One of the many advantages of working in an open-plan office is the opportunity to bounce around B2B blog ideas with fellow inbound content writers.
And a frequent topic of conversation is how to finesse our blog titles so they're pertinent, attention grabbing and search-engine friendly.
Why business blog titles matter
While the bulk of our creative efforts goes into constructing the blog post itself, it's surprising how much attention we also need to pay to those first few words that our potential customers are going to see - our headline.
And managing that delicate balance between crafting titles that are appealing to humans and easily-findable by search engines isn't always as straight-forward as it seems.
Coming up with canny, compelling and credible word combinations is one thing. But it's also just as important to consider the science that underpins the process.
Is the number of characters in our headline within the recommended range for example? And does our title contain the optimum number of words?
Have we included searchable keywords so our readers can easily find, and make sense of, the content we're offering? Is our URL helping, or hindering, our efforts in terms of its length, relevance and readability?
Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines, and some savvy online headline analysis tools, that can help us to whip our blog titles into shape.
In this blog post we explore three key tactics to help you create headlines that will grab your readers' attention and make sure you deliver on their expectations.
1. Give your headline a health check
Online headline generator and analysis tools such as CoSchedule can be hugely helpful in assessing your headline health.
The CoSchedule tool scrutinises the structure, grammar and readability of your titles and provides you with a numerical 'score' based on a red-amber-green system - with scores of 70 and above earning you a green light.
The health of your headline is determined by a variety of metrics - including the types (and proportions) of words that you've used, the number of individual characters (including spaces) in your title and the total number of words.
Let's first consider the choice of words. It's recommended to use a combination of common, unique, emotional and powerful words to command attention from your audience.
According to CoSchedule, common words (things like 'and, this, what, how' etc) should make up no more than 20 - 30% of your headline, while uncommon words (those that are more 'interesting' and less frequently-used) should comprise around 10 - 20% of your title.
Words that elicit an emotional response (such as valuable, amazing, best, secret etc) should account for approximately 10 - 15% of your word-count. Headlines that convey a strong positive (or negative) emotion have also been shown to perform better - so don't be afraid to take a stand and opt for
And you should aim to include at least one power word in your title (that's any word that's designed to trigger action such as make, must, need etc.)
2. Get scientific
Crafting a title that's original, persuasive and catchy is one thing. But it's also important to maintain a strategic approach.
As a general guide, it's advisable to aim for headlines that are around 55 characters including spaces. While titles that are around six words long have also been shown to earn higher numbers of click-throughs.
You'll also want to make sure that your most important keywords are positioned as close as possible to the start of your title.
The length of your URL (or the address where your blog post 'lives') is another important consideration.
Left to its own devices, your content management system may default to a random series of numbers or words, so it will be important to assess and tweak your URL to ensure it's simple, readable and accurate.
Ideally you'll want to aim for URLs that are no more than 75 characters long. The point to bear in mind though is that your URL incorporates both your blog title and your domain name. So you may need to need to strip out any extraneous words (but making sure you retain your keywords) in order to stay within the recommended character limit.
Ultimately though, your URL should make sense and provide a clear indication of what readers can expect to find on the page - or as SEO expert Rand Fishkin puts it: "The easier a URL is to read for humans the better it is for search engines."
3. Deliver what you promise
Finally too, be mindful that your content has been honed to deliver what you promise. There's no joy in clicking on an intriguing blog title only to discover that what it links to bears little or no relevance to what's been offered.
Everyone's time is precious and we all like to have a clear idea of what it is we're getting ourselves into. So by all means arouse your readers' curiosity with a well-crafted headline - but be sure to back this up with content that's relevant, that's compelling and that exceeds expectations.