Dog Reading the PaperLast month I wrote about using the year to create exceptional content marketing and each month I’ll focus on one aspect of producing effective content marketing. In this post, we’ll look at writing better titles. Why should you care? Well, a lot is riding on your title — whether your post will rank high in Google search, whether your article will get read, whether readers will feel engaged with your content, whether your article will help you gain the trust of your customers and so on.

This small collection of words has quite a bit of influence on how far your work will reach, so how can you hone the skill of writing titles and headlines that generate goodwill and affinity? Although some writers and marketers may tell you that there are surefire ways to do all of the above, the fact is that there is no foolproof way to create titles that hit the mark 100% of the time. What you can do is work on developing tools that help you refine and enhance your titles, so that you can improve your skills at generating headlines that grab your audience’s attention.

You might be tempted to use exploitative tactics to grab your readers’ attention, but if you use them over and over again, your audience becomes of aware of the ploy and may shy away from your content. Feel free to use them on occasion or when circumstances require them. In the long run, you will be better served by cultivating your ability to write attractive headlines than by using manipulative techniques. All of your copy benefits when you progress as a writer, so by focusing on cultivating your title skills, your writing will thoroughly improve. Here are six tips to get you started:

Create a file of headlines that grab your attention.

As you go through your day, you probably see an abundance of headlines through your surfing, emails, social media profiles, and at the newsstand. This month, pay attention to all the headlines and titles you see and create a file where you store all the ones that get your attention.

Now, many titles that get your attention may not inspire you to read the article (think of the magazines at the grocery store checkout — how many of those do you pick up and buy?), but ask yourself: why did they grab your attention? Separate the ones that get your attention and the ones that inspire you to read and analyze the difference between the two. It is also very important to investigate influencers in your industry and other prominent writers to study their titles for inspiration.

Try to pique curiosity.

The way you phrase your topic will incite interest or not. It is okay to try to engage your readers’ fascination. If you look at the your inspiration file, you will probably see many instances where the title makes a promise or an invitation to the reader. Just as a good subject line in an email or a brief, but tantalizing text results in a fast response, your headline is the preface of your article. If you set the goal of tempting your readers, you are more likely to connect with them.

Use variety to keep your audience engaged.

One of the main reasons you need to cultivate the skill of writing better titles is so you can add variety to your headlines. Humans are creatures of habit, and we all have the tendency to return to patterns to which we are accustomed. Think about the way you drive to the grocery store or gym. You probably take the same route day after day. While that’s fine for driving, it is death for writing, especially when you compose titles. You must work to present an assortment of great titles to inspire your audience to engage deeply.

Write multiple titles for each article

Another way to force yourself to grow in your ability to write better titles is to write multiple headlines for each of your articles this month. Set the goal to write several different style titles and push yourself to explore different styles. Some writers find that attempting to write in the style of popular magazines really gets the creative juices flowing. Find several great sources that you want to emulate and mimic their style over and over again to decode their style and then shape the offbeat titles you generate into possible contenders. Give yourself the space to be outrageous. Remember that this is an exercise to help your headline muscles grow.

Test your titles

You can analyze your titles by plugging them into your favorite search engine to see how many related pages come up or by using quotation marks to isolate your specific phrasing. If you are getting numerous results, you may want to remove that particular title from contention. Other means of testing your titles include using your favorite one for the article, but then playing with the phrasing when posting to Twitter or Facebook. In this way, you can actively gauge which title causes people to click through and you will gain insight to powerful titles that work.

Deliver what you promise

Make sure your blog post or article communicates what you have promised in your shining and seductive title. If you promise the stars in your title, then you must deliver the stars in your piece. There should be a balance between the writing and the headline. If your title is majestic, but your prose feeble, your readers may feel cheated. Bring careful consideration and creativity to both the title and body of your post, so that readers feel satisfied and develop trust in your content.