Secrets to Success: 3 Generic Headlines Get a Boost

How to Transform a Generic Title | #bloggingtips #headlines

Titles are an important part of your total writing package. They are among the first things to jump off the page when a reader loads your page, and they are also part of the information that will be copied to a search engine or when a link from your page is shared on a social media site. Strong titles help to boost your search ranking, and they will attract readers too.

Among several factors you should be considering when you compose a title for your content is the headline style. Most people find it challenging to choose a title; many will opt for a short, rather flat generic title because they really aren’t sure how to go about choosing their headline.

Questions, lists, and how-to titles are some of the most effective headline styles. There are also a number of lesser-known styles that compare two things, reference time, or focus on a negative. All of these headline styles are preferable to a generic style (e.g. “Introduction to Web Writing” or “Key Elements of Effective Titles.”)

How to Transform a Generic Title

It’s not really hard to transform a generic title. To prove this, I picked several posts from LiteracyBase, a writing site that publishes user-generated content. I scanned the titles in the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. Then looking at the structure and content of the post, I rewrote the titles so they’d get a higher rating. In some cases, I was able to improve the score by 40 points or more. That kind of improvement could

(Note: I’ve slightly altered the titles for publication here, out of respect for the original authors. But the scores cited are for the original title as it was first published here on LiteracyBase.)

Targeting Beginners

The first title I looked at was, “Mortgages for Beginners.” The subject matter was great, and the post had some good bullet points explaining the benefits of mortgages and how they work. But the title rated only a 51% – a red light. It’s too short, too generic, and has no power words or emotional words whatsoever. Looking at the way the post was written, I proposed a new title: “8 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know About Mortgages.

I went from a short generic title to a list with more words and characters. I also added the power word, “awesome,” which helped to boost the score for the new title to 75% – a green light from the analyzer!

How to Transform a Generic Title | #bloggingtips #headlines
Boost your content with the most effective headline styles
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Celebrating People Who Do Good

The next title I chose was, “Tribute to Nurses,” and belonged to a post that extolled the virtues of this important profession. The title ranked only 26%, in large part because it is extremely short. But it’s also generic and lacks any emotional triggers.

I proposed a change to, “Let’s Celebrate Dedicated Professionals on Nurses Day!” That title is a time; and the power words, “celebrate” and “dedicated,” add emotion that improves the score to 70% – a green light. Going one step further, I came up with, “Time to Celebrate Dedicated Professionals on Nurses Day,” which is a bit closer to the optimal length for a title. This title ranked a 73%.

Writing about Life’s Milestones

As most people experience certain rites of passage throughout our life, writing about these in an informative and yet entertaining manner can result in a lot of interested readers. But the title needs to appeal to readers too! I found a lovely post entitled, “First Born: Oh the Happiness You May Know!” The title does have a power word, and it’s got a decent length. But as a generic title, it only ranks a 66% – a yellow light from the headline analyzer.

I tried, “Do We Easily Forget the Downside of Becoming Parents?” because a good half of the post focused on the unexpected costs and challenges of being a first-time parent. This question title had two power words and was slightly longer than the generic title. But it only scored a few points better at 70%. Still, that earned it a green light!

Is Parenthood Worth All the Troubles It Brings?” earned a slightly better score, at 72%. I scored a 75% with, “What are the Hidden Costs of Your Delightful Child?” Admittedly, it doesn’t sound terribly positive! But that’s the point! People want to read about trials and tribulations, about challenges, about hidden costs or other secrets we feel we should have been told upfront. We’re hard-wired, both for intrigue and to identify with someone who may have been cheated.

How are your titles stacking up against the headlines in my examples here? Can you take a generic title that rates poorly, and turn it into a power performer?

Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

This article was published on my writing blog, RubyWriter. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!


How to Make the Most Powerful Title: 3 Crucial Factors

How to write the best title for your blog post | #bloggingtips #headlines

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 to write the best title for your blog post: Top headlines styles boost performance | #bloggingtips #headlines
Titles that reference time are among the lesser known headline styles
(Image from a public domain photo by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay)



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!


How to write the best title for your blog post | #bloggingtips #headlines
Title length, headline style, and the use of power words are all keys to the success of your post
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Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

This article was published on the #RubyWriter website. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

Forget the Honours, What Happens to Valediction?

Schools vote to drop valedictorian & salutatorian | #grad2016 #graduation

Valedictorians are on their way out of vogue, at least in some American high schools. The thinking is that there is too much competition for the role of valedictorian, and it’s not the good kind. So in some school districts in the United States, all students who achieve straight A’s are given the title of valedictorian. And in other schools like those of the Wake County School District, the titles of both valedictorian and salutatorian will soon be eliminated completely.

The district instead proposes to award Latin honours to students who achieve a grade-point average of 3.75 or better. The usual honours are:

  • Cum laude, “with honour” – GPA of 3.75

  • Magna cum laude, “with great honour” – GPA of 4.0

  • Summa cum laude, “with highest honour” – GPA of 4.25 or better

Honouring More Students

School board members in favour of the move to a Latin honours system believe it would allow more students to be celebrated for their hard work. They also mention that in recent years there has been concern over “unhealthy competition” for the top two spots at graduation. Lack of collaboration between students was an issue; students were also choosing courses they felt would ensure a higher GPA, rather than because these courses would further their education or career plans.

The Tradition of Valediction

While some criticisms of the new trends focus on the political correctness of recognising more seniors, when I read about the changes I had to wonder about the valedictory address itself. When a school names neither a salutatorian nor a valedictorian, who speaks for the student body at graduation? When every student who has high grades is given the title of valedictorian, which one is chosen to deliver the valediction?

The titles we give our two top students hint at the reason these roles are important. The salutatorian opens the commencement ceremony with a speech on behalf of the students. And the valedictorian says the final farewell. These two speeches are the main contribution of the student body to the graduation ceremony itself. Removing the roles associated with the speeches leaves a gaping hole in the graduation tradition.

Schools ditching valedictorians to eliminate ‘unhealthy competition’ | #grad #valedictorian #commencement
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What is a Valediction?

The word “valediction” comes from the Latin vale, “farewell” + dicere, to speak. There is a sense of being strong or brave as students who have spent years together prepare to part and go their separate ways. But just as importantly, both the salutation and the valediction give students a voice in a ceremony upon which so much emphasis is placed by the whole of American society.

There is a long history of students delivering these addresses at graduation. But there have been times and places when no student spoke a valediction and instead, adults spoke for them. In fact, the valediction by Hillary Clinton (then Hillary Diane Rodham) in 1969 marked the first time a student ever delivered a valedictory address at Wellesley College. So if it was a move forward in 1969, to turn the valediction over to a student, what is taking it away in 2016 or beyond?