Whether it's a blog post, news article, email newsletter, or social media post, one of the biggest keys to increasing page views and maximizing impressions is creating killer headlines. Unfortunately, this is something most marketers usually fail miserably at. If you want to fundamentally change your content marketing strategy in just a matter of weeks, start by paying attention to the title.
Why the Title Matters
It's difficult to encapsulate the value of titles without context. For an email marketer, titles mean one thing. For bloggers, the value may be completely different. However, regardless of who you talk to, it's clear that titles and headlines have direct and tangible value. Perhaps these are the three most common benefits, though.
- SEO. For bloggers, titles have an enormous impact on SEO. While Google doesn't tell us exactly what it looks for in a title, case study after case study has revealed the importance of using targeted keywords in titles.
- Sex appeal. Honestly, titles are about sex appeal. A title is often the only factor a person has to judge a piece of content. Research suggests that 35 percent of email recipients choose whether or not to open an email based on the subject line alone. Furthermore, 69 percent will report an email as spam based on the subject line. Titles need to be compelling to garner clicks.
- Sharing. Finally, in the age of social media, titles encourage sharing and clicking. Some people choose to expose this aspect by creating "click-bait" titles, but there are also honest ways to leverage this benefit.
There are plenty of other reasons why titles matter, but these three are arguably the most important. If for nothing else, you should pay attention to titles and headlines so that you can enjoy the benefits of SEO, sex appeal, and sharing.
5 Tips for Developing Headlines That Convert
So, how can you develop killer headlines that enhance SEO, increase clicks, and drive shares across social platforms?
1. Start with a Basic Title
The biggest issue people have is putting the initial words on paper. You aren't going to come up with a killer title right from the start. It's going to take multiple drafts, tweaking, and adjusting before you end up with the final product. With that in mind, just put something down. We'll call this the "working title."
A working title basically tells your team what direction the content is going. Essentially, it's the entire article boiled down into a single sentence or statement. Your final published title will say the exact same thing, only in a much more appealing format.
You may even choose to come up with multiple working titles. This will allow you to take a few different directions, which increases your chances of eventually finding the right titles.
2. Do Keyword Research
Every decent title starts with a little bit of keyword research. There are a number of free tools available, but Google's Keyword Planner
is probably the most popular and comprehensive.
Type in some of the keywords in your article and see what alternatives and similar search terms pop up. You may be surprised to see phrases you never knew existed. This is good. It allows you to make tweaks that account for search engine relevancy. Write down a few of these words and mull over them as you continue crafting the title.
3. Use Strong Words
When coming up with a title, it's not just about using keywords that will help you rank in the search engines. If you're like most businesses, the majority of your traffic isn't organic to begin with. For many businesses, most traffic comes from social media and email campaigns. If you're only taking into account keyword rankings, then you're creating titles for search engines, not people. Instead, focus on creating titles that appeal to people.
Think about the keywords you researched and think about polarizing alternatives to these words. From your keyword research, you know what people are interested in, and now you just need to target these trends with unique strategies. Depending on your audience and niche, you may choose to ditch the safe buzzwords and replace them with strong, emotional, or edgy language that makes the reader look twice.
Some examples of compelling language in titles include words like:
- you won't believe
- gut wrenching
- never before seen
But it's not just strong language that's important. You have to consider the prepositions, pronouns, and articles. Just check out this study
of the most popular words used in viral headlines and you'll see why this is true.
4. Make Bold Claims
People don't like "safe" articles. For example, there's nothing compelling about clicking a link that reads, "Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe." It's boring and replicable. You could probably paste that same title into thousands of chicken noodle soup pages across the Internet.
The key to crafting a killer headline is to make bold claims. It's okay to exaggerate some, just make sure the title is rooted in truth. Using our chicken noodle soup example, a bold title would look something like this: "9 Fascinating Things Your Mom Never Told You About Making Chicken Noodle Soup." The article content may be the exact same, but the title gives it a little extra zing.
5. Keep it Short
Finally, remember to keep your title short. This isn't a senior thesis title - it's meant to quickly grab someone's attention and compel them to click. If you're working with email marketing, concise titles also ensure nothing gets clipped.
As a rule of thumb, try to shoot for 70 characters or less. If you can land somewhere in the 50-60 character range, that's even better. This ensures your title meets all social media publishing standards, making it easily shareable. People should be able to read the title in two seconds or less. If it takes longer, people will keep scrolling.
Ditch the Boring Titles
Titles are more important than many realize. They impact the underlying SEO health of your business, as well as conversion rates and brand exposure. While the quality of your content is very important, you have to understand that titles serve as gatekeepers. If users don't like the title, they'll never end up engaging with your content. As such, it's imperative that you spend more time brainstorming and crafting compelling titles that resonate with your target audience. It's the only way to stay afloat in a crowded sea of content.