A Headline Title Trick to Maximize Social and SEO Traffic – The One Two Punch

April 27, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

onetwopunchSocial media is all the rage these days. Everyone wants to get in on the game and promote themselves on networks like Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Digg. Social media, when done right, is a proven method of Internet marketing that can send hordes of quality traffic to your sites (e.g. see my case study about how Twitter sent me 35,967 hits in 14 days). But where does on-page SEO fit into all of this (particularly the title tag)? Does your SEO need to suffer in order for you to do well on social media sites? Contrary to what you may think, the answer is no. In fact, you can utilize social media to jump start your SEO efforts and get the best of both worlds.

In this article, I’ll describe the role of the title tag in social media and in SEO and let you in on a little title trick you can use to maximize both your social media and SEO exposure.

Title Tag for Social Media

The ultimate goal in social media is to create compelling content that people will voluntarily share and spread virally via word of mouth (using various social sites). In order for this to happen, the title tag (and header tags) need to be optimized to spark readers’ attention and hook them in. The title is essentially the first impression of the article and many people will actually vote up stories on social bookmarketing sites like Digg and StumbleUpon solely based on the headline.

So what makes a good title for social media? The use of specifics, numbers, names, and descriptive power words always helps. For more guidance, check out Copyblogger’s article on how to write magnetic headlines.

Here’s an example. A current hot story on Digg is entitled “Electric Motorbike Does 0 to 60 in Under One Second!” Did that get your attention? It certainly got mine. That’s the mark of an effective headline.

Title Tag for SEO

Whereas title tags in social media should aim to get readers’ attention, titles tags for SEO should focus on incorporating highly relevant and popular keywords for the search engines. The title tag is by far the most important on-page SEO attribute and if you want to rank favorably for targeted keywords, you have to be sure that they’re strategically placed in the beginning of the title tag.

For example, using the previously mentioned Digg story, a better title for SEO purposes might be “KillaCycle Review – Fastest Electric Motorbike”. It’s descriptive with a lot of keywords, but it just doesn’t get your attention like the social media version, “Electric Motorbike Does 0 to 60 in Under One Second!”.

This presents a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, you want to optimize your titles for spikes of social media traffic, but on the other hand you want to optimize your titles for the search engines. What do you do?

The Solution – One Two Punch

Here’s the trick. When you first write an article, write the title (including both title tag and header tag) for social media. Be shocking or controversial. Do whatever you need to do to craft an interesting title that will be sure to get people’s attention. Once you have that in line, promote the article on social media sites. Get the word out and give it a chance to spread on sites like Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, etc.

If you do a good job, you’ll get a big influx of traffic and links. However, after a few weeks, the traffic will inevitably die down and your article will be buried in the archives.

Once this happens, change the title tag on the article to be more SEO friendly by incorporating descriptive keywords with high search frequency (use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool). Leave the header tag as is with the social media version to entice search visitors to further read the content.

What does this do? You maximize sharing on social media by writing compelling titles – which aren’t always descriptive and search friendly. Once you get the traffic and links from that effort, you then maximize search traffic by changing the title tag to incorporate more keywords – and thus increase rankings. Make sense?

Have you used this tactic to increase both social and search traffic to your articles? If not, you may be missing out on a lot of new visitors you could be driving to your site.

Leave a comment with your thoughts. I’d love to hear more about additional strategies you’ve employed to maximize both social and search traffic to your sites.

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Posted in Articles, SEO, Social Media
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44 Responses to “A Headline Title Trick to Maximize Social and SEO Traffic – The One Two Punch”

Barry Welford on April 27th, 2009

This is an excellent approach, Gyutae, and one to recommend. Well done for publicising this.

One thing to watch out for is to make sure that the URL for the post is the one using the keywords since this may affect the SE visibility of the post. This is usually fairly easy to arrange but is something to think carefully about. You want to stick with the same URL and not be switching this down the road.

Gyutae Park on April 27th, 2009

Thanks for the feedback Barry. I’m glad that we’re on the same page. As for your comment about URLs, yes those should be consistent throughout and should never change once an article is published.

Elijah Pangilinan on April 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Thank you this is a good advice for me. thank you very much.

