How to write compelling titles

How to write compelling titles
Photo: Morganlstudios, Bigstock

Actually, this article could be titled;

Revealed! Our Top Marketing Hack Every Business Owner Needs.

Or

The Easiest And Most Effective Marketing Change You Can Do Right Now.

Or

The simplest SEO hack you need to know for 2018.

All are true. So why then, out of 4 possible titles, is this article about creating emphatic headings titled with something so underwhelming?

It’s a fair and reasonable question. On the face of it, the title I’ve actually gone with is the least compelling, ironically. But let’s dive a little deeper into the strategy of title choosing.

Placement of content

Consideration must be given to how you expect, or want, people to get to, and click on, your content. Is it an item of news, that’s on a website homepage, competing with dozens of other links? Or is it a standalone article that’s hoping to win search traffic via Google.

In this case, we are specifically aiming to win search traffic from people on the internet who type in ‘how to write compelling titles‘ so we have ‘optimised’ this page with both the heading and the URL for that exact long tail keyword. Both titles and URLs are strong ranking signals, so we’ve gone with that title for SEO and relevance purposes. It also helps that Best In Au is a great resource for research type questions.

User Intent

User intent can be simply described as ‘what the user wants to do (or know) now’. Titles which match user intent can significantly improve the chances of that person clicking through to your article.

If a person typed into Google “How to write compelling page titles” and Google only displayed the 4 options above, which would get the most click-through-rate? Let’s assume that no preference was given to ranking order. It will always, ok almost always, be the one that most clearly satisfies user intent. ie. How To Write Compelling Titles.

According to Brendan at BLD Communication, user intent is becoming far more important than keywords in SEO. In fact, “we’ve seen a huge change in the way Google ranks websites since Rankbrain was launched in 2015, where Google attempts to satisfy user intent rather than displaying results based purely on link metrics and optimisation.

But….

What if the user intent is less specific. More browse-y. What if the user, in this case, was searching the internet for ‘marketing tips’. You’d certainly be able to make a case for one of the other 3 headings. You see this a lot on news websites where the user intent is ‘interest me’ or ‘what have you got for me, internet?’. This is where your more common click-bait type titles appear; eg ‘The one question you should never ask your partner’.

If the user intent is focused, the title should satisfy that intent. If the user intent is vague, catchy and interesting titles become more important.

Competition

If you’re relying on click-throughs, either from a Google page, web page or newsletter, then there’s always going to be some competition. Understanding the placement of your title can, and should, influence what the title says. The nuances can be subtle here, so let’s look at an example:

Imagine there are only 2 cruise companies for trips to Patagonia. There’s Patagonian Cruises and The Antarctic Travel Co. They are both competing in Google and both pages have similar content.

If you Googled ‘Patagonian cruises’, almost certainly, the company ‘Patagonian Cruises’ will be displayed above The Antarctic Travel Co (because of the name and URL ranking factors) in the results page. In fact, what’s likely to happen is that Patagonian Cruises may even occupy the first 3 or 4 results before The Antarctic Travel Co.

From the point of view of TATC, the title becomes crucially important. If they only occupy 1 out of the 10 organic places, at position 5, they’re unlikely to win a lot of search traffic, relative to their main competitor.

Can you think of a title that may help TATC to win more than their fair share of traffic from this inferior position? Here are some suggestions:

  • The top 5 must see places in Patagonia
  • Is this the most luxurious cabin for cruising to Patagonia?
  • Don’t book your Patagonian trip until you’ve seen this
  • These stunning photos show why you need to cruise to Patagonia

Did you know that click-through-rate is actually a ranking signal? So, by creating a compelling title, and enhancing the CTR, you can actually elevate its position in Google too. Which, in turn, increases its CTR again.

Putting it all together

Understand the relationship the content piece has with the audience, its placement, the competition around it and what the user intent is of the person when they see it. Granted, this is a complex matter but by getting strategic and going through the above points systematically, it should become easier to make well-reasoned logical choices. If you can make a solid argument for it, then it’s probably not going to be too far wrong.