TITLES. Titles. titles.
Titles associated with online content generally fall into 1 of 3 camps: enticing, search aligned, and space-fillers. Be clear how you’re positioning your titles in the first two instances and avoid the latter.
1. Titles Designed to Entice
Hardcopy magazine covers are filled with attention-grabbing article titles which span the bizarre, mysterious, unbelievable, shocking, sexy and tragic. These are well thought-out hooks designed to lift casual interest to high interest and onto a purchase. The effective cross-promotion of digital content via social media draws upon the link-worthiness of the display titles. At the extreme, the super-clickable titles we call ‘link-bait’ often lead people to content that doesn’t live up to the promise; but even genuinely great content needs every attention leg-up it can get.
To increase the readership of your business content it should be cross-promoted through your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (and possibly Facebook) channels. But your content won’t be consumed within those channels, only linked to from them. Your title link text – in parallel with your content titles – should therefore be crafted as inbuilt calls-to action or enticements. They must be attention-grabbing enough to entice your followers, connections or fans to click away from the social space they’re in, and across to your website, blog, video or PDF download. Flat titles are seldom asked to dance.
2. Titles Designed to be Found
Titles designed to be found are constructed differently. Search-friendly titles are aligned with the keywords a person would logically use when searching for specific information via a search engine behemoth such as Google or the internal search engine of any social media or publishing platform. The objective is to make your article, blog post, webpage, video, image or PDF findable when people search. A lack of keyword alignment on your content titles assigns your content to the digital backwaters – no matter how valuable it would have been to the people who were searching for it, had they found it.
Keyword alignment is still the cornerstone of search engine optimisation (SEO): titles, sub-titles and other textual content which has a close keyword structure to the search patterns of your target audiences. Titles which incorporate grammatical devices such as irony, humour or double entendres fare poorly in organic search. A grammatically clever title may impress a reader, but if a person can’t find it in the first place it will never be read at all (the same existential angst a falling tree in a lonely forest endures).
3. Titles Not Designed at All
Space-fillers – titles added because titles were required. Neither alluring nor lending search utility they are like forgotten books which gather dust on a secondhand bookstore shelf. Business level videos on YouTube suffer this fate especially.
Three Possible Titles for this Blog Post
1. ‘Have you ever seen a man eat his own head?’ (designed to entice).
2. ‘Using keywords in page titles to maximise the search visibility of online content’ (designed to be found).
3. ‘Blog post #49 – content marketing ideas’ (not designed at all).
Have I ever seen a man eat his own head? No, but that’s not the point.
image by Eduard Gimenez