Everyone knows it's wrong to judge a book by its cover, but what about judging it by its title?
At first glance, it might seem like judging something based on its title is also wrong, but there is a key difference.
Titles name things. Names have a special power that lasts well beyond the lifetime of most book covers – those change with every new edition, while the title stays with it forever.
The same rule applies to marketing content. Whether you are writing a headline for a long-form article or a title for a tutorial video, you have to expect your audience to immediately judge your content based on the title you give it. Writing great headlines is an art.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can write catchy headlines and titles that make your content more powerful and compelling. Use some of these tips to improve the way you introduce audiences to your work.
Use a Working Title First
When working on something new, most writers, artists, musicians and other creators do one of two things – they either title their creations before they begin working or after they finish. While coming up with a clear title beforehand can be very useful in some circumstances, most practical-minded copywriters and content creators go for the third option: using a working title.
A working title is just enough to guide your work and give it an overarching sense of what it should become when it's done. It is flexible enough for you to adjust it when you finish so that while your entire creation is still based on what the title suggests, you can still add or remove words to drive the point home.
The important part is that the working title sets a clear expectation between the creator and the intended audience. Content creators who intuitively understand how titles set expectations have a clear edge over their counterparts – the only thing they need to worry about from here is actually meeting that expectation.
Use Emotionally Charged Words to Grab Users' Attention
Since titles are the first thing that audiences see when they come across your content, you need to do everything in your power to grab their attention. The key to doing this is using emotionally charged words whenever possible.
Even if your article itself is a dry, technical argument that relies on logic more than sweeping emotionality, a title that speaks to readers' emotions can transform the way they respond to it. This is mostly because of the physical constraints you have to deal with when writing titles and headlines. You simply don't have space to construct a logical argument – that's what the body of the content is for.
This points to a common question – "How long should my headline be?"
Generally, you should write a title with less than 70 characters for SEO purposes, and the shortest ones tend to perform best on social media. You have a powerful incentive to hold readers' interest in as few words as possible.
The Advanced Marketing Institute has a headline analysis tool that assigns a score to titles based on their emotional content. Check your potential titles against this tool and try to align your content to the three categories it provides – intellectual titles should go with intellectual content, empathetic titles with emotionally-based content, and spiritual titles with spiritual content.
How to Get Viewers to Read My Content? Optimize for the Audience
While there is much to be said about optimizing titles and headlines for search engines, the truth is that optimizing for your audience is a more intuitive long-term plan. Ultimately, SEO is just a system for automatically ranking pages to align with audience expectations while delivering value. If you create content that does this, creating a title that does the same will be simple.
This applies whether you are writing headlines for content marketing articles or titles for product comparison videos. In both cases, your audience will subconsciously set expectations based on the title you decide to give your content and judge your performance based on those expectations.
When optimizing titles for human beings, it's important to address their needs as clearly as possible. At the very least, a good title should identify the pain point the ensuing content will address. A great title will address the pain point and point to the solution at the same time.
This way, readers get an immediate, valuable piece of information they can process simply – and can then go through the rest of the content to uncover the details.
Another aspect of writing titles with your audience in mind concerns the flow of the words themselves. Read your titles aloud and incorporate metric devices to give them a memorable rhythm, or use alliteration to give them a sense of playfulness. These final touches are what the professionals use to write catchy titles that last.