If you can’t write your own title, maybe you can cheat and use The Linkbait Generator. (Image source)
A blog post’s title can make or break the success of an article. Bloggers strive to create attention-grabbing, irresistible headlines that result in full reads, improved conversions and social sharing. Writing great titles isn’t always easy, however, and it’s crucial to meet quality expectations within the rest of the copy.
Often, readers are exposed to an article’s title in search results or on social networks, so they must click on a title to read the entire piece. Copyblogger notes that titles follow the 80/20 rule:
Eight of ten people will read a title, but just two of ten readers will continue reading the article.
A great blog post title improves your Tweet click-through-rate
Exceptional titles have better results. More importantly, some titles are so intriguing that readers may share them with their networks, without actually reading the article themselves.
There are a few different approaches that lead to improved open rates:
- Eight words or less. Titles of eight words or less are the generally accepted standard and have been found to be the most effective. Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, and re-tweets add to the overall length of a tweet. Therefore, shorter titles are better suited for social sharing.
- Clarity. Blog post titles should clearly convey what the article is about, leaving no ambiguity for readers.
- Problem solvers. If a post is aimed at a specific reader population and solves a common problem, titles that communicate this benefit are very effective.
- Sensationalism and big claims.HubSpot.com says off-the-wall, wacky titles pique readers’ curiosity, leading to increased open rates.
- Incorporating target keywords. Keywords are important in titles for two reasons. First, post titles are typically used to form URLs and can have a big impact on search engine rankings. Second, web searchers often make a broad scan of content and are more likely to click on titles containing pertinent keywords.
- Using catchy phrases.BrickMarketing.com points out a few noteworthy catch phrases that entice readers to click. “How To,” “Top 10 Ways To,” “Tips For,” and “Top 5 Resources For” are good examples.
- Create controversy. People are drawn to drama. Blog post titles that trigger an emotional response or touch on a controversial topic are likely to intrigue visitors to read further.
Backing up title claims
Attention-grabbing, sensational titles improve open rates, there’s no doubt about that. But bloggers should also heed the content of the article when crafting titles. A sensational title promising a benefit should follow through, or the writer risks alienating his audience. Relevance plays a crucial role in long-term success, so bloggers should keep the following in mind when crafting titles.
- Back up claims. Writers should avoid making promises not fulfilled in the full article.
- Provide valuable, quality content. Poorly-written content can quickly cause readers to bounce and hurt a blogger’s reputation.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. Keywords are important for search engine optimization, and writers should incorporate relevant keywords into titles when possible. But keywords that don’t flow naturally with the title turn both readers and search engines off.
Blog title examples: the good, the bad, and the ugly
The good: “Top 10 Ways to Improve Click-Through Rates”
The bad: “Google AdWords Click-Through Rates”
Why: The second title is vague, uninteresting and doesn’t offer readers a benefit. The first title, however, uses a catch phrase and promises readers will learn something useful.
Warning: This example contains a horrible racial slur and is only included to support the notion of controversy (and how a brand can do themselves a lot of damage), and does not in any way reflect the opinions of Unbounce.
The good: “Papa Johns Fail: ‘Lady Chinky Eyes’ Goes Viral”
The bad: “Papa Johns Employee Offends Customer”
Why: The second title is bland and boring, and while some readers will click through to the full article, most will pass it by. The first example, on the other hand, uses sensationalism to invoke curiosity. Most readers encountering this title will be intrigued by the racial reference and curious to learn the rest of the story.
Eeps. Sure, be controversial – but never utilize subjects such as race or religion – unless you want your stock price to drop overnight.
The good: “Mobile Health Tech Tops CES 2012 Trends”
The bad: “CES 2012 Features New Tech Gadgets for Health and Fitness Management”
Why: The second title is too long and likely to get cut off on certain social networks. Furthermore, the first title is more concise and incorporates keywords naturally.
Even the greatest, most informative blog articles can have lackluster results if the title fails to draw readers in. On the other hand, titles that promise outlandish content or outrageous benefits not fulfilled in the copy can quickly send the most dedicated readers packing.
