Given the number of headlines that we read in a given day, many online entrepreneurs are tempted to find short cuts to calling attention to their content through their titles. Often times this can lead to click-baiting. If you are just looking for a quick buck, this won’t be a problem. If, however, you are playing the long game and are trying to build a brand, you want to avoid these click-baiting techniques as they can alienate your readers and ruin your credibility. In order to avoid this, it is important to know what kinds of tricks you need to avoid when constructing a title for your content.
1: DON’T CREATE CONTROVERSY
Unless you are writing for a socially conscious website that is trying to raise awareness for an important issue, don’t rely on controversy to generate traffic. If you post a title that makes a bold claim, several issues may arise. While you may get traffic, there are a number of people who will do nothing more than read a headline before making a comment or dismissing a work. You may alienate readers, or you may encourage people with divergent minds to leave counterproductive comments on your site. Though you may generate a lot of page views the first couple of times you do this, and likeminded people may share the post, your readers will see a pattern whereby you regularly polarize topics and take extreme views. This can negatively impact your brand and in the long term repel readers who came to your site. As much as people love controversy, the names they trust and visit regularly are impartial and reasoned.
2: AVOID LISTS
Copy Blogger suggests that lists are a good idea, but you want to be careful when using them. This has become the lazy copy writer’s favorite approach in the last couple of years, with any number of headlines starting with “5 Ways to” or “12 Secrets to”. If you use a similar headlines, you may get lost in the noise. Likewise, if your list only has five items, and a similar list in a search engine has 10, readers may pass up on your shorter list as they might assume it has less information. Likewise, if your list claims to have “20 Methods”, some readers may be put off by the length. Promoting lists is popular, and can help, but be aware of the pitfalls of this method and use it sparingly. I also have concerns that with the prevalence of such titles, search engine algorithms may soon start frowning on such titles, so keep that in mind.
3: DON’T MAKE EVERYTHING AN EMERGENCY
We’ve all heard the story about the boy who cried wolf. Sure, the first couple of times everybody came running, but afterwards, his traffic dried up when he needed it most. Like the controversial titles, this method can work, but if you are playing the long game, avoid this approach. If you lead of with words like ‘Urgent’ or ‘Warning’, you are going to create a false sense of urgency and your readers will quickly grow tired of the method. There are people who create short-lived websites that are used to promote their long-term pay sites through backlinks. The long-term pay sites don’t rank well on search engines, so marketers use black hat techniques to generate traffic through click-baiting on short-lived sites. The sensational titles and click-baiting generates traffic, but they eventually get banned from Bing and Google for their black hat techniques, at which point they abandon the site to make a new one. If you are trying to build your brand and develop a long-term business model, this false sense of urgency will get your traffic initially, but you won’t get any repeat visitors past the first month as they will be desensitized to your false urgency and likely become annoyed. Such a title can be used when there is a legitimate concern, but using it frequently is only going to ruin your brand.
4: FALSE PROMISES
Do not make false promises. Period. If you are selling a training module, or a product, do not invite readers to learn about a topic only to tell them they have to pay for it when they arrive at your site. Even if the traffic is targeted with laser precision, they will feel cheated when they arrive, and if they feel cheated, they will not trust you enough to give you their money. I cannot count the number of times I’ve read headlines like “Get Any Woman With Three Easy Questions”, or “Get Six-Pack Abs With This Secret”. Not only are people not going to click on them, but even if they do, they will be frustrated when they get to the page and find out they have to pay for content. If you have a training manual to sell, offer some free and useful content and then pitch your manual. Readers will be far more likely to trust you if your content fulfills the promise of the title and you’ve given then free and useful content. False promises will only cost you money and ruin your brand name.
Each site has its own unique approach. If you are running a site that is centered on humour, use humour, but if you are selling something, or if you are promoting content within a certain niche, try to avoid humourous titles. The problem is that they may spoil your brand. People may find them funny, but like that guy in the board who always cracks jokes, you make get smile, but nobody is going to trust you with their business. Some of the people I coach use a little humour in their blog posts, and that is fine, in fact, it’s a great approach because it can be endearing. However, these folks only do this once they’ve already demonstrated a professional and comprehensive understanding of the niche in which they are working. They’ve already develop trust and a reputation. If your titles made lewd jokes, or are trying to be funny before being informative, readers may not take you seriously. So unless you are running a satirical new site, or a comical blog, avoid using titles that try to make reader laugh.
Click-baiting is a growing problem and something that internet users are becoming increasingly frustrated and annoyed with. If you want to build a brand and strengthen your reputation, do not trade a bump in traffic for your long-term success. Focus on productive and informative titles that let the reader know what to expect, and avoid sensationalist headlines. As an online marketer, I do know a little about copy writing, but it is not my area of expertise. However, I am always trying to find free and affordable ways for my clients and readers to improve their business. With that in mind, if you are interested in improving your copy writing skills, I suggest signing up at Copy Blogger and getting their free e-book that outlines everything from content to titles to e-mails. They break their lessons up into short, easy-to-read modules that are informative and well organized, and best of all, it is free. I’m reading through it right now and am finding it extremely useful. So be thoughtful when putting together your headlines, and focus on your readers and not your page views.
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