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7 Reasons the Title of This Post Will Change Your Life and Restore Your Faith in Humanity
Posted on April 2nd 2014
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy use titles like the one on this post in order to get you to click through. And it works. I mean, I got you to click through here, right? Don’t deny it. You’re here and I have a record of you being here in my analytics.
But, that’s the point of this post, to get you to click through and to talk about why you clicked to come and read this. You see, you can create the greatest content on the planet, and yet no one will read your content unless a few things happen. We need to have a reason to click through. That reason might be based on a combination of things: your reputation, the title of the post, the trustworthiness of the person who shared your post (influence), and so on.
That said, you clicked, so I guess I should give you something worth reading about, rather than drawing you hear solely to sell you something. So here are 7 reasons the title of this post will…well, will at least be instructive to you.
1. Titles are important
Give the same exact post three different titles, and one will outperform the others. In short, don’t just spend a lot of time writing a post only to slap a title on it at the end. Take some time to come up with a well-crafted title that will not only make people want to read your post, but will work well for SEO. While we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, we do judge blog posts by their titles.
2. People like list posts
For some reason, people love list posts. Five of this, seven of that. I think it’s because it manages our expectations. We know we’re going to get something we can read (scan) quickly, without a lot of effort. List posts just seem to work well across the board, and get people to click.
3. People prefer odd numbers to even numbers
See that title up there? If I had changed that 7 to either a 6 or an 8, I’d probably get a lot fewer click throughs. It’s a psychological thing. There’s some science behind this, and apparently odd numbered list posts get a 20% higher click through rate than even numbered posts. There’s just something about odd numbers that we like
4. Be careful with your hyperbole
Let’s be honest. Nothing about this post or the title will really change your life or restore your faith in humanity. This is not the “best” or “most important” advice you’ll ever get about this topic. And this is certainly not the best blog post ever. If you make inflated claims, your readers will be disappointed. Like you are right now, because not only has your life not changed, I might have inadvertently caused you to lose faith in humanity. Do that, and you’ll face a bit of backlash.
5. Clear titles trump clever titles most of the time
The writer in me likes to write clever titles. You know the kind; a play on words, a bit of a literary allusion, perhaps a little bit of alliteration. But to be honest, when I write those types of titles, I generally get fewer click throughs. People don’t want to have to guess what your post is about. If you want people to click through, save the creativity for the post, and let the title tell people exactly what they’re getting. If it’s a post about how to improve SEO for small business, put all of that in the title. In other words, the title for this post is not a good example. I went for creativity in the guise of being clear. And yet, you’re still here. But trust me, in most cases, clear will beat out clever, at least when it comes to titles.
6. Click-bait is in the eye of the beholder
The title of this post is, by most accounts, something known as click-bait. It’s a title that is designed to make you want to click, just to see what I’m talking about. You might have said to yourself:
“Will it really change my life? I could certainly stand to have my faith in humanity restored, and maybe this will do the trick!”
Or, perhaps you realized it was just click-bait, and you clicked anyway because you knew I was up to something. Either way, you’re here. But creating titles that are purely click-bait flies in the face of best practices. Yes, you want people to click, and yes, you can use your title to make that happen, but make sure that the title is representative of what the post is really about. No one wants to feel as though you’ve duped them.
7. Learn how to count
In this post title I promised you 7 reasons for something. And I don’t have 7 reasons. But, as I said earlier, odd numbers are better than even numbers. So I’m making this my 7th item on the list, which, I guess, means I really DO have 7 items. Now I’m confused. But make sure your number of items matches the number in the title. When I start writing lists posts, I often don’t know what the final number of items will be. I’ll often start with 5 as the default number, but if I get to 6 or 7 or more, I need to go back and make sure I change the title so that it, and the post, are in agreement. Simple? Yes, but you’d be surprised how often I see a mismatch in numbers.
Have I changed your life? Have I restored your faith in humanity?
More importantly, have I given you something to think about in terms of how you come up with titles for your posts? I sure hope so.
How do you come up with the titles for your posts? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?