Say what? What’s this business about “titles with teeth” and how to write them?
Exactly. Admit it. You want to know what on Earth I’m talking about.
Trust me – you want titles that bite, that leave an impression. If you don’t, you’re lying.
Titles matter. Titles form the hooks that bait us to click along the CommentLuv bunny trails that populate the web and suck our time because they fascinate…
Titles that have teeth leave bite marks and hang onto your memory.
I know from experience because this is how I first met Ana myself.
There I was, moseying along and wouldn’t ya know? Her title bit me.
It was one of her guest posts at TechnShare.com. The rest is history. You know what they say, “Grandma, what big teeth you have…”
Hm. Bad analogy, let me re-phrase:
Love at first bite. What gives a title teeth?
Titles that tantalize, command respect and get traffic.
There are two rules I’ve written to ensure you don’t write titles made of protoplasm:
Rule Number One:
There are no “rules.” Well, except the ONE rule…but you’ll have to wait for that until the end.
This is writing – even bending the rules of grammar has its place (unless you’re promoting a grammar website). Be creative, be yourself, and be interesting.
Besides that, here are my main ideas to craft titles that bite and generate some interest:
Know who you’re talking to, and your context
Market research. Know your audience – you’re not talking to an algorithm, but the people in your market. If you don’t know them, you can’t write to them – it all begins there.
Here is a simple equation to remember when you write killer titles:
Demand = Needs = Excellent Titles
Let’s back that up a bit and give this conversation a backdrop. We’re talking internet marketing here. The context is primarily search engine traffic – one rhyming with “Spoogle”…
This means SEO comes into play (quit rolling your eyes! I saw that.).
Online, “demand” should make you think of “keywords” at least. Check Google’s keyword tool or Market Samurai (one of my top choices) to check your market’s keywords to see if there’s a demand to start with.
You may have a general idea of “needs” your market has – but the way people connect with your content which addresses their needs (hint hint!) would be by searching.
They search using keywords. That means:
Keywords = Demand, and Demand = Needs
Say your target market is entrepreneurial mothers. You might think about their need to balance work and family life, and how to organize their time well.
A title might be something like, “How to Balance Kids and Clients Without Losing Either” – it strikes the heart of the mother who owns a business and feels overwhelmed with responsibility. It also hints at a hopeful solution.
Then you check Market Samurai (or whatever you use to estimate traffic – Market Samurai uses Google’s estimates and it rocks like the Beatles).
Whoops! You notice that “How To Balance Kids” is a horrible choice because the traffic estimates stink.
You’ll get better traffic with “How To Balance Work and Family” and change the title to “How To Balance Work And Family For Today’s Supermom“.
Knowing your market, you know their needs. But you need to know if there’s demand for the words in your title, and that backs up to the context of your market: search engine traffic.
A little SEO goes a long way.
Titles are first chapters in a book
Everyone loves narrative – no, we may not agree on the delivery of the narrative -learn this in your market research – but people in general love a good story.
The title is the first chapter – if they click through to read more, they just turned the page.
Go back to the example.
“How to Balance Work And Family For Today’s Supermom”
Already I know my audience (characters, if you will). I know one of their needs (to succeed in business and family roles). The page-turner element would be, “So, how DO you balance family and business?”
You’ll find roughly 100 examples of great page-turners at: 100 Greatest Headlines Ever Written
Another way to create a page-turning title is to preserve mystery, stir the curiosity, and tap into the best questions your market is asking. They’ll click to learn the answer (if you know your market).
Blog post titles are about THEM, not YOU…
Assuming you’re writing for business – let your visitors know you’re writing to and for them.
We’re all a bit narcissistic: a bit self-absorbed. Write titles where you’re potential visitors somehow take center stage.
No matter your newsletter or blog – you benefit more if you think about your visitors first.
What benefit do they have in reading your post? Benefits make great titles.
Your audience is a hungry dinner guest.
You invite them to the meal (which is your content) and your title is the invite – are you serving what they want to eat?
Can you imagine Copyblogger or Problogger posts entitled, “Buy My Junk Now” in a million years? Uh…
Lemme think about that…
Titles should tell your potential traffic what is in it for them. Write for them as center stage.
There are plenty of books and blogs on sales tactics and writing great copy – especially books on closing a sale. What do they have to do with writing titles with teeth?
On commercial blogs especially – titles are like closing a sale.
The more you know about closing a sale and getting someone to take action, the more you will actually appreciate the fine art of a moving, pirhanna-like, toothy title.
Closing a sale is not pushing someone something they don’t need – it’s getting your prospect to take action they want to take, in the very least.
Sometimes they don’t realize they want to take the action, so you build up suspense, appeal on emotional and intellectual levels – it’s all a fine art of knowing your audience (market research).
Titles are meant to get a click-through as the “sale,” so learn marketing practices, especially copywriting. Finding the needs of your market and answering problems (or pointing one out) are all solid ideas for marketing.
Urgency. Set it. “Limited Time Offer” or “Black Friday” are classic examples.
(If you don’t live in or market to America, we go NUTS the day after Thanksgiving and buy all kinds of stuff to help digest the turkey…”Cyber Monday” follows it, and these two days are the biggest shopping days of the entire year.)
