other people wouldn't.  Transparency is not something you find often in the SEO world, but you should expect it from whoever you hire in my opinion.  (If you want to Hire Me, I'd be happy to talk with you by the way.)

Ranking in search engines is something you should want to do in the long term, not short term.  Be careful who you hire and just make sure you feel comfortable working with them and what they are going to do with your website.

Think I missed something?  Have anything to add regarding SEO or search optimizers?  Let me know below!

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!

Q&A with Mohit Aggarwal creator of NameMesh

mohit aggarwalIf you are looking for a complete and one-stop domain generator Mohit Aggarwal, the creator of NameMesh, might have the answer for you.

You see, a lot of domain generators cater to finding brandable domain or a keyword rich domain name.  Typically most web entrepreneurs or startups find themselves using several generators all to accomplish the task of finding a good available domain.  Mohit's aim is to make it easy to find a brandable domains or keyword rich domains in the same place, saving people time and hassle.

Since I was curios about NameMesh and Mohit has been hard at work on his generator I had short Q&A with this web entrepreneur about his latest project.  We discussed how he built and came up with the idea for the domain generator and why he feels it is filling a void in the domain generator market.

Adam Yamada-Hanff: What is your background with domains?

Mohit Aggarwal: I don't have much background with domains. I took the leap of faith in September last year and started my entrepreneurial journey.

AY: Why did you decide to build NameMesh and how do you think it is different from other generators out there?

MA: I read this article which talks about 16 ways of generating names with examples of successful startups. The idea of NameMesh was to take the original domain name you thought and apply all the 16 ways like synonyms, misspellings, portmanteau, prefix, suffix, clever extensions etc. The thing was that I would have been disappointed if I missed some common naming pattern which was available for the domain name idea (keywords) I had but instead settled for less desirable domain name.

Existing domain generators all seem to target one thing or the other like short url, mixing, suffix etc. So I was basically typing the same keywords in multiple sites.

AYH: What code and software did you use to build NameMesh? How does it generate names?

MA: I mainly used Python, Django, [and] PostgreSQL. I used them because I wanted to learn them 😉

Name generation is mostly having algorithms running on words dictionary. Different algos for different things like removing vowels, etc finding substrings, adding prefixes, suffixes list, synonyms, antonyms etc.

AYH: How did you come up with the domain? Did you find NameMesh with a beta version?

MA: Yes, I searched ‘name* tube' but it wasn't available but NameMesh was. Mesh sounded good and meaningful.

AYH: What are you futures plans with NameMesh? When do you think it will be out of beta testing?

MA: I mainly want to focus on marketing NameMesh, mainly because I have seen very good retention rates (> 70%) and a lot of good feedback.

On technical side, I want to make it more ‘intelligent' and ‘dynamic'. Will be launching SSL shortly. I hope I can dedicate more coding time to it in future.

I am planning on removing the beta tag soon as it has been a long time since its launch in October 12, 2013.

AYH: Tell me a little bit about yourself? IT background, location, etc.

MA: I am based in Delhi, India. I have about 3-4 years of experience in product development and have worked with both startups and giants. I quit my job in September 12 after saving some money that can keep me going for about 2-3 years. I love being an entrepreneur and I hope that I can find a way to sustain myself in this time.

AYH: Have any tips for the best way to utilize NameMesh which you have not shared before?

MA: NameMesh Domain Search Tips has some tips on using NameMesh effectively using wildcards.

AYH: How do you keep the domain searches and saved data in accounts private

MA: The domain searches are not stored. There is no search history, mostly because of domain theft and privacy concerns.  The saved data (favorite domains) is stored in our database and requires authentication. The framework (Django) is very mature and widely used.

To enhance the security I am working on SSL version. In fact, its working at – https://namemesh.com. Since, it does slow down things a little bit, I will be making it optional to choose SSL.

END

If you are interested in keeping up with Mohit Aggrawal and NameMesh developments you can follow @NameMesh on Twitter.

Did you enjoy the interview?  Do you have any questions about NameMesh?  If so, leave a comment below.