Crocodile ate my Title! Why are Headlines so Important?

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 20th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1c94943e/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

What is so very important about page titles or summaries? Did you know that you probably have about a tenth of a second to impress a person looking at their search results, unimpressed and they will move on and ignore you. There is a very good reason why the title has to stand out.

Gotcha! or Not?

During the Falklands War in 1982 British newspaper "The Sun" used a famous and patriotic headline "Gotcha" when British forces sunk one of the Argentinian vessels that controlled much of the area around the Falkland Islands after Argentina took control of the islands that year. This headline captured the patriotism and jingoistic fervour of the editorial staff of that particular newspaper, it also struck a chord with a certain section of the British public at that time.

It may not have the same impact as a newspaper headline, but when you write an article do you ask yourself whether the title will bring up the right emotions in the people who you hope will read your article. Remember this, the title is the first opportunity you have to interact with your perspective reader, and that is an important part of converting them and convincing them to read on.

PICTURE THIS you sit down in front of your favourite search engine and you type a phrase for something you need to find out more information about, ignoring the sponsored links and advertising, you look through the search results and you will see three things:

  • The page title, and
  • The first 160 characters of the page summary
  • A visual image

The combination of both of these is what the reader has to make their mind up on, should they read or ignore? remember it is all about the reader, you probably have about a tenth of a second to impress them, if not they will move on, so the title is vitally important for every article you write, it helps you reel the reader in.

Grab their Attention!

As mentioned at the beginning of this article newspapers, particularly the tabloids, are the experts a creating a powerful title, but they also know that the front page sells newspapers from the news-stands, it's that "Gotcha" or "You're Out!" that catches the eye, which is also particularly assisted by a great visual image over which the title is printed.

Look at any Toronto newspaper in 2013 and 2014 and you will see the image of Mayor Rob Ford as an almost constant reminder of the antics of the man who seems to be the comic strip of politics at the current time, make an appropriate headline for the specific day and tell me that does not sell newspapers. Each and every outburst grabs peoples attention for better or worse, sure they may be asking "what now?" but it sells newspapers and the publishers did not have to pay him to do it.

The truth is if you are selling your articles on the web (because lets be honest every writer that publishes on the web is trying to sell their articles, either for the money, or for the recognition, or perhaps both) and that is why the headline matters so very much. When I first told a trusted friend of my intention to write a blog, he told my that I write in a well understood manner, but what I needed to do was challenge the mind and nowhere is this more true than when creating a title for any article. It is a fact that more people will read "Man Bites Bear" than "Bear Bites Man" which is the more likely event to happen.

Rob Ford image courtesy CBC 2013.

Hold Their Attention

I have to thank the UK Daily Mail for this picture, but it is pertinent because so much of what we humans do is about imagery, they say that a picture paints a thousands words and the truth is that Google is giving a multi-sensory response to our search results today. The other aspect about holding peoples attention is in the first 160 characters of the page summary, that appear just underneath the article title in the search results, just take a look at the following search results for "crocodile soup":

Crocodile Soup

It is amazing how many unrelated things you find on such a peculiar search, but visual images appear for most results and If you were interested in the novel by Julia Darling then the answer is clear for all to see and we already can get a sense about the main character Gert Hardcastle.

Who Will Read This? Why Titles Matter

Marilyn Davis makes the point "writers have to use common sense, discretion and a little creativity in their titles, yet still deliver on the content and be searchable" for a modern internet based writer to succeed they do have to do so many jobs, I doubt the journalist that came up with the "Gotcha" story had to worry about the title, they knew that was the editor's role, they just provided the words that told to story of what happened, to write on-line today you have to be:

  • copy writer
  • fact checker
  • proofreader
  • keyword creator
  • editor
  • publisher, and most importantly
  • headline creator

Where did you get the training to do all of that?

Marilyn Davis also points out that "websites and articles now show up (on Google) based more on how people search" so it is advisable to ask questions in your title, and in your page summary. Truth is when the content available fulfills the needs of a reader they will stay and tune in to what you offer, get it wrong and they will pass you by in a flash, ultimately titles matter because they connect you with your reader.

Crocodile ate my Title!

Ever seen a crocodile eat anything? They are quite ferocious indeed to some extent they are just like the average ferocious internet reader. Indeed "crocodile ate my title" sounds somewhat like an excuse for homework not being handed in. Well "Crocodile ate my title! The Importance of a Good title" was the title of an article that I published about this subject on another site in January 2012, sadly that site has removed the article forcing my hand in re-publishing it based on memory, experience and updated knowledge - you may find the title but not the article.

To date the author (Peter B. Giblett) has published a wide variety articles on many subjects here on Wikinut plus others on a variety of other sites, these are the most recent articles published...

Each person has a unique voice and Wikinut is great a place for you to share some of your wisdom, insight and knowledge, you could start by adding a comment, but perhaps you need something more in which case you should join Wikinut, write then become connected to others who share a passion for writing, supporting one another, and learning on Wikinut.

Tags

All About The Reader, Crocodile Ate My Title, Gotcha, Grab Their Attention, Headline, Hold Their Attention, Ignore, Page Title, Read, Reel The Reader In, Selling Your Articles, Standing Out, Visual Appeal, Visual Image

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
21st Feb 2014 (#)

Good evening, Peter. Well done and clever. I also appreciate the link and mention within your article very much. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
21st Feb 2014 (#)

Nice and interesting post!

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
21st Feb 2014 (#)

great piece this Peter...

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author avatar Mariah
21st Feb 2014 (#)

Important points of direction Peter, extremely useful and relevant information for all writers.
Thank you

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author avatar joyalariwo
21st Feb 2014 (#)

Point taken Peter... thanks

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author avatar Retired
21st Feb 2014 (#)

There is great information in this article. It really is important to grab a persons attention if we want them to read our articles.

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author avatar Sylvia
21st Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you Peter for a very informative article. Makes sense.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
22nd Feb 2014 (#)

Good points, Peter. Web readers are an impatient bunch. You got to grab their attention quickly or else they are gone.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
22nd Feb 2014 (#)

Whoops. It should have read: you have got to grab their attention. Sorry for the grammatical error.

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author avatar adeel akhtar
23rd Feb 2014 (#)

Very nice but I really big fear from crocodile.

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author avatar Retired
23rd Feb 2014 (#)

A very clear and informative article, Peter. Good titles are probably one of my many failings as a writer. About crocodiles. When my children were very young I used to tell them that they should keep their arms and legs in the bed lest the crocodiles that live under the bed get them. They never believed me, but often said goodnight to the imaginary crocodiles. being smart, my kids asked me how a fat crocodile could live under a bed. I told him they were the very flat kind, and could just as easily live under a carpet.

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author avatar Retired
23rd Feb 2014 (#)

I must learn to pay more attention to editing what I write in responses!

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author avatar Randhir Bechoo
23rd Feb 2014 (#)

Interesting share.

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author avatar Grant Peterson
23rd Feb 2014 (#)

Interesting and well researched. Certainly the tabloids know how to create a headline, I remember The Sun's "Gotcha!" but the front cover was different to the one shown, but what a jingoistic headline that is, but you are right about its power and today any Fordism will sell newspapers.

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author avatar Kingwell
5th Mar 2014 (#)

Very interesting and informative. Thanks Peter

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