Developing Meta Content: Titles, Headings, and Taglines - HTML

One of the most important aspects of developing content for the Web involves meta content such as titles, headings, and taglines. Meta content is content about content. It provides glimpses into the material without requiring the reader to scan the entire text.

Developing effective titles is a key part of Web content development. They help your readers understand what your topics are about. They’re also excellent ways to improve search engine delivery.

Headlines (headings) and titles should both be highly informative. Avoid superlatives and self-congratulatory text, and avoid marketing lingo. When it comes to Web content development, marketing professionals need to become information specialists. Headlines should focus on how to point users to valuable information they can use on your site. A bad headline is “Cognitive BioResearch, Inc., A Better Serum for a Better Tomorrow.”

A better headline would be something like “Cognitive BioResearch, Inc.: Developers of Truth Serum for Government Officials.”This type of headline shows that the company makes a badly needed product, and it doesn’t try to seduce readers with slick marketing words that mean little to most readers. Web users typically spend little time on a Web site, unless they’re compelled to do so. Compelling them to do so doesn’t require marketing jargon, but headlines that lure users in with a genuine promise that they’ll be rewarded with timely and useful information.

Traditionally, taglines in the marketing world have referred to the “button” line under a logo at the bottom of an ad or at the end of a commercial. A famous example of a tagline is Coca Cola’s long-running “Coke is it” slogan. Tag lines are important on Web sites, too, but their tone and purpose must be much different to be effective. On a Web site, users expect all the information they see to have some immediate relevancy. So a good tagline should be informative and begin to talk immediately about what the site does. An example of an effective tagline is from eBay’s site:

Buying new items, brand names, and collectibles on eBay is simple. Here’s how it works. . .This not only tells the Web site visitor what the site is about, but promises to immediately offer help on how to take advantage of the services the Web site offers.

The difference between taglines and headlines is that a tagline is likely to be used in many places throughout a site, whereas a headline is generally specific to one block of content.Jakob Neilsen recommends the following when developing taglines: “First, collect the taglines from your own site and your three strongest competitors. Print them in a bulleted list without identifying the company names. Ask yourself whether you can tell which company does what. More important, ask a handful of people outside your company the same question.

Second, look at how you present the company in the main copy on the home page. Rewrite the text to say exactly the opposite. Would any company ever say that? If not, you’re not saying much with your copy, either.”

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