Most people will see the title of your content first — depending on the context, it might be accompanied by a line or two of copy to round out the title. But there’s a good chance that the title of your blog post or whitepaper will be the only basis that a reader uses when they’re deciding whether or not to click.
There are lots of factors that go into making a good blog title, but one phenomenon that seems to be rising in popularity is headlines that take the form of a question. Here’s why you might want to do the same.
Questions Create Intrigue
There’s no denying it — reading a question makes us want to know the answer. Are white-collar workers the future of unions? How do we raise boys with a broader definition of masculinity? What’s the best hike in every state? Reading questions like those causes us to conjure answers in our minds as to what the answers might be, so we want to click on the headline to see if we’re right.
People Search For Questions
Not so long ago, you had to be very specific with your search terms if you wanted to use Google. Boolean operators like AND and OR were vitally important, as well as dashes, quotation marks, and the order of words.
Then came Hummingbird. In 2013, in response to the tendency of websites to “stuff” their content with keywords, Google released a major algorithm update called Hummingbird that shifted emphasis to normal speech. Now, instead of searching for something like “mexican food AND event space +denver,” you can search for “what’s the best mexican restaurant to have my birthday party” and get relevant results.
Today’s web users are increasingly used to searching with “natural language” — the way they’d talk to a normal person. They’re also not necessarily using jargon. Web users are more likely to search for “how do I get more website visitors” than “increase web traffic through social media click through.” By keeping your finger on the pulse of what people search for, you can take advantage of people’s natural speech patterns in your headlines.
Not All Questions Are Good Headlines
A headline in the form of a question should be specific enough that it’s only coming up in relevant search results — the whole idea of inbound marketing is that you’re only attracting the attention of people who are genuinely interested in what you do.
What you don’t want to do is write headlines that are so specific or so outlandish that the answer feels obvious. Something like “Will This New Gadget Save You 90% Of Your Gas Costs?” just sounds unreasonable and deceptive.
Finally, make sure you answer the question. Remember, people were drawn in because they wanted to know the answer to the question you posed in your headline — if you don’t provide an answer, they’ll feel cheated.
What Kind Of Question Should You Ask?
Yes Or No Questions
Betteridge’s Law Of Headlines says that if a headline is posed as a yes-or-no question, the answer is no. The idea is that you can create the intrigue of an unanswered question by asking almost anything, even if the answer is no.
Obviously, this idea can be abused with absurd clickbait like “Was Elvis Spotted At Coachella?” But that doesn’t mean the phrasing can’t still be intriguing. A headline framed as a question, like “Does Facebook’s New Algorithm Spell The End Of Digital Marketing?” can still make you wonder why the question was even asked. What’s going on with Facebook? And why might someone think it’s bad for marketing?
Open-ended questions are the ones your visitors and customers are most likely to be asking. What’s the best email client for my business? How often should I post to Twitter? How do I increase email conversion? By creating headlines with open-ended questions, you’ll appeal to people who are looking for those answers.
Matters Of Opinion
Another great way to get attention to your page and foster a community between you and your customers is to draw in readers with a blog post that shares a personal opinion on a topic. By asking the question in the title and stating your opinion in the body of the blog itself, as opposed to simply stating an opinion in the headline, you invite others to weigh in and answer the question in their own way.
Don’t Overdo It
Not every headline you post from here on should take the form of a question. Part of your role as a content creator is to establish expertise and thought leadership on a topic, and assertive statements convey that confidence better than questions. But do questions have their place in content? Absolutely.