Crafting blog titles should never be treated as an afterthought, because an article’s title plays an integral role in the success of a post and the impact it has on readers.
— Angela Stringfellow
About Angela StringfellowAngela Stringfellow has spent the last few years of corporate life working in marketing management in the healthcare industry before transitioning her real-world marketing experience to the web. For the past several years, Angela has worked as a consultant with businesses small and large to build comprehensive social media campaigns, blogging and editorial strategies and enhance overall brand reputation and media presence, with a primary focus on Web 2.0 technologies and content marketing.
» More blog posts by Angela Stringfellow
With over 2 million blog posts being published on the Internet every day, grabbing the attention of your target audience isn’t going to be a walk in the park. That’s why a well-thought-out headline is the most critical aspect of your press release, irrespective of the magnitude of the actual news.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about what constitutes as the best headline. Is it the length, the placement of words, the punctuation, the SEO optimization, or the format that can make or break a headline? Of course, there are several aspects to a well-written headline and a great one is the perfect blend of all these factors. Simply put, it is saucy, free of typos and punctuation mistakes, optimized for SEO, and explicitly resonates the context of your press release without giving away too much.
Though difficult, creating compelling headlines for press releases on a regular basis is achievable. Let’s begin by understanding the various factors to consider before creating a well-crafted headline.
Factors to Be Considered before Writing a Headline
The process of creating engaging headlines begins with considering the following factors.
One of the most important factors to consider is the relevance of your headline to the target audience. Delivering what your audience wants is a surefire way to get their attention. So, make sure to look into your target audience’s demographics to understand what kind of headlines they would like.
The next important factor is the goal of your press release. The headline will change depending on what you want to convey to the target audience. Whether you would like to inform them of your new product, media event, management change, or donation to a charity, make it explicitly clear in the title itself. In other words, avoid writing misleading or vague headlines.
In the case of the first headline, the title is vague and incomplete. The second one, however, clearly describes what the press release is going to say.
Publishing Channel or Platform
The type of publishing channel or platform usually determines the length of your title. The character limit for a tweet is 140. However, an average URL takes up to 23 characters, which leaves you with just 116 characters to frame your headline. According to SEO experts, the optimal title length for Facebook is just 40 characters, while the character limit for a post title on LinkedIn is 80-120 words. In short, you should take the publishing channel into account before creating a headline.
The title should provide context for the information you are going to share with your target audience. Nothing puts off readers like titles and paragraphs that are out of sync. Before finalizing your headline, look at it in the context of the rest of the page. The bottom line is, everything from the title to the conclusion of the press release should come together nicely.
When it comes to digital PR, the press release title, as well as the main body, needs to be SEO-friendly to get maximum exposure. Use the target keyword in the best possible manner so that the title is both, search engine-friendly and enticing. However, for better results, try to place the keyword at the beginning of your headline.
Length of the Headline
As mentioned earlier, the optimal length of the headline will vary from platform to platform. However, search engines usually display 50-60 characters of the headline before cutting it off. So, if you don’t want it to get cut off in the search engine results, you’ll be better off keeping the length to less than 60 characters.
Analyze All the Factors
Make sure to analyze all the above factors before finalizing the headline. Don’t be afraid to tweak it until you are happy with the outcome. It is better to come up with 3-4 alternatives so that you can pick the most appealing headline in case the original one isn’t working.
How to Write Effective Headlines?
Now that you have understood the factors to consider before creating engaging headlines, let’s see how to make the actual magic happen.
The correct placement of words is perhaps the most important aspect of creating well-crafted headlines. Even the most powerful words can prove to be useless if they are placed haphazardly in a sentence.
Headline Before: ABC Housing Launches That Big Dream Property Gala in Stapleton
What’s wrong with this one? Well, for starters, it sounds awful; almost as if the writer just grabbed a bunch of random words from his pocket and threw them on paper. That’s why ShareThrough’s headline analyzer gave it a below average score of just 67 out of 100.
