Every day you see literally thousands of different headings and titles. These include email subject lines, search engine results listings, blog titles and newspaper headlines, amongst many others. Almost all of the titles that you see, you ignore. Can you remember any titles you saw yesterday, out of the thousands that you read? Most of the titles we read are bland, boring and basic, to say the least.
However, the title of your blog post, or the subject line of your email, or the headline of your web page are amongst the first things people see. They are the handful of words that need to grab attention in a world of information overload. The titles you use are the most important aspect of your digital content. So, the question is, do you give them the amount of time, care and attention they deserve?
Learn from expert headline writers
Tabloid newspapers understand the importance of headlines. About a quarter of sales of newspapers are from “promiscuous readers” – these are people who swap and change newspapers depending on the headlines on the front page. They are attracted to buy a newspaper simply because of the front page headlines. As a result, getting the right headline has a considerable financial impact for the newspaper. You’ll find that a typical newspaper has one person who spent a couple of hours writing the front page story, but there was a team of people who spent more time on the headline than was invested in the article beneath it. Some tabloid newspapers employ individuals whose sole job is to spend the entire day coming up with the three or four words that will be the “splash” headline on the front. The newspaper owners know that investing significant resources in headline writing is money and time well-spent, as it pays off in attracting those “promiscuous readers”.
Online, though, we are all “promiscuous readers”. We search for something and click on any of the headings that attract us. Similarly, we scroll down our email inbox and pick out the things that entice us the most. Also, we flit from blog to blog, depending on the headings that we see.
Rather like newspaper headline writers, website owners and bloggers really ought to invest more time and trouble in writing the headings of their content, than on producing the material itself in the first place. Research shows that readers spend more time on the headlines than they do on the articles beneath them, so it makes sense to devote more of your efforts to writing titles than to the text beneath them. When you fire off an email, do you pay attention to the subject line as much as you should? After all, it is the only thing that people see in their inbox. Similarly, when you produce a new web page do you spend a long time crafting the right heading? That is what people will see in the search results listing, and if they are not attracted by those words, they will not click on them. Indeed, as the data integration company Bedrock Data recently demonstrated, you can even get people to focus on data by using the right report titles. Similarly, in a world when we are constantly bombarded with messages, we need to think about the wording we use in text messages, as shown in the article “Tips to make your texts more appealing than your customers.”
Three steps to great titles
The first thing to do in writing headlines or email subject lines is to devote the time you need. The more time you can spend on your titles, the better. Indeed, if you spend more time on the heading than on the content beneath it, you’ll get real benefits. You are not wasting time in doing this. So the first step is about attitude – realising that the heading or title of your content is more important than the content itself.
The second step is to consider all the words you might use. You will need your keywords, of course, but also those emotional words and the unusual words that are not common in everyday language. They stand out and make your heading more visible in an information-rich world. Emotional wording is also important – you need to trigger emotions in order to get engagement. Take a look at newspaper headlines and they will make you angry, happy, sad, titillated or fearful, for example; newspaper headline writers know instinctively how to trigger your emotions using the right words.
The third thing to do is to evaluate your headline. In newspaper offices, you will find the sub-editors constantly chatting to each other about their headline ideas, testing them out with each other. Talking to people around you can help, but there are also tools you can use to test out your titles to make sure they work well. One is the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer from the Advanced Marketing Institute. The other is the Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule. These tools give you a percentage score showing how effective your headline or subject line is going to be. (If you are interested, the heading on this article scores 37.5% as “emotional value”, which makes it the same kind of level as a top advertising copywriter. The title also scores 77% on overall analysis – putting it into the A+ category for web-based headings.)
You should not skimp on title creation and headline writing. It is probably now the most important aspect of digital marketing and content marketing because people spend most of their time skimming headlines. You need to stop them in their tracks and get them to engage with your content. That’s why you need to put at least as much time and effort into writing the titles as you do to producing the content.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+