How To Choose A Good Article Title

Gary Green
Jah Brown
March 2, 2020

A big part of writing compelling content is choosing a good article title. It's helpful for SEO, user satisfaction and for encouraging sharing on social media.

However, coming up with a good article title can be tricky. In today's post we'll explain:

  1. Why it's important
  2. How to do it
  3. URL tips
  4. Key takeaways

Why A Good Article Title Is Important

If you don't have a good title, you won't have a good headline. And if you don't have a good headline, people won't click on your content.

The importance of a good headline has been known since the dawn of the newspaper age. A good headline will:

  • Grab your attention
  • Make you curious
  • Prompt you to buy/click/read
  • Make you afraid
  • Play on your greed

In the digital age, a good headline is even more important. Readers have a huge amount of choice (they can scroll hundreds of headlines a minute) and a huge amount of control (if they're not interested, they won't click).

The title is also really important for SEO. Not only is it a place to include your keywords and keyphrases. A good title aids the user experience (UX) by making it clear what the reader can expect.

Google rewards strong UX with higher search rankings and greater prominence on the search engine results page. Check out the section below on URLs for more tips.

How To Come up With Great Titles

Coming up with great titles isn't that different from coming up with great content. Always remember:

  • Focus on benefits rather than features
  • Make it simple, clear and concise
  • Emotions are more powerful than logic

When people are reading (headlines or articles) they will always be asking themselves: "what's in it for me?". So make sure you tell them!

If you're stuck for ideas, choose a headline that plays on one of two emotions: "greed" or "fear". According to John Maynard Keynes these are the two states which drive action. So try something like:

  • Greed - How to make £100/hour without leaving the house
  • Fear - Why you might ALREADY have the Coronavirus

If you want lots more tips on choosing emotional and engaging headlines, check out this study by BuzzSumo. They analysed 100m headlines and checked to see which ones were shared the most.

The whole article is well worth a read. But here are the top three headline structures:

  1. "X will make you..."
  2. "This is why X..."
  3. "Can we guess X..."

Some Tips For Choosing URLs

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when choosing the URL (the slug* really) for your article. More detailed information can be found on the Google support page.

Words are better than numbers/symbols. Google gives the example of two URLs:

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation
  • example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1

You'd much rather click on the first one. You know exactly what page you're going to land on. From Google's perspective, you're more likely to have your query answered, so they give more SEO credit to clear URLs too.

You should also consider keywords and keyphrases for your URLs. The slug is a great chance to let Google know what words you'd like to rank for. Don't overstuff the URL, but make sure your keyword appears in there. A good tip is to remove simple words like:

  • A
  • The
  • Of
  • To
  • With

This way you can keep the URL reasonably short while remaining keyword-rich. You'll see that we took out "to" and "a" from this article's slug.

* The "slug" is the section of the URL after your domain name. So the slug for this article is "how-choose-good-article-title". Google recommends separating words with hyphens rather than underscores.

Key Takeaways
  1. A great title is often as important as a great article
  2. Good titles capture attention, drive curiosity and provoke an emotional response
  3. "X will make you..." is a great place to start
  4. Customise your URLs so that they contain words rather than numbers and symbols
  5. Titles and slugs are prime SEO real estate - make sure your keywords are in there

If you'd like to discuss how we help small businesses with SEO and content marketing, please get in touch.

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