Which Headline is Better: Emotional vs SEO

Headline writing has been around since the dawn of the printed word. Grabbing the attention of the reader to make them do just that – read. In the age of content-generating sites like BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and a myriad of others, headlines have even less time to grab the reader’s ‘click.’ So is the trick behind an excellent attention grabber an emotional headline? Or is an optimized headline the way to go?

Newspapers are the media that revolutionized the headline writing business. The newspaper competition was stiff in many areas, and the headline writers were essential in making sure newspapers sold. But with the dawn of the Internet era, headlines are vying for the ever-coveted ‘click.’ Our clicks are worth millions, so it’s not shocking to know that there is a lot of thought (and money) put into a ‘simple’ headline.

But, do you go emotional or optimized for your headline? Well, a little bit of both is best, but let’s look at each first and then decide.

Emotional Headlines

These days our Facebook feeds are filled with emotional ‘stories’ (be it video, GIFs, or actual copy) that are begging us to click to find out whether the cat can get out of the bowl, how the soldier coming back from war surprised his pregnant wife, or which celebrity should play us in a movie of our lives.

Tugging on the heartstrings, or piquing our curiosity, is the marketers’ intent, and they’re usually pretty good at it. Emotional headlines can be formatted in several ways

  • Ask a question in the headline, then offer the answer in the content.
  • Make something sound easy and quick.
  • Use adverbs and adjectives – ‘secret’ and ‘little known ‘ are popular.
  • Add a cat, or a puppy, or a child…anything that has the viewer say ‘aww!’


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SEO Headlines

However, pure emotions may not get you noticed by the search engines, which is a main goal in web content. Having a purely SEO headline may not sound quite as attractive, but it’ll get you ranked in search engine results.

SEO headlines don’t have to be stale and dry. While they may not grab at the heartstrings of the searcher like an emotional headline, they will help him find what he needs. Here are some ways to format SEO headlines:

  • Use your search terms at the front of the headline
  • See what’s trending on the major search engines and use the relevant terms in your headline and article
  • Save space by using a colon as the attributive verb

A Healthy Mix of Both

While SEO headlines and emotional headlines each have their place, utilizing a healthy marriage of the two may be your best option when creating headlines. By writing headlines that attract searchers and attract search engines, you’ll quickly see a jump in traffic to your site.

To write headlines that are both SEO rich and emotional enough to get a click, or the coveted ‘share,’ here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Provide value for the reader – what will they get out of it?
  • Create a story around your keywords and touch on the emotions your keywords create
  • Pique your searchers’ curiosity
  • Use alliteration to make your headline more appealing

These are just a few ways to marry SEO and emotional headlines, and through practice, you’ll soon find out what your searchers are looking for and how to get their ‘click.’ And remember what the PR and advertising revolutionary, David Ogilvy, said regarding headlines: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

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