How many headlines do you read online each day? If your business is online, I doubt you could even come up with a ball-park figure. We are bombarded with headlines on every page we visit, whether it’s a news organization promoting their content while you are reading a story, advertisers trying to entice you to click on their ads, or websites trying to convince you that their content is the one of twenty search results that you should click on first. Part of doing business online is realizing that this is the market you are competing it. It doesn’t matter how good your product or your content is, if you don’t have a title that can stand out, people are not going to see what you have to offer. So with that in mind, here are a few strategies that can help you to stand out from the pack.
1: WRITE YOUR TITLE FIRST
This may sound odd, or perhaps too simply, but it is central to your content. You need to decide what you are writing about and what the purpose of your post is. If you know that before you start writing, then you know how to fulfill the expectation your title is giving the reader. This will help you to focus on the topic at hand, and give the reader a positive experience. One of the worst things you can do is slap a title on afterwards because it can be hard to think of one encapsulates everything your article is speaking to. The reader, therefore, may come away thinking that your article wasn’t sufficiently related to your title. Alternately, you may have elements of your content that is not represented in the title, and so readers that are interested in that part of your content will miss out. Write the title first, and use it to stay on point.
2: USE KEYWORDS
The last two weeks I posted articles on SEO techniques, and one of those techniques included the use of keywords. Keywords in your title are not going to help your SEO, so don’t put them in there for that reason. Instead, you want to put them in your title because when people look up those keywords, they are going to be looking at a list of articles that have their keyword in the title. If you don’t have the keyword in the title, they may pass up on your article assuming that your content isn’t targeted to their keyword. Try to limit your articles to two or three articles, and find a way to include each of them in your title. This way, readers will know upon seeing your title that your content is speaking to the topic they are interested in. Problogger notes that search engines pay particular attention to titles, but don’t invest too much in that as we never know when the next algorithm will be implemented and what its criteria is going to be.
3: CUT TO THE CHASE
If you have a deal going on, put it in your title. One of the mistakes people make is trying to sell their product in their title, talking about the quality or merits of the product. This can be helpful if you know how to be concise, but nothing is going to draw a reader’s attention to like a bold statement. If you have merchandise that is 70% off, put that in your title: PLUS-SIZE FASHION 70% OFF. If you have a coupon site, post the percentage they will be saving with your coupons: SAVE 50% ON KELLOG’S PRODUCTS. If you have free content, promote it. FREE WORKOUT STRATEGIES. When readers see the deals they will be getting, that will draw them to the product. If you have a brand name you are selling, let the brand do its work, tag on the percentage of savings, and go. No need to make it too long.
4: HOW TO…
Copy Blogger has a free e-book on copy editing strategies, one chapter of which is dedicated to how to write effective titles. In it, they point out how effective it can be to simply let the reader know what instruction they will be receiving with a simple formula: HOW TO [MUNDANE TASK] THAT [REWARDING BENEFITS]. As they point out, this is a tried and tested approach, made famous by Dale Carnegie in his famous book How To Win Friends And Influence People. Let the reader know what you will be teaching them or selling them and the benefits of it. This will make it clear what the purpose of the content is. This one can be a little less effective because it is used so frequently, but it remains an successful and concise method.
5: ASK DIRECT QUESTIONS
Asking direct questions can really resonate with many readers. If your title asks them if they have a problem they frequently deal with, they may view your content as being intuitively connected with their interests: DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH WRITING TITLES? Likewise, asking questions about trending topics is a great way to generate interest. Rather than alienating readers by making a bold and controversial claim, simply ask a question about it. If a reader sees you take a stance on a controversial or polarized topic that they don’t agree with, they will likely pass over your post. If, however, you simply ask a question, you invite readers from both sides of the debate to read your work. When you do this, try to make sure that your content is impartial. This can also facilitate great responses in your comments section and encourage repeat visitors.
6: MAKE IT SOUND LIKE NEWS
In their free e-book, Copy Blogger also suggests highlighting the relevancy and currency of your content: in short, make it sound like news. They suggest using words and phrases like “At last” and “Introducing”, but there are a host of others, like ‘finally’, or ‘Announcing’. These kinds of words can bring a sense of freshness to your content, encouraging the reader to associate it with current and relevant information. The only problem with this is that the titles have a short shelf life. If you post this in January, by the time summer rolls around, people who come across the post on search engines may look at the title and date of publication and assume that the information is outdated. If you use a title like this, have a backup title and replace it after a couple of months. You can then repost the article and generate repeat traffic.
7: MAKE IT SOUND SECRETIVE
This one can be hit and miss, but it is a good tool to have in your tool box. You don’t want all your titles to sound the same, because then your regular readers will start to view your content and approach as formulaic. So when you are changing things up, use this approach coupled with another to heighten the curiosity of the reader. Maybe you have a home and garden website, like one of the clients I coach, and you can lead in with “Gardeners’ Secrets Exposed”, or “Carpenters Favorite Tricks Revealed”. This will work with any niche, just replace ‘gardener’ or ‘carpenter’ with professional titles linked with the your niche. This approach can be paired with other techniques, such as lists: “10 Secrets”, or the direct question: “Do you know these secrets?” Gear it to your niche and content, and you should be ready to go. As I said, I wouldn’t use this one too often, but it’s good to bring it in the rotation once in a while.
This is just a short list of tips and I do recommend doing more reading on copy writing in general. I’m always trying to find free and cost efficient ways for my readers and clients to improve their business approach, and in that spirit I would strongly recommend visiting Copy Blogger. Though I don’t agree with everything they suggest, they have a lot of useful information, and some of the strategies they suggest that I find ineffective may work for you. They have a free e-book that gives readers all kinds of great copy writing tips, and their chapter on titling posts is great. So check them out, be sure to put some thought in your titles, otherwise your content, regardless of how great it might be, will get lost in all the noise.
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