6 Easy Rules for Writing Effective Titles
From a copywriting standpoint, writing effective titles is a critical skill for a writer to develop. The title of an article is the first, and often times the only, impression a writer will get make on a prospective reader. Without a persuasive statement that converts a browser into a reader the rest of the article might as well not even exist.
Stay Relevant and Specific
Every element of a gripping copy has the singular purpose of compelling the reader to move on to the next sentence. So, obviously, if the reader doesn’t get past the headline the article is just a waste of time and taking up space. The power of the title is so important that it can make or break the effectiveness of the entire piece. In fact, statistics show that eight out of 10 people will read the title of an article, but only two out of 10 will read the article. Therefore, the title must convey the key point of the content so the readers can quickly determine what the content is about and decide whether or not the article is relevant to them personally.
Balance Relevance with Personality
Many writers tend to fall into one of two traps: trying to be too creative or too straightforward when writing a title. If the title is too catchy it may not convey the main point of the article and lose the reader altogether. If the title is too straightforward it will often come across as uninteresting and may not seize the reader’s attention. However, balancing relevance with personality will give the title both enough character to entice the reader while still informing the reader what the article is about.
Focus on Powerful Benefits Instead of Features
Readers will always respond much more positively to perceived benefits than to actual features. For example, as impressive as it may sound, readers really won’t care that a new high tech MP3 player has 200GB of storage, but what they will care about is the power to be able to store 50,000 songs without ever having to delete one of their favorite tunes ever again. The problem with relying on features is the writer is not speaking the customer’s language, most often causing the reader to move on. Features are easily forgotten, but impressive benefits and solutions are what motivate readers.
Avoid Tired Clichés
Clichés may seem cute and catchy, but readers tend to roll their eyes and move on to the next article when they read yet another variation of some tired and overworked chestnut. Clichés are easy to remember and are often the first thing that comes to mind when trying to make a point, and writers tend to think clichés make them sound creative. However, that is precisely why clichés should not be used; if they were all that effective everyone would be a writer. Instead, it’s far better to be creative when describing a topic than to subject the reader to the pain of worn out truisms.
Effective titles should always align with the brand’s own voice or personality. For example, if a company is known for being professional and formal it wouldn’t make the most sense to write a title containing the word “dude.” Conversely, if a company has a somewhat casual and quirky approach it wouldn’t be appropriate to write in an overly formal voice. Additionally, irrelevant of whether the article is written for tech types or fifth graders always use an active voice when writing effective titles. Writing a title in a passive voice will usually result in a vague, unnecessarily wordy or awkward title.
Don’t Force SEO
There is the perpetual debate throughout the marketing industry about the effectiveness of writing titles for living human readers vs. search engine optimization robots. Ideally, an effective title should be written first and foremost with the focus on what will make sense to the reader, while still keeping SEO content in mind. While keywords are important for search rankings, a reader will skip right over the article if the title comes across as puzzling or robotic. The main rule of writing an effective title is to always speak to the reader.
So, remember, when writing effective titles, it’s possible to snag more readers and improve upon a brand or idea.