Fear of loss. It’s huge. It can also set urgency (like the “limited time offer” example) and result in traffic – just be real about it, nobody wants to be on the used car lot being pitched to.
Want some serious marketing-minded headlines? Try the resources at this post, from Blogussion on writing better blog titles.
Be the Press
Report and weigh in on something that’s hot and happening. How do you find that?
Mind Google’s Insights for search and Trends, as well as Twitter searches (http://search.twitter.com) to find what’s hot off the presses.
Subscribe to important news aggregators or blogs in your niche. Grab their RSS feeds and check headlines.
Use “Google News” in the sidebar in Google searches (or Bing or Yahoo!) and find out recent discussions. What are people talking about in your keywords? What forums or groups can you find in the sidebar of Google, etc. – that can provide you with a current conversation?
What does that have to do with writing better headlines?
Simple: find some juicy tidbit of news, develop an educated opinion (should be easy if you know your market) and then share your opinion and/or solution to the problem with a post or article.
Write your opinion (or hint at it) in your title. “Google Plagiarizing Product Reviews – Why I’m Sick of Internet Marketing” is one example.
Blog With Vertebrae
Put your SPINE in “OPINION.” (It looks like this: O-S-P-I-N-E-I-O-N) Another way to say it is to not shy away from controversy – look it in the eye and spit.
You can’t please everybody – don’t be afraid to pick sides and apologize later if need be (or not). Titles around election time are classic examples – and they get scores of traffic and inspire fierce, traffic-sucking debates.
Let your readers know you’re no jellyfish – you’re armed with a spine and you’re not afraid to use it.
There’s a reason people love numbered lists. (Don’t ask me for the reason, I just know they do!)
“3 Easy Ways to Lose Belly Fat Eating Pizza” or “Top 10 Locations For A Frugal Family To Live” – they promise bite-sized tidbits of an issue you might want to chew on.
“How I Made $1,113.87 Per Hour With One Website”
I’ll tell you about that some other time, but a basic rule of numbers is that they tend to be trusted implicitly.
Whenever talking statistics or dollar amounts – they tend to be catchy and taken as proof in themselves (I don’t recommend lying about your numbers unless we’re talking waist size, in which case I’m a 24.
One of the best (if not single-handedly THE best) motivating factors in marketing is the fear of loss – people don’t want to lose something, miss an opportunity, or otherwise be out of the loop.
Unless of course you’re weird.
Assuming your audience isn’t weird, find out what your market is afraid of. In internet marketing, an audience I’m a part of: there is a constant fear of SEO losing it’s effectiveness.
Is Google going to slap your sites? When something like that happens in my “empire” of sites, I report it and try to figure what went wrong.
Recently I wrote, “Welcome To The Google Mosh Pit.”
My readers know what that means – and I’m sure they read the title with a bit of, “Oh, no – what now?” I didn’t game the fear, it’s really there behind curtain number 2 – I just tapped into it.
Do yourself a favor, save the boring stuff for cereal box nutrition labels – on your blog or newsletter, unless you’re pitching mattresses – you do NOT want to put your market to sleep.
I wrote, “Welcome To The Google Mosh Pit” because it’s more interesting to me than, “Losing My Ranking And Why” although both would have seen traffic (because both address the fear of loss in my market).
You tell me – when you see a post that sounds boring to tears and another that sounds enticing…which do you visit?
The ONE Rule of Writing Headlines
Stand and Deliver!
I don’t care if the Mayan calendar was right and 2012 is the year the world ends – listen up:
Titles Promise, Content Delivers
End of story.
You write a title that hooks everyone and drags in server-crashing traffic – but you fall flat on your biscuits when it came time to deliver. What happens next?
Your visitors leave your site without signing up to your newsletter and lie down for a nap because you bored them to death. Maybe you weren’t boring – but your title was a “10″ and your content was a “2.”
Another way to mess this up (besides being boring) is to over-promise and under-deliver.
If your title promises “7 Ways To 6-Pack Abs” but your content doesn’t deliver, you do need to move to Neverland and live with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys forever. You just committed bloggercide.
You killed your blog and may have associated your content with bile. Both leave a foul aftertaste.
Can you imagine watching George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” only without the “Wonderful” part? Clarence doesn’t get his wings…say it ain’t so!
Don’t do it, unless you intend to punish your traffic and destroy the fabric of space-time itself. (Guess who’s watched entirely too much Star Trek?)
The technical name for this is “sucking eggs,” or so my dad would say.
Between you and me, if Ana hadn’t followed up her title with promise-fulfilling content that satisfied the curiosity she engendered – I would have had no choice but to hold a life-long grudge and spam the web with rumors that she is, in fact, spiking her Sunday Vodka with coffee…
(But we’re good, Ana.)
Ignore this to your peril: match a great title with content that delivers, or hire, you know…someone. Who writes good.
Note from Ana
Don’t you love the way James writes. Don’t put your hand into his mouth, that’s for sure…
By the way, have you noticed those special Twitter links in the post? They are here for your tweeting convenience – just click on them and share some social media love! And let me know what you think of them, while you are at it.