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Why Are Titles Important?
In the realm of online content, your title is typically the most important component of your article when it comes to determining whether your work will gain readership or languish in obscurity.
Most readers find your articles through search engines. If your titles are not search-friendly, they are not likely to get much (if any) search traffic. 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 looking for info on a particular subject. For instance, the search phrase "how to tie a bow tie" may yield results with titles like "3 Methods of Tying a Bow Tie").
In general, you'll want to craft simple, easy-to-understand titles that will rank on search engines and attract readers. In the following sections, we'll dive into some of the more detailed aspects of creating an effective title.
In This Article
- Choosing a Subject and Doing Keyword Research
- Making Your Title Short and Descriptive
- Following Google's Recommendations
- Demonstrating Genuine Interest and Passion
- Title-Crafting Examples
- Examples of Good Titles
- HubPages Title-Development Tools
- External Title-Development Tools
- Major Title-Crafting Takeaways
Choosing a Subject and Doing Keyword Research
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.
If you think you can do better than the search results, write an article! To have a high potential for success, the title you create must also address a subject about which you are genuinely passionate.
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 some relevant 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 keywords in the title of one of the first three non-ad results, and the content 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 yields a lot of product-based results (your article is not likely to rank above them).
- the query yields a lot of location-based results like maps and local listings (your article will likely end up buried below them).
- the query yields 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 one of your main keywords 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 covers 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 Your Title Short and Descriptive
When crafting a title, start by asking yourself the question, "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 keywords you should incorporate into your title. Once you have an idea of what keywords you would like to include, consider adding any additional words you might need to make the title sound natural and conversational.
Just Be Sure to . . .
- keep your title below 60 characters in length.
- try to add additional words in addition to the target keyword.
- try checking what your title will look like in search results by using the SERP Preview Tool.
Following Google's Recommendations
Over the years, it has become apparent that Google and other search engines aim to show results that will allow its users to find the answers to their questions as easily as possible. The following are recommendations and best practices from Google and other SEO aficionados.
Google Recommends . . .
- 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 in plain, easy-to-understand language.
- choosing a title that is brief, descriptive, and informative.
- considering the target audience of your article and determining what words they would likely use when conducting searches on your 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 something like "cold blue hands" than "Reynaud's" into Google).
A Good Title Is 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, check out their official guide.
Demonstrating Genuine Interest and Passion
As discussed in the HubPages Help article about succeeding in online content creation, one of the biggest factors determining the long-term success of an article (that also has a search-friendly title and can beat the present competition) is the author's genuine interest and 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 the following questions:
- Am I passionate about this subject?
- Do I have any unique expertise in this subject?
If you do not really care about the subject (i.e., 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 information and experience from 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 Witten by Someone With Passion and 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 for most people to find.
Articles Written by Someone Without Experience and Interest Tend to Be . . .
- lacking in original photos (instead filled with stock images or clipart).
- full of fluff (filler text not providing any useful information).
- filled with information and advice that exist elsewhere online.
Based on these factors, it should come as no surprise that articles written by people with passion and experience tend to perform much better than articles written simply to make money.
Let's go over a few example article ideas so we can examine the title-crafting process in action. We'll start with an article idea, then work our way to crafting a short, descriptive, and effective title.
Article About How People Dressed in Ancient Roman Times
- Ask yourself: "How would I search for information on that subject?"
- Phrases like "Ancient Roman Clothes" and "How Did Ancient Romans Dress?" may come to mind.
- After some research, you decide you want to include the phrase "Ancient Roman Clothing."
- You want to add more detail to the title, so you make it "Ancient Roman Clothing: Fabrics, Styles, and Accessories."
- You check the character count of the title to make sure it does not exceed 60 characters. It is only 56 characters, so it's ok!
Article About a Pumpkin Pie Recipe
- 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 well-known, 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 From the 50s," or "How to Make Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie From Scratch."
Article About Mesothelioma
- You hear that mesothelioma is a high-earning topic online.
- You think you can beat the competition (this is purely theoretical—in reality, this 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.
Examples of Good Titles
- How to Teach a Young Man to Shave for the First Time
- The 5 Best Non-Lethal Traps for Mice and Rats
- How to Ask Your Manager for a Job Transfer
- Healthy Lunches for Gluten-Sensitive Preschoolers
- De-Skunking: Best Ways to Get Rid of Skunk Odor at Home
- How to Shop in Bulk for Weekly Meal Planning
- What Are the Best Places to Live Off the Grid?
- Tips for Processing Deer and Aging Deer Meat With Videos
HubPages Title-Development Tools
- My Account > Stats: By looking at which of your articles are the most successful, you can get a clearer understanding of 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 high-potential titles.
- Hub Stats: By looking at statistics specific to a particular article, you can identify some of the keywords that lead people to it. If you see a lot of keywords that lead to one of your articles but are not extensively covered in it, consider creating another piece with a title that contains that keyword.
External Title-Development Tools
- Google AdWords Keyword Planner: Google's 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.
Major Title-Crafting Takeaways
- 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/under 60 characters) 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 genuinely useful, interesting, and unique content (more on this can be found in the HubPages Help guide to creating a stellar article).