Can't Write Effective Titles for Your Web Content?
You have an idea for an article, some targeted keywords for search engine optimization (SEO), and a good angle of approach. Now all you need is an effective title. After all, effective parts (from title to intro to body to conclusion) make for an effective Web content article. Somehow though, the headlines or titles you think of don't seem to work for you.
Take a step back and think about it for a second.
What's Your Objective?
It all boils down to one question: what do you want your readers to do? You optimize your website's content for maximum search engine visibility because you want users to find your website. When they do find it, what do you want your optimized content to make them do?
The business objective behind content varies from simply informing readers to making sales pitches. There is always a bottom line though – a certain end result that a call to action wishes to bring about. If you want your Web content to simply be useful, then ensuring its quality and facts should be sufficient. Perhaps linking to other articles with related, useful information would help. More often than not, however, you provide quality articles in exchange for something. Figuring out what that something is is essential for your business because you then format and develop your content to push your readers to make a certain decision or perform a certain action.
Keeping your business objective in mind to always ensure effective Web content, the rest of the content development process is pretty straightforward: they all have general objectives they need to accomplish. They all say something to the reader and when they're all done speaking, they get to say something your readers should appreciate hearing. This is also true for your article's title.
Your article header or title is the first point of contact with your target audience. It's the usher that says "read on, you need or you'll at least like what you find." So how do you tweak your title to be effective in and of itself?
Headlines differ from one form of content to another, and the titles used on press releases will not be as effective when used on how-to lists, for instance, and indeed it would make little sense to do so. There are some general guidelines to make content titles more catchy or attention-grabbing, such as:
- Using numbers in numerical form – Spelling out numbers takes away from their impact and the suddenness with which they can draw information. They are prized tools in Web content development because they instantly attract the eye, and they help create a sense of importance because they are mainly used to deliver often significant numerical data. In titles, all these factors work in your favor, and odd numbers seem to attract more attention than even numbers.
- Using keywords or keyword phrases in the title – For SEO reasons, it is sound practice to use targeted keywords in the titles of your Web content. For quality purposes, however, you should only do so if your targeted keywords make sense together. A common style is using the keywords as the first few words followed by a colon or an em-dash, and then a title that makes more sense or provides the specific focus of the article.
- Using questions – Questions pique the mind and cause it to become engaged in the second it takes to read the interrogative sentence straight through to the question mark. Aside from being attention-grabbing, readers would be enticed to read on to find out the answer to the question asked.
You probably already know the general guidelines. How do you really tweak a title to become more hard-hitting and become a call to action that invokes the readers to read on? Write titles that focus on:
Your readers are scouring the Web for information because this information solves a problem, be it a problem on how to do things or what sort of products to buy. The very core of reading about a certain topic is because it solves your problem of wanting to know about it. So, focus on the problem in your titles and you're sure to get more attention than otherwise
Notice that you focus on the problem and you do not give the solution straight away. Problems are like questions and solutions are like statements. The former engages the mind and entices the psyche – and that is exactly what you need your title or header to do to become part of effective Web content.
Focusing on the problem your article revolves around, lure in your readers with a simple, easy to understand bait. A quick and effective bait example is using rhetorical questions. When you use an article title to ask your readers if they want to solve a particular problem, then the answer is yes they do. Your title is typically a one-liner, though, so if they want to find out the solution you’re talking about, they need to read on.
Take note that using rhetorical questions within the body of your article is somewhat risky. If you use it for general content, they can be practically useless. Imagine you were reading an article about something you are really interested in, and you get to a point where the article suddenly asks: "Are you interested in finding out...?" Well of course you're interested – that's why you're reading the article. While such questions don't always get such psychological backlashes, they can still be perceived as unnecessary fluff, which is indeed the case most of the time. Using rhetorical questions in market copy is a different matter, where they either tend to make the readers focus on the copy or the medium of the copy – such as the writer or the business behind it.
Diplomats can say no to a request so eloquently that they can even make the person they're rejecting become thankful of the refusal. It's the epitome of the tenet "it's not what you say, but how you say it." This is likewise the case when it comes to titles for effective Web content.
The use of certain words and the placements of words can have a huge impact. A practical example is using the exact keywords you want to target. That's just one reason though; another would be because of the tendency of readers' eyes to focus on only the first few words of titles when in a list, like for instance, a search engines results page (SERP).
In any given SERP, the main article titles are listed along with additional information. When our eyes have to go down a list of sentences or phrases, we read the first few lines to the end, but for subsequent lines we tend to only focus on the first few words – the first 11 to 21 characters, to be exact. This means that to maximize the attention-grabbing prowess of your titles, you don't just need to use your targeted keywords in it, you also need to put them in the first few words, if possible. Of course, this concept applies more to links than to actual titles, and as such is not a strict guideline.
Yet another reason wording is so important can be explained through research of Twitter use. The popular social media site shares "Tweets" in users' timelines which can be made to have links. Links that show up near the beginning of the tweets or at the very end are more likely to be clicked than those that are in the middle. These 'links' are very important parts of the tweet, just like the keywords in your titles. It just makes sense to place these all-important parts of the titles (targeted keywords or the focus of your article) where they are more likely to register.
So What Do We Have?
Now think about the focus of your article again and we'll think of a proper effective title that goes with the quality Web content. Try to make use of as many guidelines as mentioned above – it's a herculean challenge to use them all – and formulate your headline using them. In fact, you can use these guidelines not just for your titles, but for the angle of your Web content as well.
Say for instance you wrote an article on 3 tips on DIY home plumbing, with your main keyword being 'DIY plumbing'. At the end of the article, or within the body itself, you want to recommend a particular professional plumbing service, with a focus on affordability. A how-to article is a good choice of value-adding Web content. Going with what we discussed above, you could end up with something like:
"DIY Plumbing Tips: Are These 3 Problems Driving Your Expenses?"
We managed to add the keyword 'DIY plumbing' at the very beginning and put the focus of affordability at the end of the title. It's a rhetorical question which engages the mind for a second, then leaves it hanging and enticed to read on to find out which "These" problems are – and the DIY tips to resolve them. We also used a number, and we focused on the problem instead of just plainly stating that we have solutions. For the format of the article, it would be best to approach the problems first, and then provide the DIY plumbing tips.
Effective Web content is the sum of all its parts, though the parts have to function well on their own. This is the case for content titles which have to entice the reader to read on while being effective on its own.