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

No problem, I’m glad you like it!

marc lohan on April 28th, 2009

Really good and useful tips to write a excellent article on social media.i totally agree with you.To get good traffic on your article,it should have accurate tittle and more keywords uses in it.nice post…

Vin | NaturalBias.com on April 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

You can also use the All in One SEO Pack plugin which will allow you to set a page title that is different from your post title.

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Hey Vin,
I use the All in One SEO Pack plugin as well and find it very useful to separate out title tags and header tags. However, in this case I’m talking primarily about the title tag since it has big implications for social media and SEO.

Eric Hamm | Motivate Thyself on April 28th, 2009

I’ve been looking for an answer to this dilemma for some time now. PERFECT! Thanks! Eric

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Hey Eric,
Glad I can help. 🙂 Let me know how it works out for you. I’d love to hear about real results you see from using the tactic.

Christopher Ross on April 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Gyutae, how can I argue? With over 5000 RSS titles a day to pick from, this is one that I took the time to click and read.

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Hey Chris,
Great. 🙂 Can you guess what audience I originally wrote the article for?

Christopher Ross on April 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

If you say web designers living in remote town in Atlantic Canada, I’ll be totally creeped out!

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Sean M. Platt on April 28th, 2009

WOW. Fantastic approach. It’s perfect common sense, yet has never occurred to me at all. Thank you so much. Two birds, one stone – I like.

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Hey Sean,
You’re right – it seems like an obvious trick, but it doesn’t occur to a lot of people (including me for a while). The title has big implications for social media and SEO so it’s best to optimize it accordingly for both.

LisaNewton on April 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Wow, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll see if it works…………….:)

Thanks for the idea.

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Great, thanks Lisa. Let me know how it works out for you.

mikeal on April 28th, 2009

I’m pretty sure you can create your own custom title for things submitted on Digg,Facebook, linkedin, etc., so you can pick something different than the original page title. Meaning you can just create an SEO friendly title and create a social media friendly title as you submit to each service.

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Hey Mikeal,
While it’s true that you can create your own custom title for your articles submitted on social bookmarking sites, that’s assuming that you yourself are submitting it every time. Not only is that not optimal, but a lot of times you’ll be bashed for self promotion if you overdo it. Carefully crafting your title for social media from the getgo will give users guidance as they submit your stuff.

Not only that, but your titles are what users see in their feed readers – and this is a lot like social media. People will only read what they think is interesting. Once your articles age a bit, you can optimize for SEO since not too many people will find it via social media or feed readers thereafter.

jan geronimo on April 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Ah, a very creative approach. That’s a perfect one-two punch you’ve got there. I’d take note of this tactic. Thanks!

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Glad you like it Jan. Others may have a different take on it, but I think the one-two punch offers the best results.

Nick Stamoulis on April 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

SEO and social media def. go hand in hand. You will generate a different type of user. It is important have multiple streams of traffic coming into your site at all times.

Gyutae Park on April 28th, 2009

Hey Nick,
Indeed. The two definitely do go hand in hand, and it’s best to optimize your titles for both in order to maximize traffic from each source.

offshore software development on April 28th, 2009

Excellent source of information. Keep up the good work!

tukang nggame on April 30th, 2009

realy it’s perfect trik and tips to increase traffic blog and optimization technique of seo.

thank, I hardly love to read informative article.


Mark Fulton on April 30th, 2009

Great idea, but I don’t understand how to accomplish leaving the “header” title the same as you say but changing the title tag.

I’m using WordPress like you and there is no option to have a custom title tag.

Gyutae Park on May 5th, 2009

Hey Mark,
In order to separate titles and headers on WordPress, use the All in One SEO Pack plugin – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/

It allows you to customize your titles and meta descriptions and has some other very useful features to optimize for the search engines.

PalmPreReviewer on May 1st, 2009

I always pick up something valuable when I read your blog. But writing amazing headlines really comes down to having something amazing to write about. I can’t write a title like “0 to 60…” unless I find something that is that remarkable. I mean writing a headline like “one legged golfer hits hole in one” is amazing, but the title writes itself because the story is so amazing.

