How to Turn Your Titles into Well-Oiled Click Magnets
I find a lot of problems with cliché expressions. Take this one for example: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” I mean, I’d probably strongly consider it – if all my friends are jumping off a bridge they’re most likely landing in something soft. Or, more disturbingly, they’re being chased by some type of large, fanged creature, in which case jumping off this bridge might be my best option. I’ve also found a few problems with the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. While the morals behind this idea are certainly sound, often times the title of a book (or anything else for that matter) is one of the best and most efficient ways of deciding whether or not you want to keep on reading. And even if you’re one of those counter-culture types that seek out works with titles like “Mr. Chumley’s Cat”, the rest of the world – especially the online world – is going to be picking what they read based on the first thing they see: the title.
The title of your webpage, post, or tweet is going to be the deciding factor in whether the average internet viewer clicks on your link or passes it up for the snazzy text just below it. Think about it – anyone who ventures online is going to be bombarded with graphics, words, and possibly nagging mothers while they try and sift through hundreds of links. It’s the ultimate in speed dating – you only have seconds to impress someone before they move on to the next suitor. Except, in this case, your only chance at drawing their attention is the catchy title of your page rather than your well-toned biceps. (Oh – you thought I didn’t notice? Your skin’s had a really nice glow about it lately too… we should hang out sometime.) Writing an effective title or tweet is more complex than just vaguely alluding to your content – these tips should have you well on your way towards gaining a title of your own. (Perhaps Czar? It has a nice ring to it.)
Capitalize on the curiosity of your readers. As opposed to felines, curiosity rarely kills humans. In fact, leaving your title open-ended, mysterious, or just plain odd can get people clicking on your link out of sheer inquisitiveness. Sometimes you see a title of an article that just needs to explored, something along the lines of “Save Time with Banana Peels”. Despite the fact that I’m always short on time and my diet consists almost entirely of bananas (I was raised by monkeys), the reason I and the average internet wanderer clicks on this title is simply that the reader has no idea what’s coming next and will find it hard to resist finding out.
Let people know why they’ll be better off after reading your stuff. Everyone’s always looking to make money, lose weight, get a date, learn something… you get the idea. Except for the new generation of Facebook zombies (from which I believe an attack is imminent), most people are online in order to improve something about themselves or their life. By writing titles that let people know how your content will make them smarter, richer, or happier (think “Three Easy Steps Towards Erasing Your Identity”) you’ll be pulling in self-help searchers from all over.
Size Matters. While Cosmo might try to tell you differently, going overboard on length can actually be a bad thing. Your title should fit crisply on one line – if your reader is getting bored making it through your title it’s unlikely they’ll be very gung-ho about reading your entire article. Experts (titleologists, I believe they’re called) say that the most effective titles are seven words long – I’m not making that up. Titles are like poetry – good ones pack incredible amounts of meaning into few words, and bad ones can bore readers to tears (and will most likely be studied for the next fifty years in 9th grade English classes.)
Make sure your title agrees with your content. This applies not only to meaning, but also to tone. Even though making your title something like “Earn £200/hour by Eating Jellybeans” could get you more than a few hits, most readers aren’t going to keep reading your content once they realize your article focuses on correct bonsai care. Likewise, if you’re trying to expand your clientele through your funeral parlor’s website a humorous title such as “Just Because Grandma’s Expired Doesn’t Mean Your Credit Card Has – Get Your Discount Coffins Here!” probably won’t fly.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your titles – after all, standing out from the crowd, just like in all aspects of business, will be the most important factor in drawing in customers. This applies to Twitter as well – when there’s essentially an infinite amount tweets flying around the internet at any given second, making your tweets noteworthy will be your only real chance at winning legitimate followers. However, some types of creativity work better than others. Use the guidelines above as a rough outline for titling your content, release your inner poet, and watch the clicks coming rolling in.