It is the last thing I think of whenever I write a post and it shows. I try to think of something witty and fun and I draw a blank. However it is the most important part of any article. Be it for a magazine, newspaper or blog post, we have to grab our readers attention with a catchy headline that will draw them in and make them want to read more.
We have obviously been lucky.
Our headlines are terrible. People may read our posts, but I know it is not based on the titles of the piece.
So What makes a good headline or title for a blog post?
When I first started blogging, I didn’t have any clue about SEO (search engine optimization) If I were writing about our preparation for our cycling tour of Africa, I would end up writing something like “Crunch Time.” What does that mean? It doesn’t give the reader any idea what the story is about. And search engines would have no idea how to index the article.
Key Word Stuffing
As time went on, we learned about the importance of SEO and then went to the extreme the other way. My titles were terrible as I tried to fit every key word possible. eg: Strange Funny and Odd Names of Towns in Canada. That is a title that is obviously trying to look good in keyword searches and it sucks. If I could have fit the word city and village in there, I would have, but the title was already way to long.
In recent posts I have tried to put what I am writing about in the title and try to make it a little interesting to grab the readers attention. We think one of our latest posts has a fairly strong title “Why We Love McDonalds in France” Not many people love McDonalds, so it grabs the readers attention. Why would anyone admit to loving McDonalds, and it is very clear about what and where we are writing about: France and McDonalds.
But we still need a lot of work.
So What Makes a good Title?
I have been doing some research.
It is my new mission to try to grab the readers attention while staying relevant to the content.
Keep it simple – people want to know what they are reading about. If you are writing about Yangon, Burma put that in the title.
Stay on topic – There is nothing worse than having a title spark my interest and then when I go to the piece it isn’t about the topic at all. You may think it is clever and funny, but it still has to be about the subject you are writing about.
Ask a Question – Bring the reader in by asking a question. Has something funny happened to you on the road? Put it into your title with a question encouraging readers to leave their thoughts. People will read it and say “I totally know how you feel!” and want to read more to see what happened.
WordPlay - This is where I struggle and it can be difficult coming up with a clever pun. I have seen some amazing headlines that use double meanings that are amusing and yet completely explain what the article is about. I haven’t found any great wordplay headlines lately, If you know of any let us know!
This brings me to….
SEO Vs A Good Title – People worry about SEO when using wordplay or puns. People aren’t searching for clever headlines on the Internet, they are searching for information. But that doesn’t mean we should try to be clever once in a while. Plus, we have just recently figured out that you can have a fun headline and then in the “Title Tag” add the key words to fill out what the article is about. We wrote an article called “Increasing Traffic with Easy Tweaks” But in the Title Tag we wrote “increase traffic to your blog” We made the title tag more search engine friendly, but still kept the actual title clear and concise as to what the article was about.
Numbers - Everyone loves a top 10 list. I see them and click on the title. I know what I am getting and I know how long I will be reading. What are the top 10 things to do in Montreal? What are the three best travel secrets of all time? Numbers catch a browsers attention. I just read a great headline from Traveling Canucks called 10 Alternative Adventures in Australia. I want to read that and will once I finish this article.
Stay Positive – People are looking for help and advice when they search for things on the Internet. I thought I was being clever when I wrote “10 Things we Hate About Travel” I remember thinking, oh people will want to read this and see what we could possibly hate. While our regular readers read it and commented and initially it received a lot of traffic, it doesn’t receive much traffic because who looks up the key words Hate with Travel. We don’t really hate much about travel, we talked more about what is difficult when travelling, what is upsetting when traveling and what irks us when traveling. I think that a more effective headline would have been “The Difficulties of Long Term Travel” or “10 Things we Struggle with when Travelling.” Hate is such a negative word. why do we want to be associated with that?
SEO Tips – We have also figured out recently that you should put the key words near the beginning of the Title. Put the idea of the article in the first two words of the article. If you are writing about a photography tour in India make sure those are the keywords you put at the front. Don’t put the useless words first nobody is going to care about Dave and Deb’s Cool Photography Tour in India, they will be searching Photo-Tours-India. A good one I read in my RSS feed today was Swimming with Sharks in St. Maarten at GoNomad, Anything for a Story. It gets to the point quickly, but adds humour at the end. People won’t be looking up Anything for the Story online, they will be searching for swimming with sharks. but Anything for the Story adds another element to the piece.
Do you have any tips for writing a great headline? We would love to hear your advice. How do you come up with clever puns, clear and concise words or eye catching headlines?