It seems to me they are. You find out what's searched on the Internet and put it in the title of your article. But it seems to me, some of it is just logic; What will someone likely type into the search engine? No one is going to search for "how to pay attention instead of getting wrapped up in your mixed-up thought process". However, they might search for "how to stop feeling guilty?" At any rate, somewhere in the Learning Center it says we should use "search-friendly" titles. Is this just another way of saying use keywords in the titles?
Great question. It is pretty much the same. The problem arises when people overuse keywords and the Hub title and content is not organic. I try to think how someone might search for my topic in Google and use that as my title. I might add another specific keyword to the title as well if it matches my content, e.g., How to Teach your Child to Read using Phonics. Your title is incredibly important; I'm glad you're putting a lot of thought into it!
Tagging on what Robin just said:
"Keywords" are one component of search-friendly titles. There are other ways to be search-friendly, too.
When doing keyword research, you're partly considering search engines, which are dumb bots that can't tell what you're writing about unless you spell it out for 'em. You're also considering readers: if everybody in your target audience calls them "used cars," use that instead of "pre-owned vehicles" in the title. I use keyword research not to uncover popular searches, but to suss out my readers' way of talking about (and searching for) my topic.
However, keywords are just the filing system, the online equivalent of "where does this book get filed on the library or bookstore shelf so that our customers / readers can find it?"
There's a second and very different aspect to search: psychology! When a web user skims down a list of search results on Google, Bing, etc, they quickly make a snap decision about which of those results to click on. They make that decision based on the title, excerpt, and any accompanying extras Google has tacked on such as your author icon (if you're lucky), domain name, the Hubpages category (search for one of your hubs on Google and notice the green bit). The title is probably the biggest influencer on whether someone clicks on the result or moves on.
So an effective, search-friendly title does several things.
-- It indicates to the reader what the page is about as clearly as possible, so that they'll know whether it's going to solve their problem or address their query.
-- It proves that you're a competent writer or an expert. (Typos, multiple exclamation points, or the wrong tone for your audience are no-nos.)
-- If possible, it should intrigue the viewer (although you can do this with the Hub summary instead, since it often shows up as the excerpt below the title). You can do this with a question. Another common approach is a clever or pithy title, but avoid puns or wordplay that dumb ol' Googlebot won't understand unless the keyword is included. Still another approach is to use a cultural or niche-appropriate reference that will signal something to readers and visitors "in the know" about your topic.
-- If possible, show what's in it for them. Robin's example title has the magic word "Your" in it.
-- Avoid filler text, cheesy marketing speak, or anything that's going to make cynics back away because they think you're trying to pull a fast one on them. ("The Essential Guide to Making a Fast Buck on the Internet!" will probably not fool anybody.)
-- Keep in mind that Google will probably cut off the title at around 50-55 characters, adding a trailing ellipses (...) to indicate the rest.
All of this falls under the category of conversion: converting someone who's "just looking" into someone who's actively visiting, shopping, reading, or doing whatever you want visitors to do. Getting your article to appear in Google is step one of being search-friendly. Convincing users of search engines to click on your article because it looks promising to them is step two.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. You always give invaluable gems of advice, Greekgeek. I've been using some of this stuff and it works. I like putting "my or I" in my titles because that's how the reader searches.
For the first time ever, I would add something to Greekgeeks post.
First, using your own ideas of what people search for doesn't work well. At least not for me; using the keyword tool for ideas nearly always comes up with something better. People just don't seem to use the search terms I think are appropriate.
Second, finding a good keyword isn't the end of it, because google may not use the word the same, either. After I find a keyword and searching for it (always do a common search for your chosen keyword) I occasionally find that the results are about a totally different topic. A new X-Box game, a recent movie or a famous poem, maybe. Whatever it is google is going to send me people that are looking for that, not what I'm providing. I may be writing about dark energy, only to find that search results are for a famous poetic phrase, for example.
When that happens, I may get visitors alright; visitors that will stay on page for about 2 seconds and bounce away. Pretty soon google notices that and I don't get any visitors - my wonderful keyword has ruined my whole hub.
So we have to make sure that searchers use the same words we are AND make sure that google understands those words to mean the same thing we do.
Wow, excellent addition, wilderness. Never saw it like that, makes so much sense. I will log that info into memory. So if "mango" is my keyword for a mango chutney recipe, but most people who google the word mango are interested in the fruit, it's nutritional value, and it's Caribbean origins, they may not click on "Mango Chutney Recipe." The keyword then should be "chutney" or types of fruit chutneys and reflect that in the title. Right?
Uhh maybe. I'm pretty ignorant about Chutney.
