How To Write Title Tags that Convert
For two decades, digital experts and SEOs have been declaring “Content is King”. Now with 2017 upon us we’re happy to announce that… nothing has changed. It’s still best practice to regularly produce quality, relevant content to improve your rankings and boost your overall digital strategy. Content draws people to your site, generates leads, and creates brand awareness when it’s shared.
“Okay fine,” you might say, “I have a blog, I post a few times a month, but I’m not getting any engagements. My click-through-rate is abysmal and no one is sharing the post. What am I supposed to do now?”
Don’t give up on your content. Whether you post on a blog or share articles or company updates directly on your site, the answer is not to stop producing content. If your CTR is very low, you may be overlooking a small but vital element. Title tags are often viewed strictly as keyword vessels, stuffed with relevant terms and the name of the company, instead of as users’ first introduction to your content. The title tag is your bold-faced headline on the billboard promoting your content and website. There are many other billboards along the highway, so what makes yours stand out? Why should a user click on your content when the site directly below you sounds more enjoyable to read?
Overly optimized SEO titles may help you jump a position or two in the SERPs, but it doesn’t entice users to want to read the content it’s promoting. Ranking high doesn’t necessarily mean the link will give you a high number of clicks. Maintaining a high position in the SERPs certainly gives your content a better chance of being clicked on, but it doesn’t guarantee it, especially if your title tag is uninteresting or overly-stuffed with keywords.
According to industry leader Larry Kim, “Great SEO titles should be like click-bait headlines — just better optimized for your most important keywords”. It may sound crazy, but these types of “click me!” titles are the ones that people feel compelled to click on, find out more, and share on Facebook or Twitter. We know that content is important, so why don’t we consider the quality of the content leading to our site just as important as the quality of the content on the page? Your headline should be just as interesting and thought-provoking as the content it’s representing.
Think of snappy headlines as the person in the gorilla suit spinning a sign around on the street to draw people in to a pizza shop. You weren’t thinking of pizza before, but hey it’s lunch time and you’re curious about whatever event is happening at the shop. You stop in, have a pepperoni pie, and tell you coworkers and family about the hilarious gorilla outside the new pizza store. Even if you don’t end up going in for a slice, the performer definitely caught your attention and made you interested in the store. The next time you go to order a pizza, you’ll remember the sign-twirling gorilla and maybe give the store a try. Your title tag is the attention-grabber, it’s your sign-wielding gorilla.
Any blog post, article, press release, product feature, and study you’re sharing can benefit from a compelling title tag. Every page on your site doesn’t have to have an exceptional title but any page that’s regularly updated, or is promoting something new, should. For example, a Contact Us page doesn’t need to have an exciting headline, but new product pages can use these elements to attract users just like a blog post title would. It’s time to put on your copywriter hat and get to work on writing title tags that are savvy, unique, and compelling.
“How will I know if my title is compelling enough?” you ask, “How am I supposed to know what people want to click on?”
Go with your gut. But if you don’t trust your gut, there’s also a loose formula you can follow. The most engaging articles on the Internet use the title format of:
- A number
- An adjective/emotion trigger
- The type of content
- What the content can/will do for the user
Combining these elements creates headlines that compel users to click through. If your content isn’t a list, you don’t have to force a number onto the front of your title tag but you should take advantage of the other parts of the formula. A little research proved that a large number of sites seem to be taking advantage of this magic combo. For example, I did a search for “seo trends 2017” and some of the top results are:
- Top 5 SEO trends for 2017 from Google and the Experts – Link Assistant
- 7 SEO Trends That Will Dominate 2017 – Forbes
- 3 Unstoppable SEO Trends To Look Out For In 2017 – Entrepreneur
Let’s take a closer look at the third title, “3 Unstoppable SEO Trends To Look Out For In 2017”. It begins with a number, which tells me as a user that I’m going to come away with three new insights. The use of the word “unstoppable” triggers an emotional response of excitement. After that, it clearly states that the content itself is SEO trends. I will expect to see either paragraphs or an informative list when I click to the page. Finally, “To look out for in 2017” tells us what this content will do for me. The information is going to give me a leg up on what to expect next year and help inform my organic search strategies.
If your content really doesn’t fit into this format, or if your content answers a specific question, you can employ the other most popular form of headline: posing a compelling question. By using your favorite informational query tool or by simply analyzing the SERPs yourself, you can discover what kind of questions people are asking about your topic. Then, take these questions and jazz them up a little!
We recently used this method for one of our clients, a college admissions consulting organization. We looked at an old 2014 blog post that still had relevant and useful information, but wasn’t being found through organic search anymore. To solve the problem, we performed keyword research and a SERP analysis to see who was currently dominating the top positions, and determined which keywords were and weren’t working two years after the post first premiered. We then provided a new, catchier title tag and optimized meta description that’s more tailored to current users and their questions and needs. The result in this case was the re-vitalized post “Do Freshman Year Grades Count for College?” moved to position 1 in the SERPs, had a 9% increase in CTR in a single month, and now resides in the “featured snippet” box (position 0 in the SERPs) for queries such as “do colleges check freshman year grades” and “do colleges look at 9th grade”.
Headlines that follow these patterns have a better chance of bringing users to your site. Your title tags should inspire emotions, such as admiration, amusement, or surprise, and inform users what they’re going to either learn or take away from the page. Doing so will raise your chances of increasing CTR and increase the likelihood of your content being shared across social media and through offices. Keep in mind that titles tags are the hooks that lure in new users to your website, and get started by writing satisfying headlines that you would actually want to read.