Coming up with a good, catchy headline that will both capture your reader's attention AND appropriately convey what you're writing about without being clickbait-y is tough. Here are some tips and research about how to make better titles.
Why a Great Headline Is Important
In a sea of content, you need to capture your audience's attention. Ultimately, however, you don't want someone to merely click your article and then vanish. This hurts our website's SEO rating and it means people aren't spending time on your amazing words that you spent so much time crafting and making perfect.
A great headline ideally tells your audience what they're going to get so they won't be surprised when they get to reading your article. If it's not what they expected or it's not up to snuff, they will bounce. Just think of the thousands of articles you've clicked on only to find that their headlines were misleading in some way and you immediately clicked away. Make sure you're not evoking that feeling of being cheated from your audience by writing titles that don't match your words.
How to Write a Great Headline
There are many different schools of thought on how to approach writing a good headline. Some writers begin with a headline and write based on answering the question it poses. Others write the entire article first and then get to the core idea the article makes to then craft a title from that. Whether you're just starting out in writing or are a seasoned professional, it's worth exploring different methods to find out what works best for your process.
Clear and concise
Our SEO has the following advice:
Unique, concise article titles should include the focus term as close to the beginning as possible. Only the first 50-71 characters are shown in search engines and on social platforms.
Bad - Sunshine, Screeners, and Sunnies: Our Guide to The Seven Essential Summer Movies of 2015
Better - Sunshine, Summer Movies, and Sunnies
Best - Summer Movie Guide: Sunshine and Sunnies
Ask Yourself 3 questions
According to Digital Ink, you should try to "distil your story down to its root" and then ask yourself these three questions:
- What’s the point of the story?
- How does it benefit the reader?
- If I was looking for this, what would I Google?
Once you've worked out what the point is, what a reader gets out of reading your article, and how someone might search for this on Google, you can start to look at ways to answer these questions in your headline.
Another website suggests that emotional triggers encourage people to click on a link. Triggering something like curiosity or nostalgia are great ways to get people clicking on your article.
One marketing company developed a 'Headline Analyzer' that determines how effective your article's title would be. Currently, its dictionary seems fairly limited, but it can be a good indicator of what your headline is missing.
Don't just write one headline down and think you're done. Experiment, explore, be creative and out-there. Push yourself to write 10-20 headlines trying different combinations of words and ideas. Test your favorites on people who don't know anything about your article and see if they can guess what you've written about. Does it evoke any kind of emotional response from them? Would they click this if they saw it in a Google search?
It may also be useful to do a Google search of your own - check out your competition on the topic you're writing about and see how they structure their headlines. Which ones were you drawn to? Use this research to inform your headline creation.