Producing a big website is like running a marathon, culminating in a frantic sprint over the finish line. Business-as-usual slowly returns and change requests come in. At first, you’re thankful for the quieter pace. But after the mad dash of go-live, it is easy to forget that the real race begins — that is, the race to top search rankings and engage customers.
You and your content-creating colleagues diligently move from work request to work request. After some time, your days begin to look similar. You’re still busy, but you’re running in circles. Your team seems to have no clear strategy, KPIs, budget, regular thanks or praise. You secretly long for more collaboration, purpose and impact.
If any of this sounds familiar, then this — content creators — is a good time to start your H1 Project.
If there’s one high impact but doable task, I advise digital content teams to take on, it is starting their very own H1 Project.
Headlines are probably the most important piece of content on a web page, yet badly written headlines are everywhere. That's good news for content writers looking for a competitive edge.
Research shows most people read headlines, even if they read nothing else. They judge a web page, blog or newsletter by its main headline. So headlines dramatically influence usability and customer engagement. Behind the scenes, an effective headline acts as powerful data that influences search results and search rankings.
The H1 Project has the single objective of improving page headlines on your website. Although the objective is narrow, the benefits are manifold: better page usability, better search results, better search rankings, a better understanding of your content as a whole.
And there are other surprising benefits: meaningful collaborative work for your team without the pressures of go-live and the need for project budget or executive sign-off.
If you manage a small website, your H1 Project will deliver benefits within a few short weeks. If your website has hundreds of pages, you could see benefits within 12-16 weeks. So here’s how you can start your H1 Project. There is a bit of legwork, but then your H1 Project will be up and running.
First, size up your project. How many content pages does your site have? Look at your analytics to determine which pages are most visited. Identify the 20% of pages that appeal to 80% of your target audience.
If your website is large, the H1 Project is best run as a relay race: divvy up your pages among your team. This will unite your team around a collective goal. At the same time, you will all refresh your SEO skills. And share what would be a menial and dry task for one person alone.
So if you have 1000 web pages, and 3 team members tackling 5 headlines per day, your H1 Project will take 3 months. Create a schedule and stick to it.
You can download and use the simple schedule and tracking spreadsheet below.
Agree on a standard for your new H1 headlines. The perfect headline is:
Together as a team, create a few exemplar headlines for your most visited pages. Publish them and test out how they look on various devices.
Using a keyword planning tool, research keywords for your website as a whole. Research the best 1-2 keyword phrases for each major topic area. You’ll need both types of keyword phrases. Put these into your spreadsheet for your team to use.
Benchmarking is important: It allows your team to look back and see how far you've come. It brings meaning to your work and it enables executive teams to appreciate your impact.
For your keyword combinations, see where your pages rank right now on popular search engines. Record these rankings on your spreadsheet.
Systematically improve each H1 headline, following your time schedule. Read each page and write a headline that captures the topic of the page. Include the main keyword phrase for that topic.
In your spreadsheet, it pays to take note of which pages seem to be full of ROT (Redundant, Outdated and Trivial content). This cleverly turns your H1 Project into a content audit, that should inform your future content goals.
Then add the same H1 text to each page’s title tag. This brilliant trick is vital for improving your search engine rankings.
Check your search rankings 5-10 weeks after your H1 Project is done. (It takes time for search engines to index new content).
By then, I expect your team's spirits and your website rankings will both be running high.
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