How to Craft a Successful, Competitive, Search-Friendly Title
The Most Important Single Component
In the realm of online content, your title is typically the most important component when it comes to determining whether your work gets readers or languishes in obscurity.
Most readers find your articles through search engines. If articles are not search friendly, they are not likely to get much (if any) search traffic (and therefore not much traffic at all).
- To be search friendly, a title must be short and descriptive. We recommend four to ten words. Your title should also contain the types of short terms people might type into search engines like Google when conducting searches on a particular subject (e.g. "how to tie a bow tie" may result in a title like "3 Methods of Tying a Bow Tie").
- To be competitive, a title must address a subject and keywords ("keywords" are the terms people type into search engines) that are not already extensively covered online. You can quickly check to see how extensively a subject is covered online by Googling it. If there are already a ton of great articles using your keywords, you may want to choose another subject. But if you think you can do better than the search results, write an article!
- To have a high potential for success, a title you create must also address a subject about which you are genuinely passionate.
We shall explore these facets of high-potential titles below as well as information on:
A Note on Choosing Your Subject
Some topics are much less likely to succeed than others simply because there are already tons of detailed, satisfying results online. When you are choosing what to write about, it's a good idea to enter those terms into a search engine and have a look at the results that show up. Here are a few things to watch out for:
Choose another topic if:
- There is an exact match to your keyword in the title of one of the first three (non ad) results (and the result is not dismal)
- The current results answer the question posed by the query perfectly well
- There are already a LOT of sites, articles, and videos on the subject
- The query results in a lot of product results - your article is not likely to rank above them
- The query results in a lot of location-based results (maps, local listings) - this means your article would be buried below them
- The query results in a lot of branded results - it is hard for normal articles to compete with prestigious branded sites
You know you have found a good topic to write about when:
- There are no exact matches for that keyword in the first three (non ad) results
- A complete answer to the question posed by the search query must be cobbled together by visiting several results (i.e. no single top search result will cover the content entirely)
- The article you plan on writing will be vastly superior to the current top results (in terms of quality, length, media used, etc).
Making a Short, Descriptive Title is Akin to Making Your Business Available in a Phone Book
Making a Title Short and Descriptive
When crafting a title, start by asking yourself:
If I were to conduct a search about the subject of this article, what would I type into Google?
What you are essentially asking yourself is what keyword you should incorporate into your title. Once you have an idea of the keywords you would like to incorporate into potential titles for, consider adding any additional words you might need to make the titles sound natural. Just be sure to:
- Keep titles below 65 characters in length
- Try to add additional words after the target keyword
- Try checking what your title will look like in search results by using the SERP Preview Tool
- See how the titles of other articles look in the listings on the HubPages homepage.
Once you have a couple of titles in mind, it is time to run some competitive research.
- Creating a title that is an accurate description of your content (fanciful or artsy titles may be appropriate for creative writing or poetry, but informational pieces need titles that address the subject at hand)
- Creating brief, descriptive, informative titles
- Considering the target audience of your article and what words they would use when conducting searches on its subject (e.g. if you are writing an article about Reynaud's phenomenon for people who are not familiar with it, you should keep in mind that they're more likely to type things like "cold blue hands" into Google)
And remember, good titles are worth nothing if your article is not...
- Easy to read
- Fresh and unique
- Clearly organized and broken into logical chunks
- Backed up with compelling and useful content (this is what encourages people to stay on the page longer and share it with their friends)
- Written for PEOPLE and not SEARCH ENGINES
For a more in-depth look at what Google recommends, stop by their official guide.
Apply the same methods you use to create good titles when adding subtitles to the various capsules of your articles.
Example: Writing an Article About How People Dressed in Ancient Roman Times
- Ask yourself: "How would I search for information on that subject?"
- Phrases like "Ancient Roman Dress" and "How Did Romans Dress?" may come to mind
- You decide to use the search term "Ancient Roman Dress"
- You want to add more detail to the title, so you make it "Ancient Roman Dress: Fabrics, Styles, and Accessories"
- You check the character count of the title to make sure it does not exceed 65 characters. It is only 53 characters, so it is OK!
Example: Writing a Piece about Pumpkin Pie
- You decide to share a pumpkin pie recipe
- You settle on keywords like "Pumpkin Pie Recipe" and "Homemade Pumpkin Pie"
- You discover that there are thousands upon thousands of pumpkin pie recipes out there, and the top results are from reputable, recipe sites
- You realize you can give your article a better chance by using more specific, descriptive keywords like "Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Recipe," "Vintage Pumpkin Pie Recipe," or "Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe."
To Reiterate Because It's SO Important: To Succeed Online, You Must Demonstrate Genuine Interest and Passion
As we discuss in our Learning Center tutorial about succeeding in online content creation, one of the biggest factors determining the long-term success of an article (that has a search-friendly title and can beat the present competition) is the author's genuine interest or expertise in the subject.
