One of the most important factors in site content: the title. Your title does 2 major things:
- Grab’s the reader’s attention and makes them a promise about what they can learn
- Signals search engines on what the page is about more than any other factor
Sites with bland or unfocused titles are fairly common, and correcting this one piece across all pages can make a difference in both reader attention and search rankings.
First, let’s define some things. If you’re good on these, skip ahead.
Meta Titles vs. Page Titles
These are similar things in spirit, but the page title is the one people see when they’re on your site. The meta title, like all meta data, exists behind the scenes to cue search engines in on what the page is about.
Although search engines do look at the page titles also to learn about the page’s topic, the meta titles will be what search engines display for that page when it shows up in search results. Quite often both titles will be the same, but you might include additional information in a meta title that you wouldn’t in a page title.
For instance, you might have a page title like “5 Ways To Save Money On Your Next Car”, but include your brand or a generic term like “Car Buying Tips” at the end in your meta title to improve searchability or make your page more recognizable in search results.
While there are slightly different tactics for meta titles and page titles, when in doubt a well crafted page title works as a meta title if you want to make them the same.
Now that we’ve established this bit, let’s move onto to tips for more magnetic titles.
Title Tip 1: Nail The Structure and Length
The page title can be as long as you want, within reason. But the meta title is generally limited to 60 characters, or about 5-7 words. You’ve probably noticed in Google’s search results some titles get cut off with an ellipses (…). This happens when the title is too long.
If you’ve got a specific idea in mine for your page title that has to be a little longer than your meta title to sound great, do it. But generally the length limit of the meta title is a good rule of thumb for the page title also, if for no other reason than brevity and impact for your readers.
As SEO goes, remember two things:
Always use keywords.
Keywords have more impact near the beginning of the title.
Great Used Cars near Dallas Airport” is better than “Near Dallas Airport? Shop Used Cars” from this standpoint if your keywords were “used cars”.
However, sticking to the latter rule too hard can lead to repetitive titles throughout your site, so don’t be afraid to mix it up. As long as your title contains target keywords, it will be beneficial.
Title Tip 2: Use Numbers When You Can
Although lists can become tiresome if overused, there’s some real psychology behind why we’re drawn to lists.
Numbers in titles are specific, which gives readers a clearer picture of what to expect than a vague counterpart. “3 Tips For A Cleaner Office” is more attractive than “Ways To Clean Your Office.”
Make sure to only use a number that makes sense. If you have 2-3 major points to make, stick with that. Don’t be tempted to make an article with 5 tips if in order to reach 5 you’d have to be somewhat redundant.
Title Tip 3: Avoid Positive Superlatives
Titles like “The Best Content Tips of 2017” are overused and spammy. Everybody thinks their tips are the best, so “best” really loses its impact on readers.
However, if you want to go this route you should know that content research shows negative superlatives perform 60% better than positive ones.
So “Tips For The Best Mortgages” is a weak title, but “How To Avoid Your Worst Mortgage Disaster” is effective.
Positive superlatives seem exaggerated, but people are naturally inclined to avoid pain. So negative words can capture attention since someone will want to know how to avoid it.
Title Tip 4: Include Emotional Benefits
If the title doesn’t make it clear enough what the benefit to reading your article/page is, the reader may not bother.
Weak title: “How To Lose Weight This Summer”
Stronger title: “Get That Beach Bod You’ve Dreamed About By Summer In 3 Steps”
The reason the second one is better is that it’s appealing directly to a goal a lot of people have, and registers emotionally with how people feel about their fitness goals. It’s also included a number, which makes the process seem easier. You can do this in just 3 steps.
Also, by saying “by summer” if the article was posted in the Spring, it’d be selling the idea of quick results, which is also much more attractive than a vague title generically promising to teach something.
The basic rule of copywriting is to sell benefits, not features. Assume that everyone is asking “What do I get out of this?” and provide that answer straight up.
Even if someone wants to improve at something in general, a specific benefit seems more valuable than a broad one.
Just think of this article. If I’d called it “4 Ways to Write Better” you might read it if you generally wanted to be a better writer. But titles in particular are something a lot of people struggle with, and no one wants something they’ve worked hard on to be passed over. For someone seriously looking to improve their writing, this strikes a more resonate emotional cord.