According to the Jesse Stoler Council on Made Up Economics, cinema has been one of America’s top exports for the last decade (others include chemicals and NSA whistleblowers). Of course, when our films are screened around the globe, the titles can get Meetings and Failures in Meetings (thank Portugal for that meta title).
Thank China for the first title: the Chinese are officially the only people that rival M. Night Shyamalan at ruining a twist ending. Thank Italy for the second title: congratulations on reducing the greatest film of the new century to nothing more than a Facebook spat. And thank Peru for the third title; now I know that the Peruvians have such a fundamental misunderstanding of the reproductive system they could run for the United States Congress.
All of these titles would have left potential audience members astray. Link builders know that the wrong title in a pitch can leave webmasters astray in the same way. As I’ve said in previous posts, outreach is the crux of link building. Since the dawn of guest posting, webmasters have seen countless pitches that clearly took all the energy of moving fingers from Ctrl+C to Ctrl+V.
Webmasters are eager to see pitches that show even a modicum of personality. What they’re also looking for are titles that are going to pique the interest of their readership. Webmasters, and yes the Google referees even, are looking for content with a purpose; content that will get shared.
So how do you come up with such titles in your pitch? Thankfully, there are a few tips.
The term “newsjacking” may just sound like the standard business practice for The Huffington Post, but it’s also a term that defines a way to come up with titles. Newsjacking is a simple concept: stay on top of the news in your niche, take the tidbits from the news that are trending and then turn that news into your very own title/guest post.
Obviously, this is easier with some niches more so than others. There’s not a lot of breaking news in, say, napkins. “Two Napkinmen Hold Employees in Condiment Factory Hostage” is not a headline you are likely to see any time in the near future (although I think we can all agree that stringent regulations on assault napkins are vital).
Newsjacking can definitely be stretched though. Think about all of the places that napkins need to be used. What did you come up with? If the answer is everywhere, you win! Narrow it down to the first place now. I’m thinking restaurants. The restaurant industry IS liable to be the subject of highly visible news.
These are two recent headlines about how the Affordable Care Act (you know, the bill’s real name) is potentially forcing restaurateurs to cut costs. There’s potential here for the napkin client to exploit this. A small business site’s webmaster might be intrigued by a title that doesn’t focus solely on the human element involved; perhaps a title that focuses on all those other ingredients that dictate a restaurant’s functionality, like chairs, straws, or hey, napkins!
“Controlling the ‘Small’ Costs of Your Small Business: Saving On Napkins, Straws and Chairs in the Face of Obamacare”
And there you have it: the first time napkins have been in the headlines since… somebody want to help me here? There’s a comment section at the bottom for a reason.
Point/counterpoint isn’t entirely dissimilar to newsjacking. Point/counterpoint also happens to be a term I’m making up for this particular tactic, since I’ve never come across a name for it (Don’t you dare try to sue me 60 Minutes)!
Let’s say you come across a link prospect that publishes an abundance of opinion pieces. Scour the recent content to see what’s been commented on and what’s been retweeted/liked. Opinion pieces are more liable to get a rise out of commenters and be shared socially; readers like content that takes a stance, even if it’s not a particularly controversial one.
After finding a particular article on that site, why not offer the webmaster the opposing view?
A smart webmaster should love contrasting opinion pieces. The internet is the refuge for the argumentative (much to the dismay of many). So to use the above hypothetical, a title that would be best suited for that link prospect would be something like:
“You’re Gonna Hear Us Roar: In With the New, Out With the Aqua Blue”
Just like with newsjacking, this title technique is time sensitive. Sure you COULD offer a contrasting view of an article from a year prior, but it would defeat the purpose of riling up the readers.
I had a great professor at Idaho State University who taught magazine writing. One of the best things I learned, other than print magazines are rapidly becoming as obsolete as the Gutenberg, is to always mirror the content.
To use an absurd example, you wouldn’t pitch the title of “Top Ten Reasons We Know Miley is Preggers With Steve Guttenberg’s Baby” to The Atlantic.
It goes beyond topic of the content though.
Let’s say you wanted to write an article for your napkin client about the invention of the paper towel. The paper towel was popularized by the Scott Paper Company (no, not the Scott you’re thinking of). In 1931, head of the company Arthur Scott was delivered an entire railroad car filled with paper too thick to be used for the company’s primary product: toilet tissue. Not wanting to waste money by sending it back, Scott found another use for it. After reading about a teacher who fought colds in her classrooms from becoming widespread by handing each student a torn piece of soft paper to plug up their noses (as opposed to contaminating the toilet paper with germs), Scott saw a business opportunity. He perforated the thick paper into small, dividable sheets. Papers towels were born. This is American entrepreneurship at its finest.
No, there isn’t going to be a pop quiz about this at the end of the article; I just needed to provide some background information. It seems to me that Mr. Scott’s exemplary innovative capabilities are worthy of a write up on a prospect site devoted to all things history.
This is from the sidebar of such a site I visit from time to time. Notice how every single title begins with the name of a person or family. There’s no reason you couldn’t pitch an article about the Arthur Scott here. But don’t do it this way:
“The Brawny Sheets That Created a Market: The Bounty Collected Afterwards.”
So you integrated two paper towel brands into one article title; well done. I’m not saying it’s bad (although it is), but remember the titles that the site in question DOES publish.
You’re better off pitching a title more along the lines of:
“Arthur Scott and the Paper That Changed His Life”
Generic? Sure. There’s no real creative muscle flex here. But what you DID accomplish is you showed honest to god familiarity with the prospect site. In an era of link building when webmasters are flooded with terrible pitches from spambots and those who don’t have the inclination to put forth any effort, this is an easy way to stand out in the inbox crowd.
I’m not trying to contradict everything I just said in the prior section. When you detect a pattern in published title, absolutely adhere to that pattern.
However when you sense wiggle room, do as my least favorite song in the history of the world says:
Forgive me for having invoked LMFAO in an article about link building, but in a sense, it’s appropriate. Say what you will about the hideously hirsute duo: they are oddly entertaining. Is it because they rhyme “have a good time” with “have a good time?” Maybe. Bad rhyming is endearing, particularly to those who end up hearing. And upon hours and hours of Pinterest peering, I’ve learned something: SEOs have a wicked sense of humor.
I’m a big believer in jokes (re: first hobby in my author bio). I don’t think there’s any reason you can’t have some fun with your titles.
The struggle that often comes with outreach is simply proving yourself to be human, not just another spambot. While spambots may have mastered the art of taking up a majority of the space in my old Hotmail account and peddling more Viagra than a pharmaceutical rep, they haven’t mastered jokes.
They don’t necessarily have to be good jokes; heaven knows I have no right teaching a lesson in that (re: second hobby in my author bio). But many webmasters will appreciate the effort.
Next time you’re writing for a napkin/paper towel site, don’t restrain yourself to the mundane.
“Party Rock Is In the House Tonight… Make Sure You Have What You Need To Clean All the Lost Minds”
That’s a bad joke. It’s really bad. But what it does is show personality. Even if the webmaster replies to you and says the title should be tinkered, the conversation with that webmaster has started. Time to get that link you’re fighting for.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s the old adage. I mostly believe in that, although I do reserve the right to judge a facebook by its cover photo. So many webmasters will judge the pitch by your titles. Make sure you’re focusing on pitching the right ideas. Make sure that you’re keeping the webmaster and his/her audience in mind, not just your link. And finally, make sure you take this quiz in the next five minutes. Yes, I lied about the pop quiz earlier; deal with it.