OK, so it's a condiment, made with mangoes in this case. Your keyword might be "mango chutney" then, or even "mango chutney recipe". What I'm speaking of is if you use "mango chutney" and there are, unbeknownst to you, hundreds of new articles about the new video game "Indiana Jones and death by mango chutney". It's popular, has lots of searches and google will almost certainly send people to you wanting information about the game.
So you search for "mango chutney" and look into the top results - open the search link and read a bit. You discover they are all about a video game and you need to choose a different keyword and title.
Now, you could add "recipe" to your title, and hopefully between that one word and a good summary discourage the wrong people from visiting. You still haven't necessarily convinced Google what the topic is, however. They will still list you in searches for that movie - searches that now, with the "recipe" added, will see no visitors because that's not what they're looking for.
So maybe you change the title to "A great recipe for mango chutney - best condiment around". "recipe" is early in the title, with a modifier, and that may tell google something is up. Then you have "condiment" and "best" and the instruction should be sufficient even for a dumb algorithm. (Unless Indiana falls over a giant condiment and dies in the game! ) Because, just as Greekgeek says, the program that assigns search results really is dumb and you have to make it crystal clear what you're talking about.
I've actually had this happen, with both a video game and a movie character. I had no idea either one was out there and would have written a nice hub with high traffic keywords - keywords that would have drawn in people that had exactly zero interest in what I was writing about.
Okay then, I do believe I got it now. Thanks for the detailed SEO lesson. I hope others take note. I have a hub I'm sure now is confusing to google algorithms. I've been feeling that it sends mixed messages to search engines. After reading this, I'm sure now that it is. Will revisit and edit. What if the url still has the original keywords after editing?
There's no "if" about it - the URL will remain unchanged.
Don't think that's a major problem, though. A change in title often results in better (or worse ) traffic - that's why we have the title tuner. And the URL is always unchanged.
It would be nice to change the URL, but unnecessary.
Thanks for the question, NateB11. I've wondered about this, too. I think I've used the keyword tool only once. Most of the how-to info that has been successful for me I got through forums like this or occasionally, the Learning Center. It's only recently, within the last two months or so, that I'm grasping the connection between keywords, titles, searches, and traffic.
No problem, Jan, this is helping me too, I'm learning a lot from this thread. Yes, it's taken me a long time to understand keywords at all; and I'm still working on it. I think it is a valuable skill to know how to use keywords, so I'm putting in some work to understand how to use them better.
Don't worry about the url in the title. I've seen some agitating among SEO circles that it's become less and less important, as Google gets fed up with people gaming the system with keyword-stuffed titles.
Googlebot is still dumb as a box of rocks, but it's slooooowly learning to figure out what you're really talking about based on actual page content.
I don't know anything about chutney either, but I can give another amusing example to back up Wilderness' post (apologies if you've seen this before). Some years ago, I wrote a breezy article about a cute, squishy, purple critter that I saw on the beach. I included its scientific name in my title. My traffic stats showed a high bounce rate and many disappointed marine biology and neuroscience grad students looking for research grants, advanced information in their field, or "where to buy a pet Aplysia." (WHAT?!) It turned out that my unfortunate squishy friend was an ideal lab animal for neuroscience research.
I deleted Aplysia from the title, trimmed the scientific showboating, and used a lot more words like "critter" and "tidepools," and lo and behold, my visitors started sticking around and clicking on links.
This mistake taught me the value of using keyword research, as wilderness said, to make sure I'm "speaking the lingo" of my audience.
Greekgeek and Wilderness, you guys are awesome! Excellent advice. To piggy back on Wilderness, typing your entire title into Google is a must before you publish your Hub to check to see if the results are accurate as Wilderness suggests, but to also check out your competition. Are the first results major brands, Google properties (shopping results, maps, location-based listings), or articles that are going to be tough to beat? If so, augment your title. You are never, ever going to be able to rank for "Credit Cards", but you might have a chance to rank for "How to Get a Credit Card after you have Filed for Bankruptcy."
Knowing your competition can save you a lot of time, energy, and help avoid the feeling of disappointment when your marvelous Hub doesn't do well. It's a lot to think about, but it's a vital part of online writing.
Yes, competetion can sink ya.
I need to clarify the first two sentences of my last post, which were written while very tired:
-- Don't worry about it if you decide to change the title but can't change the url. I've done it, and at least sometimes, the better page title has resulted in better traffic and Google ranking.
-- Google still notices keywords in urls, but according to one recent SEO study I've seen in the last week, it seems to have stopped weighting keywords in urls significantly more strongly than keywords elsewhere on a page. Page title, section headers and body text all matter. So you can rank well for a search query that's not in the URL if your article provides something useful / interesting / relevant on the subject.
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