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by Stephen Logan on 15th February 2012
I recently saw a Tweet, actually it may have been a Retweet, exclaiming that you should spend as much time sculpting your title as you should writing your content. Now there’s only so much that you can convey in 140 characters, so it’s difficult to tell if this was part of a wider conversation or said with the sense of irony that I interpreted it with. However, it still got me thinking.
After all, what’s the point in pouring your heart and soul into a piece of content and then slapping on a title as an afterthought? In a largely online world, an ambiguous or immediately forgettable title is easy to overlook. So perhaps the aforementioned tweet wasn’t quite as ridiculous as I first assumed.
Tabloid journalism offers a classic example of where titles are given huge prominence. Not just visually either; the art of fine punnery has introduced humour to the straplines and headlines of many an average story. Huge fonts, emotive words and large images have encouraged millions to buy a newspaper every day.
Making Your Content Stand Out
The Internet is no different. You can’t assume that people will find your content on their own volition. You have to give them a reason to click. This means creating a title that will stand out in a Twitter feed, on a Facebook profile and within a search engine. It obviously becomes much easier when your blog or news site attracts tens of thousands of visitors every day, as you have an existing audience to market to. But even the big boys need a boost every now and then.
But there is a counterargument to all of this. What happens if your title is misleading or the content is a bit of a damp squib? Sure, you might get a load of traffic from unsuspecting social networkers and clueless searchers, but what’s it all worth if they read it and leave or, worse still, criticise your work and disparage it amongst their own followers? So if you are investing more time in your titles than you are in your content, it could well come back to bite you.
Matching Good Content with a Title that Sells it
The Internet allows users to be nomadic. Some remain resolutely bound to particular brands, blogs and writers, others are happy to graze on any fresh new content as and when they discover it. Personally speaking, I will read pretty much anything, from anybody as long as it appears to be interesting. Faddy topics and trends hold very little interest. I don’t visit leading industry blogs unless they give me a reason to do so (which is becoming increasingly rare). This makes me ideal for anybody seeking to distribute a little title-bait.
For all the arguments and counterarguments that I’ve presented here, there’s no doubting that titles are more important than ever. But if you’re a content marketer, blogger or copywriter, you have to back up a good title with decent content. One won’t work without the other, unless of course you are happy to sacrifice quality for visits. Remember though, once you create a reputation for being a producer of worthless material, those traffic levels will soon drop, as will your social shares and mentions.