The other evening, I attended a search engine optimization meeting here in the Tampa area. It was organized by Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal. Since he does SEO for a living, I asked him his thoughts on how social media was changing the field of SEO. One of the questions that I raised was the tradeoff between writing a blog headline for social media purposes or for the search engines.
There are two very different forces at work.
When you write a blog headline for a search engine, the focus is on keywords. You want to use keywords in your headline which the search engine will then relate to your article. You obviously would want to use keywords which people would use to search for your topic.
But, when you write for social media, your headlines needs to be attractive to real people, not a search algorithm. You may deliberately push some buttons or use some words designed to raise an eyebrow.
One example is an article I wrote on this blog. It is called The FriendFeed Orgasm And Why It Is Off The Mark. Obviously, this is a provocative headline. It was written more for social media purposes, however. When people see this headline over on FriendFeed or on Twitter, they are curious because I am using the word "FriendFeed" along with a sexually charged word like "orgasm". They click and read and, yes, people did exactly that (especially on FriendFeed). However, the word "orgasm" is not particularly well suited to the search engine. A search for the word "orgasm" is likely to pull up all kinds of sites which have very little to do with FriendFeed (to say the least).
So, in my case, I wrote the headline for social media. It was written to entice real people to click and read. However, if you try to find the article on Google, a search for "FriendFeed" does not yield my article in the first few pages of results. And a search for "orgasm", well, yields something completely different. A search for "friendfeed orgasm" obviously pulls up my post in the #1 position, but who the hell would search for that?!
Techniques I’ve Used
Social media is a VERY "right now" medium. Generally, social media sites like Digg, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. can result in a big boost in traffic at the beginning of a blog post’s life. Search engines, though, are more long term.
So, with that in mind, perhaps one way to deal with this is to write your headline for social media at the outset. Sure, it will get indexed that way and you can get some benefits from being noticed in the social media. Then, once that buzz has worn out, change your blog headline to something more search engine friendly.
You can also use plenty of H1 and H2 tags in your blog post, using good keywords, and help balance out the effect of a social media friendly headline with the search engines. Search spiders place rank on keywords used in header tags.
Search engines also look at keywords IN YOUR URL. So, you can manually alter the "slug" of your post to make it use good keywords, but the visible headline is more social media friendly.
I’d welcome input from any other bloggers or SEO guys. I’m a pro blogger, but I know enough SEO to be dangerous and that’s about it. So, feel free to chime in.