How much does the quality of the title impact on the success of your content? In studies that looked at how often content was shared or liked, or how often people clicked the link to read an article, we can see that the length, style and wording of a title can either boost or hinder the success of the content. The art of title-writing is so important to the success of an article that some websites hire special writers, just to make sure the titles will yield the best possible results.
Think about the titles that most appeal to you. How do you read the headlines when you see them on a search results page, or on the front page of a news site where many titles are all vying for your attention at once? Would you be more likely to click on the link titled, “Accident at Zoo,” or would your attention be captured more by, “The Day a Gorilla was Killed to Save a Fallen Child”?
Your readers are likely to have pretty much the same reaction to the headlines that you did. And you can apply the same principles to titles you write for other blog posts and articles. Here’s how you can get title length, style, and wording to work to your advantage.
1) Aim for an Ideal Title Length
What is the Optimal Title Length in Characters?
The length of your title can be measured both in words and in characters. Because search engines will truncate a title if it’s longer than their maximum line length, you risk losing meaning when the words at the end are cut off. This translates into losing readers, who are turned off by incomplete titles because our brains are hard-wired to look for meaning in the first 3 words and the last 3 words of a title.
Your title can have up to 70 characters if you want it to display well in search engines – but the optimal title length is 55 characters.
What is the Ideal Word Count for a Title?
The ideal word count for a blog title is about 8-12 words. A slightly shorter title – say, 6 words long – can still do well. But you wouldn’t want to go shorter because you lose the opportunity to include both keywords and emotional trigger words that entice the reader to click through and read your text.
Your title needs to be long enough to provide some context, even if you’re teasing and not giving it all away upfront. It’s now OK to be cryptic in your title – in fact, it’s recommended! But the goal should be to leave your potential reads with a specific question that will be answered by your post – not to leave them so clueless they have no idea at all what to expect.
Research by HubSpot shows that titles 8-12 words long did best for gaining retweets on Twitter. Slightly longer titles (12-14 words) got more Facebook likes. If you’re targeting a specific social network, you may want to adjust your title length so it will perform best on that specific site.
2) Add Emotional Triggers to Boost the Performance of Your Title
The new focus in creating the best titles for your content is emotion. Emotional words, trigger words, power words – these are all just different ways to say that a title needs a little something to punch it up. The best titles appeal to strong emotions – and not necessarily positive ones! Emotional triggers or power words are now just as important as your keywords – maybe even more important.
Including emotional words in your title can trigger greed, fear, suspicion, anger, or even a desire to belong to something perceived as elite or exclusive. It’s not all negative, though. Your title may use power words that evoke intensely positive reactions in your reader. Using words like, “joyful,” “heroic,” or “awe-inspiring” can stir up passion about even the most banal subject. You may just be talking about a new skin care product, but if you include a phrase like “life-changing” in your title you’ll get a lot more clickthroughs.
Powerful titles may trigger sexual desire – even if the content has nothing to do with sex or relationships. As we’ve known for a long time, sex sells! Finally, powerful titles can appeal to our need for security. They can use phrases like, “guaranteed,” “tried and true,” “ironclad,” or “risk-free.”
Using these emotional trigger words is a trick that has been known in the advertising world for decades. But now bloggers have seized the opportunity to get the same results with their titles. It may only be a matter of boosting your page views a tiny bit, or of getting just one or two people to click your affiliate links and maybe buy that new foundation or bronzing powder. But when your goal is to earn a little pocket money to supplement the salary from your day job, or you’re counting on your writing revenue to help pay the bills each month, every extra click or sale matters!
3) Use a Hot Headline Style for SEO and Social Media Results
There are several main categories when it comes to headline styles:
- List titles – e.g. “5 Things an Expectant Father Needs to Know”;
- Question titles – “What is the Best Way to Skin a Cat?”;
- How-to titles – “How to Write the Best Title for Your Post”
Some headlines will also use a lesser known style such as:
- Titles that reference time – e.g. “Things to Do on Your Last Day as a Single Man”;
- Titles that use a negative – e.g. “What Not to Do When You Meet the Queen”;
- Titles that compare two things – e.g. “Why Sexy Titles Make You Better Money Than Boring Facts”
If your title doesn’t fall into one of these categories it is generic. And generic doesn’t perform as well as the more specific types.
How Do Your Titles Perform?
Are your titles performing well for you? In this article, I’ve given several examples of titles that earned a “green light” when scanned by the Co-Schedule Headline Analyzer. The headline of this article is another example of a title I can expect to perform for me.
The title is both a “how-to” and a list. While the analyzer sees it primarily as a list, most human readers will search for something like, “how to make a better headline,” or “how to write a powerful title.” Because search engines rely more on semantics that exact keyword matches today, I have a reasonable expectation that these searches would match the wording I’ve chosen. In this instance, it’s the how-to part that will make my title more discoverable. Lists are appealing, though, and I may get more clickthroughs because readers perceive them as easier to digest.
With a length of 53 characters, my title comes very close to the sweet spot of 55-70 characters long. The word count is a tad high at 10 words. But because some of the words are short and one is a single-digit numeral, I don’t think it will seem too long to human readers. The one thing I wish had worked out better is the placement of the keyword phrase, “most powerful title.” It’s tucked into the middle of the title, where not as many readers will catch it when they scan the headline quickly.
The phrases, “how to make,” and, “the most powerful,” are emotional triggers, though. And at least one of them is out front where it will be seen. I usually prefer to get my keywords out front, but with a how-to headline that’s pretty tough!
“Powerful,” by itself, is a power word. The analyzer doesn’t place any additional weight on “crucial,” but I’m hoping some readers will. And again, it’s in the last three words where readers will likely pay it more attention.
The overall score for this title is 82%. A title gets a green light from the analyzer at 70%, so I’m fairly happy with my results. And I’m hoping that one of the reasons you clicked through to read this article was that the title appealed to you!
Think about your own articles and blog posts, and about the kind of titles you most often choose for them. How do you think your titles would rate? Could you be boosting traffic to your content, just by following three easy guidelines for writing your headlines?
Give it a try, and let me know how it’s working for you!
Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne
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