Before deciding to write an article, even one with a short, descriptive title that has low competition in terms of existing search results, ask yourself:
- Am I passionate about this subject?
- Do I have any unique expertise in this subject?
If you do not really care about the subject; if you do not find it interesting or it has not been a part of your life somehow, we recommend moving on to write about something you actually do feel passionate about.
The best articles are those written by people sharing a part of their real lives- problems they've solved, projects they've worked on, challenges they've overcome, subjects they've researched out of genuine interest, their work, their hobbies, their families, their vocations, their collections... you get the picture.
Articles that are written by someone possessing genuine passion or expertise tend to be:
- Detailed and in-depth
- Full of original images and media
- Reinforced with insider tips that aren't found elsewhere online
- Made even more useful with links to appropriate obscure resources on the subject that may be hard to find
Articles that are written by people with little firsthand experience or interest tend to be:
- Lacking original photos (instead filled with stock images or other images)
- Full of fluff (filler text not providing any useful information)
- Filled with information and advice that exists elsewhere online
It should therefore come as no surprise that articles written by people with passion and experience tend to do better.
Example: Writing an Article on Mesothelioma
- You hear that mesothelioma is a high-earning topic online
- You think you can beat the competition (this is purely theoretical- in reality, the subject is TOTALLY exhausted online)
- You ask yourself: "Am I passionate about this subject? Is this an area in which I have unique expertise?"
- You realize the answer to those questions is a big resounding NO
- You move on to write an article about G. I. Joe figurines, which you happen to love and collect, and are delighted to see how wildly successful it becomes
If You Don't Have Any Experience with Mesothelioma, Try a Different Topic
Additional Tools and Considerations
Some Hubbers like to use additional tools to help them get inspiration and ideas for titles. Here are some helpful internal and external tools that are likely to provide inspiration.
HubPages Title Development Tools
- My Account > Stats: By looking at which of your articles are more successful, you can get a clearer grip on which titles do well and which titles are not so good (you might also discover certain subjects that do better than others). This can give you inspiration for future pieces and future high-potential titles.
- Hub Stats: By looking at statistics specific to a particular article, you can identify keywords that have lead to it. If you see a LOT of keywords that lead to one of your articles that are not super related to it, consider creating another piece with a title that contains that keyword.
External Title Development Tools
- The Google AdWords Keyword Planner: The Keyword Planner can provide some information on common terms people use when typing queries into Google and may offer inspiration. You will need to sign-in to your Google account to access the features.
- Google Trends: This tool can give you an idea of whether a keyword has been seeing more or fewer searches over time.
- Google Correlate: This feature, an offshoot of Google Trends, can help you find terms related to a particular keyword that might inspire new titles.
What is your favorite supplementary title development tool?
Examples of Great Titles
How to Make a Native American Dream Catcher by Austin Star
How to Teach a Young Man to Shave for the First Time by Denise Handlon
How to Coddle an Egg by Gordon Hamilton
How to Ask for a Job Transfer by Patty Inglish MS
Healthy Lunches for Preschoolers by RebekahElle
De-Skunking: Best Ways to Get Rid of Skunk Odor by Akirchner
Where is the Best Place to Live Off the Grid by Brie Hoffman
Tips for Processing Deer and Aging Deer Meat with Videos by Habee
Major Takeaways in Creating a Great Title
- Be passionate about your topic
- Create titles that contain terms people would use when conducting searches online
- Create titles that are short (four to ten words) and descriptive
- Research your title (and check the competition for your subject) before committing- it might be so extensively covered online that even an excellent article would not have a chance
- Feel free to use additional tools (such as Google Trends, etc.), but do not get bogged down with SEO techniques. Remember: successful articles are created for people, not search engines.
- Good titles MUST be backed up with equally useful, interesting, and unique content (more on that can be found in our Stellar Article guide)
You can always try changing your title/keywords if your article isn't getting as much traffic as you hoped. It's never too late to give your articles killer titles. Keep in mind that building traffic takes time, so we recommend giving each title 6 months to a year before trying something new.
A Note on Creating Titles for Social Media
While these tips are perfect for creating an article that is easy for your readers to find in search engines, some pieces might have topics that are more suitable for social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). Here are the types of content that tend to have more social potential:
- List articles (Top 10 lists, best or worst lists, "reasons why" lists, etc).
- Articles on current events like media, politics, or sports.
- Articles that explain everyday phenomenon (e.g. Why Diet Coke Tastes Better at McDonald's).
- Quick and easy how-to articles (e.g. Easy 2 Ingredient Brownie Recipe).
If you think your article is more likely to be successful on social media than through search engines, here are two quick tips on making titles for social success:
- Use numbers in your title where applicable (Top 10 Summer Movies, 5 Unusual Uses for Ice Cream).
- Make your audience feel good with an uplifting title (Moms, Chances Are You're Already Doing These Things Right, This Simple Trick Will Improve Your Productivity)