The best way to get your content opened by readers is to capture their attention with your headline. It therefore goes without saying that writing a great headline has to be essential to your content marketing Strategies. You can write really good articles for your company’s blog but have the worst open rates in search engines, on social media networks, in your email newsletter reports, among many other places.
In a survey done by SearchEngine Watch showed that half of the respondents expected their content marketing budget to increase over the next 12 months. This shows that companies are ever increasing their focus on content planning, creation, and marketing. All their efforts would go to waste if their article open rates are bad, and it makes a very regrettable position if this situation is redeemable.
We therefore decided to create a guide, especially because this is a question that comes up a lot from the startups who work with us on content marketing and PR services. Public relations revolves around content. When the content is not great the generated publicity will not be great either. This applies in every aspect of it; from how you pitch your startup, to the blog posts you write with the intention of marketing to a bigger audience, to the stories that are written about your company in the media.
We try to refine our strategies every time we write something new for our clients or our blog readers. We figured to create this guide hoping it can be useful to a lot of us. How do you come up with the best headline for every piece of content you make?
1. By not creating the best headline when you start writing
One of our strategies is that when we first start writing, we will create what we call a “working title”. This title is temporary before we refine it to make it clickable and attractive to readers.
Make no mistake, a working title is not a general topic title like “best marketing strategies” or “content marketing tools”. It is specific and helps guide the direction of the post. For instance, the working title for this article was “The Art of the Headline: How to Write the Best Titles for Your Content Marketing”
However, as you can see, that title evolved to what we have as the title of this article now: 5 Proven Strategies for Writing Better Content Marketing Headlines
The working title helps you get started on the post and even write it to the end. We do the latter. Once the post is done and we see what it has become, we evolve the headline to reflect a more complete and thorough title.
2. Keeping it reasonably short
Parameters for the best headlines differ depending on the objective of the article. According to a research done by Outbrain, headlines that had 8 words had a clickthrough rate of 21% higher than the average headline.
Essentially, for your articles to be good for search, they need to be below 70 characters. This is the ideal viewable range for a good length.
A simple search for “content marketing strategy” shows the top 3 titles for this keyword. All 3 headlines fit perfectly within the viewable range on Google search.
However, when you go to the second page of Google for the same keyword, the result below shows. As you can tell, Crazy Egg have not optimised this title for search. It is long and goes beyond the viewable range for Google search titles. It is not the ideal way you want your titles to be displayed because it reduces your clickthrough rate.
The best length for titles to be shared on Twitter is between 8-12 words while for Facebook sharing it should be around 12-14 words long.
As a final example, our working headline for this article had 15 words in it. We shortened it to a final title of 9 words. That is good for our search engine visibility and Twitter which is our social media network of choice.
3. Using numbers
We try to put numbers in our content titles. It gives the readers an expectation, and creates some perceived level of interest.
For instance, if we are writing about “best tips for writing a media pitch”, we would rather have a number representing how many tips we will discuss. Ideally we would go for something like this, “10 tips for writing the best media pitch”.
Several researchers have proven that article titles with numbers in them generate 73% more social shares and engagement. The most viral posts in the world have an accompanying number in the titles. Media companies like Buzzfeed and Mashable have continually used this strategy to get more social activity and high clickthrough rates via search engines. We advise you to use this strategy too.
4. Getting in on some negative emotions
We leverage the use of strong language to capture people’s emotions in our headlines. This involves using negative words like “things people hate” or “what you don’t know about content creation” or “why no one shares your content” etc.
Most of the times these are negative angles to experiences of people or companies. They get incentivised to click on such titles because they are experiencing the problems that are described with the negatively angled title. For content marketers, use this strategy in moderation but use it all the same.
5. Using clarifications for accuracy and reliability
One of our biggest content marketing hacks is attaching a clarifications or important pointers on article titles. This helps with ensuring the article is accurate and uses knowledge from credible sources.
For instance, using [new report], [infographic], [survey shows], [new data] somewhere in our articles has helped us achieve higher clickthrough rates.
The reason for using these is that you get to manage the readers’ expectations while building trust with them about your content sources. If you build high expectations in your headlines and you don’t fulfill them, you lose the trust of your readers.
If you have been asking yourself questions like what is the correct length for my headlines? Or which words should I use? Or not use? What should I optimise for, social or search? We believe this article should help to guide you in making the correct decisions and working to improve your article titles.
We understand that this process of deciding the best headline can be quite difficult especially for startups that are new to content marketing, and only just getting into the groove around it. Which is why one of our offerings at Pressfarm is to take care of all your content marketing. Get in touch with us if you ever get stuck, or just say hi.