How to Write Better Article Titles with Bigger Impact

Zac Johnson

When you’re constantly vying for the attention of your fellow Internet user with an equally short attention span, the title or headline of your article can make all the difference. As they scroll through their social media feeds or search engine results pages, you literally have fractions of a second to captivate their interest. You need to stand out and that means thinking outside the box from time to time.

You’ve surely come across the same old boring article titles again and again. “5 Ways for College Students to Save Money” follows a tried and true formula… except everyone else is using the same formula. By writing more engaging headlines for your articles, you can enjoy a much greater impact on your website, including more clicks, more reads, more engagement, and — in the case of your marketing or monetization efforts — more conversions too. So, how can you do it?

1. Be Ultra Specific

The common problem that you’ll find with many blog post titles is that they can be far too general. The writers are trying to catch the attention of a wide audience, because they don’t want to alienate anyone. Ironically, this ends up turning off a large majority of prospective readers, because a general title is a boring title. Instead, try being much more specific. Taking the example of the college students saving money, for example, you might consider something like the following:

  • How I lived on less than $1,000 a month during college
  • How college students can cut $500 off a monthly budget
  • 12 easy tips to eat cheap in college (no instant noodles!)

2. Get Personal for Broad Appeal

Generic advice written from a generic perspective for a generic audience can only get a generic response. That is to say, it’s boring and no one cares. The stories that will always resonate the most with audiences are the ones that are deeply personal. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, the more you can speak to your specific experience, the more widely your story will resonate with a larger audience.

The example above about how I lived on less than $1,000 makes the story much more personable and relatable than if the title read, “How to live on less than $1,000 a month during college.” Insert yourself into the story. Or, barring that, you can also be very personal by sharing the story and perspective of a specific other person.

3. Add a Popular Point of Reference

This relates to the first point about being specific, but applied in a different kind of way. Again, the goal here is to resonate with audiences as much as possible, enticing them to click and read on based solely on your article headline. If we were to use the college example again, you may include a point of reference — like a celebrity or a recent news story — as part of your “hook.” Take a look at these titles:

  • 10 big money insights for college students… from Scrooge McDuck
  • What the 2020 presidential election means for college money saving tactics
  • Take the MCU Phase 4 approach to college savings

4. Tease the Temptation

On the one hand, being specific, relatable and personal with your headlines can attract the right kind of attention and make a real impact on your click-thru rate. On the other hand, Internet users can’t help but to click when curiosity gets the best of them. Remember that it’s not clickbait if your article title is still reasonably representative of the article itself.

  • Most college students don’t know about this easy money saving hack
  • How to forget about money problems during college
  • The cheapest college path with the biggest upside is right here

While the old adage may have taught us that if we build it, they will come, that is not at all the case when it comes to the Internet. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if no one ever reads it. Of the three elements that online users may see first — headline, featured image, excerpt — the headline is arguably the most important. Don’t skimp on it and dare to think outside the box.