Are You Losing Readers With This Simple Mistake?

What makes a successful article

Hi Writing Family! It’s Kelly Eden here.

Yesterday, I wrote about an article of mine that did well a couple of weeks ago and was picked up by Apple News Spotlight. It had over 95,000 views in it’s first weekend and continues to do well a few weeks later.

I shared some tips about increasing your chances of success and what readers want.

My Rejected Article Got 95K Views in a Weekend

But I decided not to cover one huge aspect of success. One that many writers make mistakes with, especially on Medium.

You know what I’m talking about? Yip. Titles.

Titles make or break a story. Thankfully, if you write for a magazine or website they’ll help you create a heading (or just do it for you).

If you’re a Medium writer though, and I know many of you are, it’s one of our biggest headaches.

Even if you’re a magazine writer, a good headline in your pitch email can be the reason an editor clicks on it.

Mamamia editor Melody Teh says headlines can be the difference between a yes or a no from an editor.

“In digital publications, the challenge is to get readers to click on headlines and actually read an article,” she explains, “so if you can provide an idea of a headline that will get the editor to ‘click’, (preferably in the subject line) you’re more likely to hear back from them.”

2 Common Title Mistakes

  1. Trying to be too clever with your titles. I get it, we’re creatives! We want to play with words, be poetic, hide meaning in metaphor.

    Online especially, it just doesn’t work. Readers get confused. They have no idea what the article is about and, instead of wasting time, they choose not to click.

  2. Giving it all away. Many writers explain the article so clearly, they give the entire thing away in the title and subtitle.

    For example: Title: “How to Cure your Anxiety in One Easy Step.” Subtitle: “Morning meditation is the key.” There’s no reason to read. You just answered everything I need to know!

Perfect Headings

There are all sorts of blog posts about what makes the perfect heading. Some say:

  • Make sure it’s under 100 characters

  • Use less than 6 words, but make one word a long one

  • Use odd numbers

  • Include power words— like money, success, etc.

  • Provoke an emotional reaction

  • Use words like “Stop” “Tricks” “Secrets”

  • Avoid the word “things”

  • Start with “How to” or “Why You Need” rather than “Why You Should”

If you google it, or search on Medium, you’ll find a ton of advice about the perfect headings. Far too much to share in a short newsletter! I personally have found some of these techniques work…sometimes it’s random luck.

Saying that, it’s worth spending a decent amount of time improving your headings.

Here’s a tool that helps you brainstorm ideas. Look for high rating titles, but also use your common sense. Sometimes humans just know (better than some algorithm) that a title sounds great.

Changes for Medium Writers

Medium announced a change this month which will have a big impact on writers.

Stories will still be displayed with the title and image but readers will also see the first few paragraphs of your story before they click.

How well you start will determine if readers click and continue to read or if they decide you don’t make good company!

We’ve been discussing starts a lot this month in the Creative Nonfiction Academy. It’s also the focus of our feedback assignment this month. If you’re keen to learn how to start your stories powerfully, come join us.