6 Tips for Article Titles that Grab Attention
Most writers rely on two tried-and-true methods for grabbing people’s attention: Lead with an eye-catching title and follow it up with a brief but compelling introduction that lets the reader know that the answer to their question lies below.
Titles in particular are vitally important — that’s how you get people to click and enter your site. But crafting titles that pull readers in is an art form.
Here are six guidelines to help you craft engaging titles that will not only get you those all-important clicks, but will also earn your readers’ trust and attention.
1. Mix up the formula
Crafting titles that pull readers in is an art form that’s been distilled into a very popular formula. You’ve been seeing it everywhere, from magazine covers to Buzzfeed listicles:
Promise + Keywords + Impact = Traffic Generating Title
For example: “How to Grow Mangoes” becomes “Turn Your Suburban Backyard into an Exotic Mango Farm in 14 Freakishly Easy Steps."
The article promises to provide steps for farming mangoes in a suburban setting, uses keywords like "backyard," "mango," and "easy" and impacts the lives of potential suburban mango farmers by providing a solution and a sense of relief in the form of "freakishly easy" steps.
But as exciting as the title may sound, this style does not appeal to everyone, and may possibly turn off your target audience. Read on for tips about how to tweak the formula — to make sure it works, every time.
2. Match your title to the tone of the article
It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to be overly dramatic — the importance of catchy titles has been pounded into our heads. And they do need to be catchy. But they also need to match the tone — serious vs. lighthearted, formal vs. casual, etc. — of the article itself.
For example, “10 Ways 8 Supreme Court Justices Can Leave America Dazed and Confused” might work for a satirical article about the problems inherent in 4-4 split rulings. But it wouldn’t work for a carefully researched, academic-style article on the same topic. The difference in tone is just too great and borders on dissonant.
In this case, not only does the title have to attract interest, but it also needs to suggest that the article has substance and should be taken seriously.
3. Keep it short and to the point
Every. Word. Matters. Many people will only cue in to the first two or three words of a title and studies have shown that titles with eight words or fewer are optimal. They’ve also found that formulas that begin with odd numbers capture more attention than those with even numbers. However, it’s also important to remember that as reader preferences change, best practices do, too. What’s most successful today might be a total flop in a few months, so it’s important to stay on top of developing trends. For example, some experts recommend that titles be no more than 65 characters in length, but the reality is that there is no overall rule. Always check the guidelines of your targeted publication and keep your ear to the ground for what readers respond to best.
4. Stir up your readers’ emotions
Words that generate emotions — whether positive and negative — are especially effective at drawing people in and motivating them to share your content. Words like “don’t,” “can’t,” “never,” or “stop,” play off people’s insecurities, encouraging them to spread your advice by sharing the article with their friends. Another emotion that encourages people to take action is the “fear of missing out,” (FOMO). Nobody wants to be the only one who isn’t in the know, or who is missing a golden opportunity.
But emotions don’t always have to be negative to generate traffic. And, for some brands, they should actually lean heavier on conjuring positive emotions. A yoga studio, for example, would probably prefer to invoke feelings of peace and harmony than fear and insecurity to bring more people through the doors. Just as the content should reflect what the title promises, the targeted emotions need to align with your brand’s goals, too.
5. Bigger is better — and don’t forget to organize
Which would you rather read: “9 Ways to Grow Your Audience,” or “29 Ways to Grow Your Audience”? Numbered lists can make readers feel like they are tapping into a lot of information in an efficient way — and bigger numbers tend to get more clicks. When the number is larger, readers assume that they’ll come across something they haven’t seen yet and click hoping to learn something new. Another advantage of these types of articles is that they are naturally broken down into bite-size chunks of information. Lists not only provide visual breaks, they also help prioritize content and make it easier for readers to digest information.
6. Be honest — and clear
Craft a title that reflects the content of your piece, so readers know what to expect. Whatever your title claims, make sure the article gives readers what they clicked to see. Avoid vague, ambiguous, or clever titles with the intention of hooking curiosity alone. Readers should know exactly what they will find before they dive in. The last thing you want is for your readers to feel duped. The bigger the promise you make in the title, the more essential it is to deliver with quality content. Titles are just as important to readers as they are to search engines, so if you make sure they’re up to scratch, you’re bound to garner more views and better rankings.
Titles are important for online content because the “click or don’t click” decision rests solely on their strength. Brands that lack in-house writers can save time and money with the right outsourced support from professionals like the writers at Prose Media. Check us out today to learn more about how we can help you create both content and titles your customers can’t resist.