It’s a commonly cited cliché that “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but online content with poorly implemented titles will usually miss out on reaching a larger audience than content with well-thought-out titles. While the previously mentioned cliché rings true when relating to content quality, it couldn’t be more off base when it comes to content planning and marketing. According to the SEO specialists at Moz, 80 percent of readers never make it past the headline and title quality can impact traffic to an article or blog by a staggering 500 percent. So it’s in your best interest to give your content titles plenty of attention during the content planning process.
Writing a good title for online content is a bit trickier than writing one for a newspaper article or a book because search engines introduce artificial length limitations and keywords into the mix. Instead writing for just people, you’re also writing for machines. The machines are designed to emulate human behavior, so you should write for a human audience with the limitations of the machine in consideration. Search Engine Optimization limitations can help guide you through the title writing process. A good, SEO-friendly title is between 50 and 60 characters long and includes a designated keyword that’s related to what people looking for the content will use when searching for it. If your title runs short, many SEO firms recommend adding your company brand to the end of the title, separated by a “|” symbol (also known as a pipe). Abbreviations and symbols are useful for keeping the word count down. Using more than two keywords, especially those unrelated to the content, will count against your rankings.
When writing the actual title, always keep in mind the concept of “What You See Is What You Get.” Describe exactly what the content webpage contains without misleading your audience. The title also needs to be crafted in a way that interests the audience. For example, a real estate web site content may feature a boring title for a property like “2BR/2BA Condo for Sale” that really doesn’t accomplish anything. Instead, a title like “Spacious, renovated 2BR/2BA Townsville Condo | Great Schools” provides much more information and entices people to click through to the link. The example title also brings up the importance of the location in a title. If a business is opening a new location, the title “New Bob’s Tire Location Opening on State St. in Bakersville” will greatly outperform a limited detail title like “New Location Opening Soon.”
There are a handful of proven headline styles that convert more readers when correctly utilized. The traditional “stated fact” title like “Burger Guys Wins Townsville ‘Best Burgers’ Award” works well, but other methods are more enticing. Often times the “stated fact” title is the only appropriate technique for the content. Number-related titles work well for lists like”10 Tips for Better Omelets” instead of “Tips for Better Omelets.” Addressing the audience also works well with titles like “You’ll love our new pasta platters” for a restaurant. However, question-style titles like “Who has the Best Pizza in Townsville?” don’t perform as well as “stated fact” titles. Questions can be dangerous if you’re concerned with editorial credibility, in particular if your site provides news as a service, because poorly worded questions can very easily sound like you’re misleading your audience.
Like any other writing skill, developing good titles takes practice to master. Including title generation as a part of your content planning process can substantially boost your site traffic compared to treating titles like an afterthought.
Writer Bio: Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.