Do you produce good content but struggle to get people to read it? Then your title is most probably the problem. Whether you’re creating an article for the company blog, a press release or a web page, the title or heading is the most important thing you’ll write. Together with the picture, it should stop the reader in their tracks and be alluring enough to make clicking irresistible. Luckily, we have some tips on how to do that!
In a typical day on the internet, we’re bombarded by hundreds of titles, most of which we don’t give a second glance before happily scrolling on. However, just occasionally, something will pique our curiosity enough to make us pause.
We’ve all clicked on a seemingly innocuous link, only to be swamped by a torrent of clickbait titles in bold font: “How to lose stomach fat in just 14 days”, “You won’t believe what happened when Karen lifted her toilet seat”, “How to manage with less money in the new year”, “Don’t forget to do this when you book your next holiday”.
It’s also highly likely that these are the titles you usually click. But why? Is it really so important to find out what’s hiding under Karen’s toilet seat?
What the above titles have in common is that they provide a solution to a problem. This appeals to people’s curiosity; if the title presents an answer to something that we don’t know, we immediately want to know the answer – even if we don’t have a particular interest in the topic. Using the definite article “the” further outlines your certainty that you don’t just have a solution: you have the solution.
Using question words in your title, such as “how” and “why”, enhances this effect as they indicate that you will explain what is being done wrong and how to do better. In our hectic, daily lives, we are always on the lookout for smart and easy tips to simplify our existence. That’s why we can’t resist clicking on titles such as “Why you’ve been boiling eggs the wrong way all your life” or “How to be a better lover” just to make sure we’re not missing out on anything. If you know your target audience well enough to be aware of the questions they want answers for, then this title creates an instant online high for our brains (see tip #3).
Our brains are particularly fond of numbers because they help us to organise information: “5 tips for managing your money better if you’re a student”, “7 tips for a more environmentally friendly lifestyle” – the possibilities are endless!
It’s a good idea to write the numbers numerically rather than with letters (e.g. “5” not “five”) as the human eye is naturally drawn to numerals a lot better. There are also a lot of studies that suggest that odd numbers are more noticeable and easier to remember than even numbers.
Which of these titles do you think would get the most clicks?
If you answered the first one, you’re probably right. Directing the title at the reader with “you” and “your” is a good idea as not only does this establish a personal relationship with the reader, but at the end of the day we all like to be the centre of attention! Using a personal question in the title will make things even more personal and encourage readers to actually consider what you’re writing about. Research from BI Norwegian Business School shows that including a personal question in the title actually increases the click rate by as much as 170 per cent!
Ask yourself the question: What is my text about? Find the word that best describes the main point you want to communicate and put that in the title. Conduct a keyword analysis in Google Trends to find out what search phrases your target audience is using. If you include keywords in your title, you’ll achieve better visibility in Google search results.
You can also use descriptive words (adjectives and adverbs) to make your title more exciting and searchable, but don’t make it too long; a title should contain a max of 70 characters or approx. four to eight words.
There’s no point having a fantastic title if it promises something your text can’t deliver. For instance, “How to get your boat driver’s licence online” is a misleading title as obtaining a boat driver’s licence requires you to demonstrate that you can actually drive a boat. Your reader may feel tricked and, in the worst case, translate their bad experience of your website into a bad impression of you or your company. Be honest and give the reader value for their click.
In other words, it’s important that the text’s content fulfils the expectations created by the title. Be as precise as possible!
The advertising industry puts a lot of work into making titles and slogans as exciting and attractive as possible for the target audience. This is something you should consider when you’re thinking of a title for your text. Experiment with alliteration, wordplay, adjectives and familiar references – use words that fire up the readers! Alliteration is a particularly effective way of stopping readers in their tracks and making them want to read more: “10 top travelling tips”.