Americans equate “Canada” with “north”, but did you know that Point Pelee in Ontario is at the same latitude as northern California? Well, today's Globe and Mail reports that the southernmost tip of Point Pelee, about 800 metres (half a mile), has disappeared under the waves again, effectively moving the Canadian mainland slightly north.
So what does Point Pelee have to do with AdSense? Nothing at all, but today's topic of title baiting definitely does, and the title of this post is an example of title bait.
“Title baiting” is just another way of saying “write attention-grabbing titles”. It's a specialized kind of link baiting, which is writing sensational or controversial articles/postings in order to attract links. Title baiting is as old as the written word. Headlines like Madonna in Surgery Nightmare at the National Enquirer are meant to entice us.
Writing attention-grabbing titles is a bit of an art form, in fact. Many people don't realize that the headlines they see in their daily newspapers are not written by the reporters who write the articles, but by dedicated headline writers whose job is to make the reader want to read an article.
You have TWO titles to worry about
One thing that's different about web pages, though, is that you have two titles to worry about: the page title (specified via the <title> tag) and the top-level heading (specified via the <h1> tag). Both are extremely important, but they address different audiences:
- The top-level heading is what the user sees when they land on a page. How many times do you actually look at your browser's title bar (which is where the page title is found) when you're surfing the web? Almost never, I bet. So you need to make that top-level heading, the first heading they see, prominent and attractive.
- The page title is what the user sees on the search engine results pages (SERPs). A good title here is often what entices someone to click the link and visit your site.
A common strategy, of course, is to make the page title and the top-level heading identical. This is certainly how most blogs work these days, and changing that is probably not something most bloggers can do. But if you're building a non-blog site, you do have more flexibility in differentiating your page titles from the top-level headings.
The fine art of keyword insertion
The hardest thing about writing good titles, though, is having them include the appropriate keywords. SEO 101 tells us that we should use keywords in the page title and in the top-level heading, not just in the page content. By that measure, this posting fails SEO 101 because it's missing the keywords “title baiting” or “title bait”. But I'm not really sure how I would include them in a headline about Canada losing its southernmost point to the ravages of the weather. But this posting is kind of a special case: I was using the title to make a point.
The trick, of course, is to use keywords without making the title sound awkward or stilted. Or, at least, not making the top-level heading sound that way. An argument can be made for making the keywords in the page title more prominent, because on the SERPs the titles are shown with page text and the additional context may be enough to entice the visitor to click the link despite the weird-looking or awkward-sounding title.
Where to find help
There are courses and books available about headline writing, but you can find a lot of good resources for free with a bit of searching. Articles and tutorials for journalism students and rookie reporters are your best bet initially, like this little gem listing words that simplify the grammar of a headline or these headline hints by Joel Pisetzner. A search on “newspaper headline writing” will bring up many interesting and useful articles.
Eric Giguere is the contextual advertising expert who wrote Make Easy Money with Google and Uncommon AdSense. You can read this blog by mail if it's more convenient for you, just send a blank email to email@example.com to subscribe.