The clickable title has become the Holy Grail for freelance writers whose work is published online. Clients seek creative phrases designed to prompt the reader to stop, click, read, explore and buy. Yet, in this ethereal world that distills entire cultural movements down to 144 characters or less, how does a writer create a click-worthy title without dangling participles or other grammar errors that provide fodder for parodies such as Best of the Web by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal? Writers of all stripes, technical, copywriter, even a speech writer, must prove their worth through the headline, and incorporating the arc of the article into the title can provide some valuable concrete approaches to doing so.
According to Nigel Watts, a story arc contains eight elements:
- The quest
- The critical choice
Essentially, the introduction sets up the elements of the story that lead to the crescendo of the storyline, and the arc then leads the reader through the saga until the concluding axiom has been defined. A graphic of a story arc will look like the classic bell curve.
Not every element of the story arc can be conveyed within a clickable title. Yet, for writers seeking to move beyond light, easy reading blogging posts into the higher paying, highly targeted and well paying work that is available, they must consider moving beyond titles that begin with “The Top 10 Tips,” “How to,” or “Why You Need.” An article titled “Top 10 Tips to Make Your Conglomerate Profitable” will not convince the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to invest the time it takes to read it.
Thus, moving the apex of the story arc upfront into the title will create a sense of value to the article and a reason to click through and do more than scan the byline. For example, an article on how real-time data processing trends in big data is altering the field of predictive analytics may have a title such as:
“Real-Time Data Processing Creates Floating Cross Docks on Super Tankers”
That title conveys both cost and time savings to any logistics executive as well as fueling his or her desire to be the first on the manufacturing block to employ the latest trends. In addition to exhibiting expert knowledge on a subject, the writer has communicated the value and worth of the content within the article.
A humorous way to look at strong titles is to consider an episode from Star Trek TNG that has reached cult status, “Darmok.” The ship encounters Tamarians, an alien race that has struggled to communicate with others. Even the sophisticated universal translator cannot comprehend their repeated phrase, “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”
As the story unfolds, the crew of the Enterprise discovers that the Tamarians speak in metaphors. For the aliens, that five word phrase communicates the complex tribal knowledge that surrounds an entire epic event. Essentially, every Tamarian understands a saga the size of the Iliad through one small sentence.
A clickable title will have that quality and the ability to communicate far more than a top 10 list. Moreover, the talent to produce such titles is a highly desirable skill in today’s online world.
Wendy H studies both Tamarian and Klingon languages from Star Trek in her spare time.