Article Titles and Broken Promises

Build Trust with Relevant Article Titles

Have you ever had that feeling of excitement after being promised one thing and then the feeling of disappointment when it wasn’t delivered? Your reader has too.

Your article title is a promise to your reader. Deliver on that promise in a quality, original article and you’ve built trust. Break that promise with irrelevant content and you’ve lost your credibility.

Internet readers develop a screening process to protect themselves. Each bad experience is cataloged into “scenarios to avoid” and every good experience raises their expectations into the “what it should be” category.

Let’s say you searched for “large dog breeds” and stumbled across an article titled “World’s Largest Dog.” You may think “this looks like the article for me” or “this better be good.” Whatever the case may be, your screening process has been launched – you expect to learn about a dog that holds the record for being the largest dog to ever walk the face of the earth.

What happens when you click the title and the article is all about Chihuahuas? You would likely react like the majority of readers: It’s not relevant to you so you click away. This broken promise became a “scenario to avoid” and not only have you lost your credibility, the platform associated with you is questioned as well.

The Delivery Is in the Details

Avoid having your articles placed into the “scenarios to avoid” category by ensuring your article titles have top-notch quality and are 100% relevant to your article (and your audience) by providing details.

Here are four questions to ask yourself to ensure you are delivering on your promise:

  • Does the article deliver on the subject? The subject of the article title serves as a focus for the article. Using the focus to ensure relevance, the article should deliver upon every aspect of the title.
  • Does the title include a location-name? The article should offer unique details about the location other than repeating the location-name as part of a key phrase.
  • Does the title promise a specific number of tips? The article should deliver the promised number of tips in a clearly defined fashion.
  • Does the title include the phrase ‘How To’ or ‘Where To’? The article should explain specifically ‘how’ and exactly ‘where.’

Broken Promise Scenarios to Avoid

Here are two more common “scenarios to avoid.” First, I’ll give you the title, then what the reader expects, and finally what was actually delivered (i.e. the broken promise).

Promise: Buy [Goods] in Bulk
Expectation: The principle of the article is to discuss buying goods in bulk.
Broken Promise: The article recommends going online and buying goods from a popular auction site.

Promise: Get Rich Quick!
Expectation: Strategies on how to accumulate money at breakneck speed.
Broken Promise: Promotes a questionable program in which the reader has to make a “financial contribution” to learn more.

Ensure your article titles have top-notch quality and are absolutely relevant to your article by asking yourself whether your article delivers on the title before you submit. In doing so, you will raise the bar in your niche by building trust with your readers.


Mahesh Jain writes:

After all the editing done by me to my article “Objections against Einstein’s Theory of Relativity”, do you think that I am still on wrong side of the fence. Please reply.

Comment provided June 19, 2012 at 9:50 AM


Merle writes:

Great article and positive advice which will be of help to many article writers. Thanks for sharing

Comment provided June 19, 2012 at 9:53 AM


Martin Helm writes:

I love your ‘broken promise’ scenarios.

The common thread seems to be that there’s nothing much on offer but the writer will do or say anything in the title to get you to start reading their article or advertisement.

But then comes the disappointment.

The writer has gone straight for the sale without first building trust – and in so doing has probably alienated that potential customer for life. They probably won’t go beyond the first sentence because it’s not what they were expecting.

I know it sounds cheesy nowadays, but it’s so important to under-promise and over-deliver.

If you are interested in the topic of titles and headlines, you can click on my name here and sign up for a free 7-part mini-course on the noble art of headline writing.

Kind regards


Comment provided June 19, 2012 at 9:59 AM


Martin –

Just a quick FYI that we don’t normally allow any kind of sales-related pitches in blog comments. However, you’re providing high value on your site, the materials are free, and your CTA is applicable to the topic at hand, so I’ll allow it to remain posted.

– Marc


Martin Helm writes:

Many thanks for the advice, Marc.

I promise it won’t happen again – wrists firmly slapped!


Joan Verlezza writes:


Thanks for the info on Article Titles. It has happened to me. It’s the most frustrating thing to click on a link and find everything else but the subject that attracted your attention. I felt like the author considered me less than intelligent.

The bottom line is respect for the reader.

Happy Writing to all.


Comment provided June 19, 2012 at 10:09 AM


wayne claassen writes:

very inspiring
I love the promise of get rich quick scheme and this is all over the internet

Comment provided June 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM


Online Jobs writes:

Article titles should be rather in short and exact. Making a long title with a lot of keywords wont help you to get accurate results. It will increase the bouncing rate of the visitors.

Comment provided June 19, 2012 at 11:06 AM


Randall Magwood writes:

I like to make my titles “mini-headlines”. I always imagine myself running a classified ad, and using my headline or article title as the text of my classified ad.

If it looks good enough to me that it will produce alot of response, then i go with it. On the other hand, if it can’t pass the “so what” test… i scrap it and start all over again with a new title.

Comment provided June 19, 2012 at 2:45 PM


Lance Winslow writes:

This is an important message, and as a writer, and also as a reader of articles on this site and across the Internet – generally writing 10 articles daily and reading 100 or more, I can tell you this is my pet peeve. Let’s not let the readers down, that is a real crappy thing to do to someone online, not a good way to make FaceBook friends or influence Tweeters.

Comment provided June 20, 2012 at 1:18 AM


Joseph Dabon writes:

Excellent. Simply written with specific examples. Unfortunately a lot of bloggers and article writers were absent when this was taken up in class.

Comment provided June 20, 2012 at 8:07 PM


D A Gordon writes:

I totally agree, Joseph. Many is the time I have read a blog post or article only to find it failed to deliver on the promise offered in the title. I scowl because of the time I wasted looking for something that wasn’t there.


Kara Nelson writes:

Thanks for sharing.
It’s a very useful article that positive advice which will be of help to many article writers.

Comment provided October 22, 2012 at 9:55 PM


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