How to I write amazing headlines when my news is so-so without being misleading?

Raza Imam
“a die-hard Blackberry user with a soft spot for the Palm Pre”

Gyutae Park on May 5th, 2009

Of course your titles will be somewhat limited by the quality of your content, but you have to look on the bright side and work with what you have. (btw, if your content is just “so-so”, why not work on making it great?)

You can always work on making your titles more interesting. The only caveat is that you want to stay away from being misleading like you said.

Sleepless in Sacaramento on May 2nd, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

As always, some great advice. I like the idea of using a shocking or controversial title to real them in, great marketing ploy. And yeah, S/M sites are a great place to spread the word, if you build it … they will come.

Thanks Gyutae for the info.

Gyutae Park on May 5th, 2009

Thanks for the support, Sleepless. Shocking and controversial titles and content work great – I wouldn’t call it a marketing “ploy” though. It’s just good copy writing. 🙂

Al on May 3rd, 2009

I’ve thought of this before but didn’t do it. Surely there are some things put into place at Google or Yahoo to make sure this is not abused?

Gyutae Park on May 5th, 2009

Hi Al,
This isn’t a blackhat trick or anything like that so I wouldn’t worry about any backlash from Google or Yahoo. The search engines spiders crawl pages and determine relevancy by on-page content so mixing it up with more important keywords definitely helps.

Kenno on May 5th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Maybe I am little shortsighted, but I think this might not work as well as you hope. I agree, you change your title to reflect the needed SEO keywords. But, once it reaches number 1 through 10, will anybody react enough to read the article because it doesn’t have the excitement of “0 – 60 in one second?”

Plus, how many writers are disciplined enough to evaluate the traffic to their blog regularly and then go back and make changes to titles and possibly different headlines within the article?

I think it is an excellent idea, just very few bloggers can do it or will do it.

Gyutae Park on May 5th, 2009

Hey Kenno,
You’re a “glass half empty” kind of guy aren’t you… Have a little more faith in us!

Haha, but all joking aside, you do have a point. Changing titles for social media and SEO is the ideal – but a lot of times we just don’t have the time or resources to do it. Sometimes it’s more productive to create new content than to go back and edit titles. Still, it’s a good practice and something you should do if you can.

As for the excitement factor in SEO titles, I did mention to leave the H1 header as the social media version. This way, people will still be enticed to read when they click through to the site.

Brian Ratzker on May 6th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

This is definitely a good idea if all you care about is search traffic. I am from the arena of be natural with your content because too much SEO may turn your readers off. I realize you only make these changes when the story gets buried which is definitely the better way of going about it. Although, I still think that could effect the quality of your website and content. I don’t think it looks very good to look at a list of archived articles that are optimized and not interesting titles. Many websites are judged by not only the latest articles but also the quick glance of older content. Just something to think about.

Ecommerce Help - Tyrone Shum on May 7th, 2009

From my personal experiences in writing articles and blog posts alike, it has always been an initiative of mine to put creative titles or headlines seeing that more traffic comes when the title is interesting and not just starting with a How to do this blah blah. However, aside from getting creative with the headline, you should still put your head in the game with the content.

MP3 tunes on May 25th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

As far as I know search engines in particular have drawn attention to the Tag , and then a keyword. So include your keywords in a very good idea.

Nitin @ Website designer on July 14th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

mixing with relevant content do help …. but i always suspicious of engines algortithm engineered in a bias way …. it cant be all white or is it?

gerald | link company on December 14th, 2009

Social marketing is indeed a proven tool in Internet marketing. Without social media, it will be hard to somehow promote a business. And using the right keyword is very good idea as well, it is your customer’s basis.

Chris Peterson on December 23rd, 2009

You are absolute right, social media is vast way to promote our service and getting lead is too much typical. Killer headline and attractive title will help to draw more traffic in social media.

Stock Market Hacker on July 2nd, 2010 Subscribed to comments via email

StumbleUpon was better than twitter in sending traffic. However, I am now posting in the yahoo financial forums and that is driving more traffic than those two. In addition, this traffic is more aligned to my blg vs. the click and run types of other social media.

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