What is the most important feature in an online article on a web page, or even a college essay for that matter?
It’s the title.
A title is like a flashing neon sign. They have to grab attention. Think about it – in the digital age there is so much information competing for attention. Your article does not get special preference – it has to compete just as hard to be read.
When asked this question, author Steve Gillman said that digital article titles have to do more than those in the print world. In a print magazine, you just need to catch the attention of the reader. The title doesn’t really even have to tell the reader what the article is about, since the magazine it is in will be on a specific subject area. Readers know that if it is in a fishing magazine it about a fishing-related topic.
In an online article, on the other hand, the title has to tell the potential reader what the article is about. He may see nothing but the title in the search engine results, and if he doesn’t know what it’s about, he’s likely to just click on the next link. Online article titles have to be found in the search engines as well, meaning they have to have keywords in them that people are looking for. Of course, just like print articles, they should also catch the reader’s attention.
My Best Article Titles
Sometimes you can do all three of these things pretty well in one article. An example is my article titled “Cheap Homes In Nice Towns.” You know what the article is about, it is okay as an attention grabber (not great), and “cheap homes” is a keyword that many people search for each month. At one of the article directories I have submitted it to, it has been read over 17,000 times – more than double the traffic of any of the other 550 articles I have there (many have been read only a couple hundred times).
However, in checking the number of times my various articles have been viewed at this directory, I have often been surprised – enough so to remind me that “rules” are only guidelines. For example, two of the most-read articles I have there are “Remove Permanent Marker From Carpet,” and “How To Get Candle Wax Out Of Carpet” (about 6,000 times each).
These are not attention-grabbing titles, but they are also not topics covered well on the Internet. Obviously there is something to be said for utilitarian articles with good keywords that are not too competitive. Add easy-to-compete-for keywords to the list of things to try for in an article title.
In the top five for visits are the article titles, “Really Cheap Plane Tickets,” (6,400) and “Cheap International Plane Tickets” (10,050). A promise of a way to save money seems to be a good bet. My article “Worry – Five Ways To Eliminate It,” has been viewed 3,300 times, but it is fairly new, making it the most views per month by far. I suppose worry is a common enough problem that people need a solution to.
Article titles that promise to help with a problem work, then. So do those that promise to teach the reader something new, and those that are directly targeting the keywords they are searching. What else can make for a good article title?
- Ask a question: “Do You Make This Writing Mistake?”
- Tell them they can do something: “You Can Write A Better Title Today”
- Promise some value: “Ten Ways You Can Make More Money”
- Use the words “how to”: “How To Overcome Writer’s Block”
- Involve them with a story: “You Quit Your Job – Now What?”
Watch the reports (at the article directories and on your web sites) and try to learn from them. Of course those statistics for “views” I mention above only tell me how many times people started to read my articles. Did they finish the articles? Did they then click through to my web sites? There is more to good online writing than good article titles.