Headlines are the most important attribute any article can have.
I don’t care how well optimized that post is, or how long tail the targeted keywords are – if your title sucks, then you are doomed from the offset. But writing good titles isn’t just about being clever with words or promising the world – it’s about getting into the head of your potential customer/reader, and doing that – quite seriously is not all that difficult to do.
Whether you are writing a headline for a blog post in the make money blogging niche or you are writing an article on how to build a Speaker Box for a 2006 Hummer – the idea is the same. You want to sell your story to your potential readers and the only way to do this is to relate to them. If you can’t understand the needs of your audience you are never going to be able to fashion a title that will encourage them to click through, so let’s take a look at some headlines, analyse why they suck, and then see how I can improve on them – and more importantly, why I think mine are more effective.
Who am I to assume to know all about writing good headlines?
I’m not, but I know my headlines are pretty good, I get told enough – and I also know I can do a shed load better than so many of the titles I see on Ezine and CommentLuv.
Besides, I’m not asking you to agree with me or take what I say as gospel, in fact quite the contrary, I encourage your retorts and mutterings of irritation
- Lists work because they promise information in a quick and easy to digest format
- Specifying a number adds the same premise – and for some reason the number 7 seems to be the most common one to choose.
- Playing on the negative works because no one wants to make mistakes.
That is why a title like ‘7 Link Building Mistakes Every Blogger Makes and How to Avoid Them’ will always work. It promises a direct answer – 7 of them in fact and it plays on the fear of failure.
(What happens here is your subconscious screams at your conscious ‘if you mess up the link building later simply because you did not take 5 seconds to scan that post?!? Seriously – it’s only 7 Mistakes you have to read through, not 70!’ and you happily click through to find out more.)
It’s not Always about the Money.
The problem with most posts that focus around how to write a good headline is that they are focused on the make money online niche, talking about basically what I have done so far – the power of lists, and the importance of promising something quickly, being unique and catchy and basically standing out. This is important in the high stakes niche that is make money online but we are not all in this niche – and even many of us that are – are only in it because we are making money with sites in different niches. (huh?)
Basically I want to look at how to write Headlines that literally Sell.
Before you can do that though, you need to understand who you are trying to sell to.
- Who is my target audience?
- What do they want?
- Why would they be searching for this solution/product in the first place?
Let’s take a look at a specific niche and the thought processes that go into crafting the best possible heading for your articles.
Niche Example 1:
I have a baby car seat site, this is no secret – so when I want to write an article for this site I can’t go and write about how to install your baby seat and call it ‘7 Baby Car Seat Install mistakes every parent makes and how to avoid them’ – well I could, but it just would not be as effective. I need to think of a whole new approach to writing headlines then…
OK so I just wrote an article on how to install a baby car seat. First I need to establish who my target audience is, and in this case it’s parents and parents to be.
This is where understanding your niche comes in handy because as a parent myself I am my target audience, so getting into my own head (although quite scary) is relatively easy.
What do Parents want?
They want to know that the child is safe and comfortable in their seat.
Why would they be searching for this solution in the first place?
They are new parents – infatuated with their bundle of joy and concerned only for their health and well being. The husband or wife (most likely the husband -sorry but I have to be realistic not politically correct) has tried to install the car seat once or twice and it did not go according to plan. He is frustrated and she just wants some clear instructions on how to do it. He however is looking for confirmation that it’s the seats fault, or maybe it’s the cars? 😉
Now all of a sudden the options for good titles increases enormously. You know who your customer is, and more importantly you have a good idea why they are looking for your answer
New Article Titles:
- How to Safely and Securely Install your Baby Car Seat in 5 easy steps.
- Why Your Car Baby Seat Won’t Sit Right and 3 Steps to an easy Install.
- Installing Your Car Baby Seat. How to Make the Thing Actually Fit!
- Is Your Baby Safe and Secure? The Baby Seat Install Guide for worry free motoring.
- How to Install a Car Baby Seat. The Guide that Actually Works!
Now let’s pick on some random.
I am now going to go to EzineArticles and get some Article Headings at Random* from the recently approved articles list that greets you on the home page.
*If your article title is here and you take offense to the fact I am picking holes in it – take a moment to realise the massive coincidence that is this situation – and then get lost in the implications that this thought process may or may not provoke. 😉
Current Article Title: Problems You May Have in Starting Your New Home Based Business
New Title: How To Start A Home Based Business and 7 Reasons why you will probably fail
Analysis: I assume that the keywords ‘start home based business’ was the targeted phrase so I took the liberty of leaving it in place. The old title however promised me nothing more than a burden to my already growing worry about my home based business. I know there are problems starting my home based business – the last thing I need is to read about yours too!
The new title however promises to show me how to start a homes based business – but quickly points out that I’ll probably fail. Oh but there are 7 Reasons why, so if I read them I can avoid them!!
Current Article Title: Tips For Dealing With High Blood Pressure
New Title: 11 Stress Free Tips for Coping with High Blood Pressure.
Analysis: The first title is straight to the point and tells you exactly what you will get, but the readers are already stressed – they have high blood pressure for goodness sake!
Give them a title that promises those tips but be direct. I didn’t read the post so I don’t know if there are in fact 11 tips, but the number indicates how long it will take to read through the post. The use of the ‘Stress Free’ is clearly a play on words, but at the same time – those with high blood pressure are going to notice the words stress free more than the rest of us. 😉
Current Article Title: Helpful Hints To Enhance Your Home Decor With Oil Painting Reproductions
New Title: ‘Add a Splash of Color with Reproduction Oil Paintings. 12 tips that will enhance your home”
Analysis: The first title although direct, is a little too much so in that it is very niche specific. I personally don’t know exactly what a reproduction oil painting is, but I assume it’s a fancy way of saying ‘a copy’. I therefore crafted a title that could be understood by all and played to the ‘Art’ side of the niche. This title not only promises a more direct answer, it also appeals to a much larger audience now – because the use of language is more general. The underlining of will, although not permitted on many article directories is a great way of personalising the title. These tips WILL enhance your home. Whether you choose to use them or not is irrelevant – because regardless, they WILL enhance your home.
You get the point…
The objective of this post was to share with you the thought processes that are involved with crafting a good headline, and this process can be applied to all niches and all subject matter.
The better you understand the reasons why your customer is online, the more chance you can craft a heading that will be exactly what they were looking for – in the language they were going to ask it in!
Now considering the title of the post promised you 7 Reasons as to why your Article Titles Suck, I suppose I had better give them to you (why did I pick 7?!) so here goes…
7 Reasons Why Your Article Titles Suck
- You don’t understand the customer
- You don’t understand the product
- You don’t understand the context/language required.
- You concern yourself with the SEO side of things too much
- You couldn’t string a grammatically cohesive sentence together if your life depended on it
- Your thinking about the sale before the customer.
- You just suck. You always have and you always will. If you had any friends they would probably call you Dyson or something…
What do you think?
- Do you think SEO is still more important than good sales copy in a title?
- Do you spend much time on the Title part of your content?
- Do you…do you do you do you wanna dance? (do you wanna dance?)
No Use trying to come up with Clever Titles if you can’t come up with content ideas!
(and it really is hard to come up with content ideas when you are writing about Italian watches, Cordless Drills, and Baby Car Seats – seriously!! Luckily though…
Mark Bell at BloggersJournal.com recently posted this great article on how to come up with content ideas. Many have written on this topic – including myself, but this post that Mark has created is quite the resource, and I highly recommend it as a great follow on to this post.