In the age of mobile internet, writing excellent titles matters more than anything. It is the key to building an audience online. The difference in a strong title and a weak title is significant. Title writing creates the currency of the mobile web, engagement.
Engaging titles help build momentum towards establishing an audience but come with a tradeoff. They attract wider audiences as opposed to niche and wider audiences are harder to keep captive. When establishing an audience, this tradeoff is important to understand.
To build audience growth, the compromise of getting increased engagement at the start helps get access to a wider audience. Casting a wide net early provide exposure and ultimately will help get the right audience in front of the ideal content. It’s not an ideal strategy.
In a perfect setting, I would leverage SEO and niche communities to get targeted content in front of the right people. But starting from scratch and attempting to prototype fast requires short cuts and tradeoffs. The compromise I make is casting the widest possible net with engaging titles but also trying to promote and drive engagement in niche communities.
But this learning experience raises the question of how does a person get good at writing titles? It’s been tough to find quality resources for crafting titles. So, the only option to move forward with is experimentation.
- Define the target audience for each piece of content – both broadly and the ultimate niche group I’m trying to attract
- Using the audience profiles, script 3 to 5 titles for each essay – I’m aiming to use key words that appeals to these psychographics
- Rank the titles in order of widest appeal to least – this will be speculative at first
- Test for 3 days – this seems to be shelf life of essay visibility on Medium
- If the title gets traction – save the key words for reuse
- If it fails to get traction – delete article and repost with one of the other titles
- Keep a list of bad titles. Try to analyze commonalities and differences with successful titles – a bad title graveyard
- What do other writers do? Track the titles that work on me, the ones that get me to click even though they feel like clickbait. Write down the emotions and trigger feelings that get me to click. What is the language that cultivated those feelings? Track the language. What do the authors with high follow counts use? What are the legitimate standards that publications I admire use? As an example, I view myself as within the target audience and enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal. I can track these headlines and other sources of mainstream but popular content.
- Track, Learn, and Iterate. This is a prototyping process and the goal is a reduced Time to Learn
Measuring the outcome of this experiment is important for this process to be beneficial. I will view a successful experiment in terms of an increased article view count and an increase in “read” counts. Ie: the read ratio should increase.
This does not necessarily mean the time read will improve. The internal mechanics are a different beast and may suffer as a result of funneling a wider and less interested audience to the content. My aim is to gather data on my ability to get more eyes on the guts of my writing. If I can make this work I’ll be able to better experiment with opening paragraphs to drive better read times.
I have 3 or 4 essays that I plan to publish this week and I plan to experiment with this process, re-tweaking it on the fly . I’ll post a follow up process next week with lessons learned from the results.