The titles or headlines of the articles that comprise your website content are crucial parts of the whole, and unfortunately, are not given sufficient attention. Great care should be practiced when crafting titles or headlines, as these are decisive factors that dictate if potential readers will read on or go elsewhere.
Being such significant parts of website content and copywriting strategy, make sure you take these three considerations into account when creating your titles:
1 – Keywords: Which to Use and Where
The magic word: keywords. They define the context which helps readers understand in an instant what your article is about — and they are also important in organic search optimisation. When it comes to readability and helping readers immediately comprehend what your website content will be talking about, the bottom-line is that there should always be keywords within your titles. Use the main keyword you are targeting along with a secondary one if possible and applicable. For stylistic and editorial purposes, sometimes some important keywords may be left out entirely, such as in the case of opinion articles where rhetoric is heavily used. This is the exception rather than the rule, however, as web contents rarely take the form of stylish, in-depth expositions or expansive essays where form weighs in as heavily as function.
Yet another important keyword consideration is where you place the keywords. In the eyes of a search engine spider, so long as the keyword is in the title it will be crawled. Its location gives more intelligent search engines a hint on the importance of the word relevant to the article, but what gives it more weight is repetition. In the eyes of readers, keywords leave a more lasting impact when placed at the beginning or near the end of the title, but at the beginning is usually best practice in case said title finds itself in a list of titles, and readers will only have time to skim through the first few words of the entries to gain insight into how useful they might find the article the title represents.
2 – Optimisation: Search Engines, Readability, and Human Interest
As mentioned earlier, keywords help in making a title more search-engine friendly. But beyond trying to repeat a main keyword, you can also try to use latent semantic indexing and use a word with similar a meaning or connotation to your original keyword. This helps avoid repeating keywords (which does not go so well in titles). For instance, if you have an article about the dangers of “dog food” (your main keyword), you should use that keyword and something related in the title, such as “Pet Health Essentials: 10 Unexpected Dog Food Dangers.” In this example, “pet health” helps the main keyword “dog food.” Another consideration to help ensure search-engine friendly titles for your web content is to use keyword research tools to find out which version of a keyword is most popularly used in search engines. For instance, the term “US” is used more in searches that “United States,” and “United States” is used more than the full “United States of America.”
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You also need to optimise your titles to be as easy to read (and digest) as possible, all the while using a few tricks to pique the interest of your potential readers. Some tried and tested tricks are using top 10 lists, focusing on pros and cons, and how-to articles, though care should be taken on frequently you employ these measures as they have very nearly become too ubiquitous on the web today as to be taken as headlines for spam articles. Still, good website content will allow your webpages to rank well in search engines and the titles you embellish with these tricks will help draw in traffic. At the core of ensuring human interest in your titles is making good use of empathy or putting yourself in the shoes of your target readers — and the most typical effective use of this is to always show your target audience (directly or indirectly) “what’s in it for them.” If your titles can answer that question immediately, and if the answer is definitive, then your titles are efficiently optimised for readability and human interest.
3 – Efficacy: How Attention-Grabbing, How Clickable, and How Memorable
Now let’s delve into the 3 H’s: How Attention-Grabbing, How Clickable, and How Memorable are your titles? There are rather simple ways to approach how to measure these seemingly abstract issues: just use Analytics and basic comparison and empathy.
On how attention-grabbing your titles are, there really isn’t a numerical metric that can indicate any measure of this. What you can do is put some context into the issue by applying a frame of reference. How attention-grabbing is your title, when referenced to every other title in a list of search engine results, for example? Using the fundamental cognitive functions of comparison and empathy (because you need to see the titles of search results through the eyes of your target readers), you can get an idea how attention-grabbing your title is. Does it catch the attention of your target audience? Does it turn the heads of people who might not even be as interested in your article topic? Does it stand out from the rest of the search results or a list of other article titles?
On how clickable and memorable your titles are, you can make use of Google’s Analytics. Visit your Analytics profile or use any other data-gathering tool to find out how many search engine users click-through to your web content. Now admittedly, this may be due to a number of factors, but if you apply A/B testing to your titles (as well as your META descriptions and URLs — which are the only other two elements that are typically displayed as search results), you can get an idea your titles affect click-throughs. Memorable titles are important because they help return visitors navigate to your website content without knowing the URL. See if you’re ranking for keywords that match any titles of website content, and you can be sure that those titles are memorable.
All of this may perhaps be overkill just for titles, but being quintessential parts of website content and copywriting strategy, even some basic knowledge on effective titles or headlines goes a long way.