A couple of years ago I was the chief blog writer for a very large paint manufacturer. Dry subject matter you might think (wet, actually) but I had a lot of fun writing them, especially the titles, and my personal favourite was Your Walls Can’t Handle Vermouth!
Jack Nicholson in ‘A Few Good Men’? You know, “You can’t handle the truth!”…? Never mind.
Surprisingly, I’ve gone on to have quite a successful copywriting career. Well, you can’t be good at everything.
On average, 5x as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
– David Ogilvy (a.k.a. the father of advertising)
The purpose of a headline or title is simply to get someone to open the article, blog or email – that’s all it has to do. But with so much to read and so little time to read it, it’s got to draw your readers in.
My first tip: keep a swipe file
One of the best ways to learn about writing, I think, is to read and learn from others so I keep a swipe file of awe-inspiring copywriting, including great headlines and titles. When I spot one I like, I make a note of it/save it, work out what makes it brilliant, and apply it to my own work.
[For an example of a brilliant TOV, check out this post: citizenM’s gob-smackingly good copy]
I use a Word document and Evernote, and take photos on my phone, but you can use an app or a scrap of paper – the how doesn’t really matter.
Below are a few tips and (largely made-up) examples that will hopefully give you some inspiration:
Use shock, surprise & intrigue
The 25 Least Visited Tourist Attractions in the UK
Cutting Through the BS: What LinkedIn Posts Really Mean
5 Secrets Salespeople Use to Sell
What Your Boss/Dog/Accountant is Really Thinking
Be punny and use rhyme (sparingly)
Last Night a Screenplay Saved My Wife
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ikea
How to Fall in Love With Your Business Again
Don’t Learn About Home Insurance the Hard Way
11 Proven Ways to Restore Your Self-Confidence (From Someone Who’s Been There)
Solve a problem
The Number One Most Important Factor in Preventing a Data Breach
How to Make Super-quick Delicious Meals (Even if You Hate Cooking)
Read This Before You Start Working With a Marketing Agency
Appeal to someone’s ego/sense of who they are
The Planet-Lover’s Guide to Ethical Clothing Brands
The Hipster’s Essential Winter Wardrobe
Thinking of Investing? Read This First: a Guide for Smart Investors
Tips, tricks, secrets & lies
7 Tricks to Help You Boss it at Work
The Secret to Getting the Best Price for Your House
What You Can Learn From the 13 Most Shared Blogs of 2018
Make it quick and easy
Use ‘quick’ or ‘straightforward’ in your titles to bring readers in. No one has ever wanted to read 943 Incredibly Lengthy, Complicated, and Quite Frankly, Soul-destroying Tips for Marketing Your Business.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Blog titles should be part of your SEO for each post. Once you’ve decided on the content, use a keyword tool to check which words people actually use to search for that topic and the volume of search traffic. Then use the keywords in the title, towards the beginning if it still scans well.
Google hasn’t said whether the keyword position in a title matters or not but various experiments have shown that it does and Google’s own advice is that after the content, the title is the second most important factor in SEO.
Don’t do any keyword stuffing though. You can use a colon to replace non-essential words and get your keywords to the beginning (without making it unreadable). For example: On-page Search Engine Optimisation: a Beginner’s Guide
There are lots of free keyword research and planning tools, this is the one I tend to use: https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/
As with all copywriting, when you write a title think about who you want to read it and open your article or blog.
On the whole – much as we all love to get creative – a descriptive title that explains what the blog is about with a nod to SEO is often the most effective. That said, off-the-wall ones can work if you know your audience…
My favourite title of all time is Why is there a Possum near me? It appealed to my curiosity and sense of humour so I had to open it and read it. Turned out it was about an unconfirmed Google update that affected local search results. But if the title’s job is to make you read the post – it worked.
Thanks for reading this one.
P.S. If you liked this, you might find my Copywriting Dictionary post interesting.