One of the most controversial new trends in digital publishing involves maybe the smallest element of any content piece: the title. What journalists traditionally refer to as “the lede” has always had an important job – to draw readers in and to make them concentrate on that one particular story. Now, however, titles have to take on even more work; aside from drawing readers in, they have to also convince those readers to share that content across social networks, and they also have to alert search engines as to the subject of the content piece. It’s a lot to ask of a single phrase or sentence. Several media and content distribution sites have taken to creating “clickbait” out of their titles – long sentences that create a logic gap between the promised content and an emotional appeal to the reader.
Take this post’s title; this is a classic example of the new form of clickbait: it depends upon human curiosity and the possibility of shock value. You won’t believe it, because it’s so outrageous, or easy, or something – but what? Now you have to find out. Additionally, it creates the assumption that the reader doesn’t know how to create shareable and search-engine friendly headlines and challenges the reader with this assumption. While this example is innocuous enough, some forms of clickbait have become insidious and deliberately deceitful.
Content marketers are in a quandary over titles; established best practices on online headline writing claim that the best headlines are:
- Short – the best are 5 words or less
- Begin with keywords
- Understandable out of context
- Evokes predictable reader emotions and expectations
However, the type of headlines that sites such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy have made famous – and wildly successful – are long, rambling emotional appeals that make no sense until the piece is read, and evokes a strong, unexpected reader emotion. However, while these pieces are great at grabbing readers, and compelling those readers to share them with others, they aren’t great for search engine crawling.
So what should content marketers do with their headlines? A compromise is in order: create a “trigger headline” (a lede that elicits a personal response) that incorporates SEO-friendly keywords. Let’s take our headline and show the evolution:
SEO Friendly with Trigger
|Write Compelling Headlines for Online Content||You Won’t Believe Our Process for Creating Shareable AND Search Engine-Friendly Headlines||Content Marketers: Are Your Headlines Irresistible to Readers and Search Engines?|
Lots of writers leave their titles to the last minute before publication; however, in online marketing, it can often be your content’s most valuable weapon. Write it so that it is interesting and relevant to your whole audience: people and search engines alike. And once you have your content up to snuff, let us teach you how to use it to close sales and drum up new business.