In content strategy, a title is a powerful weapon. As a subject line in an email, a snippet in a social network or on a search results page the title is the first part of your content -or the most prominent- readers will see. It attracts your audience, drives traffic and helps improve your SEO ranking.
Yet, titles quite often don’t get the attention they deserve from writers or bloggers. These 5 five things will help you make the most out of them.
1. Your audience comes first
Think of your readers. What moves them? What do they need? Have a clear idea of who is your persona and find a title that will reflect perfectly well the great content you have built for that persona. (See types of titles that will work at the end of this post.) So your first consideration is: Is my title the perfect business card for my content?
2. Don’t rush
Moz says that their team think of 50 titles before choosing the final one. Richard Leahy’s “Twenty Titles for the Writer” exercise helps writers slow down and engage in the process of title-writing. I could die if I had to follow any of these two processes but it is very helpful to realize that a title needs to be well thougt. The truth is that we tend to write them in a rush.
3. Get to the point
How you position your keywords matters. Search engines crawl left from write, just as we read in most languages. Use your main keywords as soon as you can so search engines can find them fast.
This will give humans more chances to get to your content: if your title ends in an ellipsis because it was too long (as you can read in 8 good practices for SEO friendly content in the Hummingbird era, you need to make sure the key words of your title are at the beginning.
Don’t place stoppers or unnecessary adjectives or adverbs at the begining. Cut to the chase, don’t be afraid to get to the point and show your best cards right from the start.
4. Size matters
The amount of words and the length of the words you choose matters. The length available for a title in a SERP (search engine result page) is measured in pixels by Google (512 px, which corresponds to around 60 characters.
Spaces need to be included in this amount of characters and Google will also use some of this space, at its sole discretion, to add the site’s name and maybe some more information they may consider relevant. 50 characters may be a safe number for your title.
5. Be descriptive, accurate
A good title for a blog post is different than a good title for a poem, a novel, even an article (as we knew them before the “lists and how-tos” era.) The digital audience is not too poetic. They need to see through the title if the content is worth a click (aka their time). They need to see what is in it for them.
Digital content has developed its own title writing style. It describes much better the info that follows because titles are such an important part of SEO.
Title have keywords (I would say at least 2) and give you a real idea of what you are going to find when you continue reading.
6 types of titles that grab attention
- The most successful titles have a promise. They teach/show something we did not know, they make us curious and make it worth to spend our time reading them.
- Starting with a number ensures the reader that you will go straight to the point, and what your promise will be delivered (most probably).
- In the same category, starting with How to is also popular. Don’t we go online to learn and find out?
- Sharing personal experiences: “What I should have known about X before I did Y”, “How I became XYZ” are effective and have the power of engaging with the audience.
- Indicate an added benefit in the title. Don’t stick to one reason why they should read you, but add a secondary one. Don’t say only “5 nutritious meals” but “5 nutritious meals you can cook in 30 minutes” or “5 nutritious meals any kid will love”, etc.
- Ask, make it something personal between you and your reader (engagement again): use question marks to challenge your audience. Use exclamation marks when you know your audience will identify with your point of view: “Stop telling me how to be a good dad!
Look at your title before you hit “Publish” and think if you made the most out of it. Your title is the icing on the cake: the tastier it is, the more cake your readers will eat.