This post is about headlines in general, and also using titles in WordPress sites to maximise the visibility of your pages and posts. “Title” is a more generally used term on the web than “headline”. On websites, the title also has special functions, associated with search visibility.
Why are headlines important?
The headline on your page (whether in print or online) will be the most-read part of the content. 80% of readers don’t make it beyond the headline, so it pays to put time and effort into writing better headlines that will encourage your reader to delve into the rest of the page.
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
– David Ogilvy, advertising doyen
Titles on website pages have special functions
On websites there are several things to consider with page titles and headlines.
Different heading levels
Firstly, there are different levels of heading. Your web page or post should have only one H1 level headline or title, so search engines don’t get confused about the main intent of the page content. It can have any number of H2, H3 and so on headings on the page. On this page, the H1 headline is “Tips for Writing Headlines & WordPress Titles”, the numbered subheadings are H2, and the unnumbered subheadings are H3. It’s a good idea to have a hierarchical structure like this for your page, as content that has a good semantic arrangement scores better in search results.
Keywords and titles
Include the focus keyword for your page or post in the H1 page title, and also in at least one other H2 or H3 level subheader. I’ve done this with this post. I always use the free Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress sites to manage the search optimising aspects of creating page titles.
Remember that all your content should be mapped to keywords for SEO purposes. Aim to write an eight-word, unambiguous headline that includes the focus keyword for the content. The title might consist of a long-tail keyword that you’ve researched and found to be specific to your content. In all cases, try to get your keyword as near to the start of the title as possible.
A closer look at WordPress titles
A title tag is part of the “snippet” that you can set up in the Yoast SEO plugin. This lets search engines know what information you want to show online about a post or page. The main thing to remember is that the snippet is your opportunity to grab the attention of your prospects, and encourage them to click through from the title to your page.
Here’s a screenshot of a snippet for one of our pages, set up in the plugin, and how it renders in Google search results:
Pleasingly, we score the leading organic search result on page 1 of Google for the query “web content writer wellington”. The Search algorithm lists the result even with the variation from “writer” in the query to “writing” in the title tag, which is the clickable dark blue title.
Our main keyword occurs at the beginning of the tag, followed by a secondary keyword. The main keyword is also reflected in the url, and both keywords are included in the meta-description, which is the 154-character blurb beneath the url. You can include more characters in the “meta”. These will be available to Search, but if you stick to 154 characters, the whole meta will be visible at first glance.
If you get all the important information in your title within 60 characters, this will ensure that the important words will be seen. You can have more characters (like as many as 73) in the title, but there’s no guarantee that Google will display them all.
Note that sometimes Google will choose to display the site name as well as the title tag in the result for your Home page. It might look a bit awkward, but the upside is that it means Google is recognising your business name.
Titles displayed on social media, and other tips
I often create posts on social media that link to pages and posts on websites. I’ve noticed that on some social media sites such as LinkedIn, the preview picks up the title from the page title itself rather than the snippet set up in the Yoast plugin.
In the screenshot above, the preview originally displayed “Home” instead of the much more preferable “Leonie Snook … “. What you need to do is go into the Home page on the site and enter the full title you want to display in the H1 headline. Then go into Appearance > Menus and re-set the menu title for the page to Home.
In the Yoast SEO plugin, you can also use the Facebook and Twitter settings to vary the title and other content to display. I generally prefer to keep things simple and use the same selection across all platforms.
It’s a good idea to upload a Featured Image to your page of at least 1200 x 630 pixels. This is the minimum recommended size for Facebook posts of the main image you want to associate with your page.
If you make changes to the title on-site and then want to see the new preview on LinkedIn, clear the cache on there by adding ?50 or a similar large number, or ?latest at the end of the url you post. LinkedIn provides further assistance with their Post Inspection tool.
Extra title tips
Try starting with a number
According to marketing research, one of the best ways to start a title for a blog post is with a number, like: “9 Ways You Can Destroy Your Perfect Marriage”. Women are more disposed toward a headline beginning with a number than men.
Conversion rates (the proportion of visitors to your website who take a desired action) are much higher with headlines that begin with a number, especially an odd number.
Go to the dark side, and play it cool
To achieve the best impact with your title, it pays to be a bit understated, and negative words fare better than positive words. Strange, huh? 9 Ways You Can Ruin Your Perfect Marriage” fits the bill. But “9 Best and Surest Ways Ever to Save Your Perfect Marriage” overkills on the superlatives, is too positive, and a bit too long.
There’s an exception to every rule of course, and in this case it’s if you think no one will have the faintest idea who you are. A headline or title written for this situation should be much longer (16 to 18 words long) and more explanatory.
The most important words in your title or headline are the first couple of words and also the last few. People seem to pay less attention to what happens in the middle.
Making use of curated content, brand storytelling, and case studies. More >
Some ways you can judge if your page content is valuable for your customers. More >
Get in touch if you’d like to discuss more about setting up titles and headlines so they catch the attention of customers and search engines.