Coming up with a compelling or clever headline is an art, and it’s not as easy as it sounds—particularly if your objective is to attract and please both humans and search engines.
The first rule for writing a compelling headline is to look at the project with a creative eye. Pretend you’re the reader and imagine what would draw you in. The idea is to grasp your readers’ attention and make them not only read the piece, but share it with others in their community.
When pondering the proposed prose in your headline, consider the following:
- Is this headline as dull as dirt?
- Does it grab the reader?
- Does it make you want to read more?
- Can it be controversial in some way?
- Will it drive social sharing online?
- Are there creative or relevant pop culture references that might work, or catchy turns of phrase that fit the subject matter?
- Is the headline making false promises? In other words, are you delivering on the promise of the headline?
Of course, a relevant keyword or phrase should be included, and it’s ideal to place that information as close to the start of the headline as possible. That said, it should never feel forced. A compelling headline has to work as a lure. And trying to make something fit where it just doesn’t will work to your detriment when it comes to your audience and other potential readers.
Domain Authority Ranking
Once you’re confident your headline speaks to your audience and entices them to click, it’s time to put on your strategic headgear. Your objective is to let certain search engines know you are an expert on the topic you’re putting out there.
Here are four steps that can let the world’s best-known search engine know that you’re an expert, and help you prove it with a high domain authority ranking, based on the content you choose to publish:
1. Check your topic/headline/keyword/phrase in the Google keyword planner. Don’t be scared off when it asks you to sign in to your Google AdSense account. Just sign in as if it were your Gmail account. Note: For this exercise, we used the term PR metrics as the topic to write a blog post around because—for the topic "PR metrics"—the blog Spin Sucks is one of the best in the industry. When you use the Google keyword planner and type in "PR metrics," there are 50 monthly searches and the competition is medium. If our site authority were low, we’d choose a different keyword. But, because the Spin Sucks domain authority is high, medium competition is doable.
2. Do an “incognito” Google search. Using the Chrome browser, in the top-right corner of the browser window, touch the menu icon, then select New Incognito Window. This will allow you to see what people outside of your sphere of influence see when they search. (Note: We typed “PR metrics” in the search bar.)
3. Install the MozBar from Moz. MozBar is a free extension that’s available for both Chrome and Firefox, which streamlines your search engine optimization efforts while you surf the Web. Use the MozBar to determine the domain authority of all websites on the first page of search results.
4. Create a spreadsheet. Add the blog or news site in the first column, its domain authority in the second, and whether you can compete in the third. In Increase Targeted Website Traffic in 10 Steps, Andy Crestodina, Web strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media, offers a great visual that shows where and how you should compete.
Crestodina explains, "Your site is a runner, a cyclist, a driver or a pilot. And every key phrase is a marathon, a bike race, or a car race. Don’t expect to win a bike race on foot, or a car race on a bicycle. But if you’re on a bike, you’ll win every marathon every time."
If your site’s domain authority is 45, for instance, you shouldn’t try to compete with any site higher than 60. You can check this by installing the MozBar extension and pulling up your site or by going to Open Site Explorer.
Putting It All Together
The domain authority for Spin Sucks is 70, which means—if you look at the image above—it can compete with sites up to 80. Once the site hits a domain authority of 80, a car cannot beat a helicopter, so Spin Sucks cannot compete.
Using this information and the knowledge that we can compete for rankings on "PR metrics," we sat down to write a compelling headline. Here’s what we came up with:
- PR Metrics: You Have to Do Real Math
- The 10 Things to Consider with PR Metrics
- Which PR Metrics to Track Every Week
- What Kim Kardashian Taught Me about PR Metrics
- Your Campaign Will Die if You Don’t Use these PR Metrics Now
As you get used to this approach, you won’t have to create the spreadsheet. You’ll just scan the domain authority of the sites listed on the first page of your search results and make a quick, but informed, decision.
Now it’s your turn.
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Photo: Getty Images