Last Updated on December 10, 2020
“Content is king.” I’m sure you’ve heard it before. The majority of SEO specialists will agree, and that’s because it’s true. From blogs to product descriptions to FAQs, what you have on the page is one of the key factors that search engines use to determine your ranking. No wonder it’s the topic of most SEO articles. If you are already writing quality content, you’re ahead of the game. A lot of effort goes into writing copy; keyword research, content planning, answering questions, making sure it provides value. Again, all things you may be doing. Yet you may not be seeing the results that you want for your content. Writing when no one is reading can seem like shouting into the void.
So how can you make sure that people read your content? One of the first things people see is the title of your article. Your title plays an important role in attracting readers, and you are given a narrow window to make them care enough to click on it. Crafting titles that immediately show value and engage the reader can boost your click through rate (CTR). The increased CTR can help in your organic searches as well as some studies show organic CTR affects your rankings.
There are four key parts to an effective title:
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- emotional hook
- content type
Using these parts, you can make effective titles that are both eye-catching and give key information. Let’s look at each of these parts and break down what they really mean and how to use them.
There is a plethora of options when it comes to how you want to format your content. It may be an eBook, an article, a research paper, a blog, a long form story, etc. Whatever way you decide to format it should be plainly evident in your title. For example, this blog is organized into 4 main “keys” which break out into four sections. When people read the title, they know to expect 4 items that were outlined in the headline. Putting your format in your title can show many things. First, it reveals to reader the approximate length of your content. If the title of this blog was “40 simple keys to writing headlines that improve CTR,” you know that it’s time to grab some popcorn because you’re in for a long read.
Your format can also indicate to the reader the depth of knowledge that they should expect. Take a look at the following titles:
- 4 simple keys to writing headlines that improve CTR
- A guide to improving your CTR through headlines
- Case study: How we improved our CTR by 40% (and how you can too)
While all the articles touch on the same subject matter, you would expect very different things when reading each. From top to bottom you would expect the articles to give more thorough, step by step instruction with examples and the data to back up the author’s findings. Outlining your format plays a large part in the user’s decision to click when it comes to deciding if your content fits the time investment and the level of knowledge they are seeking.
You didn’t write your content to take up space on the internet. Whether you are trying to get your reader to learn, buy, sign up, or subscribe, you want the reader to take some sort of action. Part of eliciting that response is grabbing their attention and making them want to read it. A great way to trigger curiosity is to use emotional hooks in your headlines. There is SO MUCH CONTENT on the internet. Simply writing it is not enough to draw people in. Emotional hooks give feeling to your content and give the reader an idea of tone and inspire interest. Consider the following examples and how using emotional hooks can change the meaning and expectations of the headline.
- 4 ways to become a better writer
- 4 surprising ways to become a better writer
- A guide to creating content that sells
- A simple guide to creating content that sells
- Pizza places in Portland, Oregon
- The best pizza places in Portland, Oregon
- The origin of fried green tomatoes
- The strange origin of fried green tomatoes
In the examples above, just by adding emotional hooks, you can make the same headline more interesting and attract more people to click on your article. Find ways to stand out in the sea of other pieces vying for the reader’s attention. You can use emotional elements like questions (“why do we always leave our keys in this place?”) or trigger words that incite a response (words like funny, strange, inspiring, surprising). Having trouble coming up with the right words? Check out this list of 380 high emotion persuasive words. You didn’t write boring content so don’t give it a boring headline.
Content Type / Subject Matter
You can use formats and emotional hooks all you want, but they are the garnishes to the meat that is your subject matter. Putting the subject matter of your content into your title tells your potential readers what to expect from your article. Be descriptive about what they will be reading. If you are trying to get a click on an article about content planning, then outline that in your headline instead of keywords you may be trying to rank for like digital marketing. Your headline should reflect the material.
Using words that show what type of content is in your article can also give indicators as to what a person that clicks on your article should expect. Take for example the following and notice the different feelings and expectations they give:
- 3 surprising SEO hacks that can increase ranking
- 3 surprising SEO strategies that can increase ranking
- 3 surprising SEO suggestions that can increase ranking
- 3 surprising SEO tips that can increase ranking
- Can these increase your SEO ranking?
They all give very different ideas of what to expect. Even the last one, a question, lets someone know that it will be a question and answer series. Informing readers what they are about to see goes a long way to helping them make the decision to click.
No matter what you are writing about, if a reader doesn’t plainly see why they should read your content, they won’t. Your headlines should always show what value the reader will get if they choose to spend their time to reading it. To educate, improve, entertain, warn, it doesn’t matter what the purpose of your article is, but let them know what they will be getting out of this time transaction. This article is not just about writing better headlines, it’s about writing better headlines that improve CTR. Use words that show the benefits of reading, like “improve,” “how to,” “will make you laugh,” “increase sales”. Don’t assume that your reader will know what benefits they will get, always spell it out. The reader should have no doubt in their mind what they will gain from your content.
From Sensational to Spammy
“You said there were only 4 keys!”
I know, I know, but this is an important point that affects all the keys and needs to be said. It can easy to abuse this formula to get clicks on your content. I urge you not to. While your headlines might get the clicks, your content should speak for its self when a reader actually reads your article. No matter how great your headline is if the content doesn’t hold up readers feel cheated and lied to. Your headline should match your content both in content and value. Don’t lose your reader’s trust and long term fanbase for a couple quick clicks. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing an awesome trailer and then watching a terrible movie. So, write great content! Content that people want to read, share, like, and subscribe. Just let them know how good it is in the headlines.