Headline After: Grab Your Dream House: ABC Housing Launches the Biggest Property Gala in Stapleton
See, how a simple rearrangement of words can turn a poorly-crafted headline into an exciting and meaningful one? The score is up from 67 to 77.
A press release is an official document published by your business. That’s why you must take extra precaution to follow proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar throughout the press release, starting from the headline.
- Make sure to follow the Chicago Manual of Style as most reporters follow it religiously.
- Avoid using proper names or abbreviations unless they are well-known. Mention a copyrighted or trademarked brand name with proper citations as well.
- Use a colon to combine two sentences and signal a close connection between them.
- You can replace conjunctions such as ‘and’ and ‘but’ with a comma. However, it is better to use the actual word unless the headline is too long.
Power words pique readers’ curiosity and trigger a strong emotional response from them. So, using them in the press release title makes sense. They include words such as “secrets”, “amazing”, “shocking”, “free”, and “guarantee”, among others.
Headline Before: XYZ Presents a Webinar on Marketing Techniques and Tools
Headline After: XYZ Presents a New Webinar on Modern Marketing Techniques and Tools
Which headline do you think will attract more attention? Just adding two power words, “New” and “Modern” resulted in almost 20% increase in headline quality score.
Formats of Headlines
Based on the points discussed so far, the headlines can be classified into several different types as follows.
They are the most common headlines. Usually, there is no use of numbers or questions in these headlines. They are often used to convey your topic to your audience directly.
These headlines usually include a newsworthy story about your product, services, milestones, competitions, gala, or charity events.
This is perhaps one of the most popular types of headlines used in blogs. However, PR pros can also use headlines starting with “How to” to attract readers.
Adding a number to your headline can significantly improve trust and engagement. People are always attracted to concrete facts and numbers.
Why and Reason
This type of headline usually works best when you can tell your readers why they should take a particular action. In other words, they motivate your target audience to try something different or new.
You can include a question relevant to your industry or discuss the issue in your PR. However, avoid using this type of headline unless you can provide a satisfactory answer to the said question.
These headlines can invoke an actionable response from your audience. Usually, they begin with actionable verbs such as “stop”, “don’t”, “fill”, “open”, “go”, and “find”.
Though a press release is an official document, you can use a funny headline. However, avoid making it too funny to be effective.
If you have a product, service or advice that promises to resolve an issue that your audience faces regularly, this is the best way to create a headline.
You can also mention the benefits of your product, service or a new offer in the headline to instantly grab your readers’ attention.
However, before selecting a particular format, you should try at least 3-4 of them to see which works the best. After all, a catchy headline must also be relevant. Here are a couple of examples that will help you understand how to balance the above factors in a headline.
When Dunkin Donuts decided to use ‘Order Ahead’, a new feature of the real-time crowd-sourced traffic and navigation app called Waze, they decided to announce it with this press release. The headline is perhaps the most engaging part of this PR. It piques your interest, wanting you to read the story. The main body of the press release describes how Dunkin customers can use this new feature to place their order in advance and save time along with a mention of the various offers they can avail in a crisp manner. The language maintains a professional tone but, is still engaging.
Fitbit took a different approach to highlight the best features of their products. They used a press release to publish the results of an independent study which shows that Fitbit heart rate tracking devices can accurately track different sleep stages.
Nothing works like sending out a press release comprising hard data to reveal the unique advantages of your product or service. The content mainly focuses on the study and its outcomes so that the press release doesn’t look like a promotional blog post.
When it comes to writing a viral press release, it all boils down to a great headline. In fact, headlines are as important as the main body of a PR. That’s why you should pay more attention to them. Unfortunately, their importance is often overlooked by most PR professionals. However, after reading this post, you will learn to create attention-grabbing headlines and get the media coverage your business deserves. Feel free to share your tips and ideas in the comments section below.
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Taral Patel is PR Executive at PRmention, a Digital PR Agency helping businesses grow through their highly-innovative approach to engaging with audiences. Being a certified digital marketer, he understands how modern technology shapes the PR industry. In his free time, he loves to hang out with his friends, and cheers for FC Barcelona. Connect with him on Twitter @connect2taral