Four measures your titles must always meet

    Posted on September 24, 2020

     

    Without an engaging, attention-grabbing title, even the best written articles can be a waste of your time and effort.

    Think of your title as the key to a room filled with content wonders. You don’t want that key to be rusty and awkward, you need it to be shiny and well-oiled, making a satisfying ‘click’ as it unlocks the inviting treasure trove that is your blog.

    With such an ocean of content on the web though, how do you make yours stand out? Below, we’ve listed four criteria any title needs to meet to draw readers in:

    1. Make people click it!

    Let’s not beat around the bush – whether your title is seen on your website, on social media or in an emailed newsletter, you want the reader to click on the link. Otherwise, your blog or news story just exists in an online void.

    So, consider what would make you want to click through to an article. Some pull factors might include:

    • Personal language, like ‘you’ and ‘your’
    • Promising solutions to problems, especially ones commonly searched for (“How to…” articles do this)
    • Hints of actionable advice (such as “Four ways to….” articles)
    • Answers to questions (e.g. “Here’s why XYZ”)

    2. Be concise

    The best titles are economical with words. Unless it’s a highly technical story, it’s good practice to limit your title to seven or eight words. You can usually omit words like ‘a’, ‘the’ and ‘is’. This will make your title more snappy. Remember that many titles are seen on mobile devices and social media posts where space is limited, so you don’t want your title to be truncated.

    Generally, titles should avoid present participle forms of verbs, which basically means verbs ending with -ing (e.g. ‘reading’, ’opening’). This is especially the case with news stories. Below are two slightly different ways of headlining the same story:

    “Royal Mint unveiling new 50p coin”

    “Royal Mint to unveil new 50p coin”

    The reason the first one doesn’t sound as good is because -ing verbs denote an ongoing process and suggest continuity rather than change. This makes them less dynamic, and the article loses a degree of its newsiness. News needs to tell us that something has happened or is about to happen – not that it’s already happening.

    3. Don’t give away the whole story

    Another rookie mistake is to supply too many details in your title. For example, imagine seeing the below title on a local news website or newspaper:

    “NatWest awards £100K grant to Bloggstown Primary School”

    The problem is that this title has more or less told you the story. You might be vaguely interested to know why the money was awarded and when it will be received, but there’s a good chance you won’t read any further, as you’ve already heard enough.

    A more enticing title would be:

    “Bank awards six-figure grant to local school”

    Now, there’s a lot more to be discovered by clicking through to the story, such as:

    • Which bank? Is it my bank?
    • Which school? Is it my kids’ school?
    • What’s the exact amount? Is it £100K or £999K?

    Similarly, I could have given this piece a terrible title like ‘Titles must be engaging, concise and not give away the whole story’. It might have been an amusing example of irony, but usually, irony doesn’t get clicks!

    4. Promise only what the article delivers

    We’ve talked enough about how to get your title to engage readers, but don’t forget that getting them to click through to your site is only the first step. You want them to stay there, and come back again and again, and you do this by winning their trust and offering something of value.

    Internet users are getting increasingly tired of ‘clickbait’. Especially on sites like Facebook, it’s not uncommon to see comments on posts accusing an article of being clickbait, or of not answering the question, as the title suggests. This damages your site’s authenticity, so don’t disappoint readers. If you call your piece “Here’s why XYZ”, make sure you do explain the reason as you’ve promised.

    Winning the title fight

    At Engage Web, we’re well set up to deliver content that attracts readers and keeps them coming back to your website. To learn more about our content development and social media services, why not speak to us today?

    John Murray

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