It’s been said that there are no stupid questions. But are there stupid question headlines?
People ask search engines questions all the time. People are seeking answers to all kinds of questions. They want to know the who, what, where, when, why, and how on a variety of topics.
These types of pages also tend to rank well, get shared, and attract links. For example:
Google kills Right Hand Side Ads: what does this mean for marketers and users? Search Engine Watch (3K shares, 226 links)
Microsoft Wants Autistic Coders. Can It Find Them And Keep Them? – Fast Company (47K shares, 93 links)
Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one? – Washington Post (867K shares, 144 links)
But could question headlines actually hurt how your content performs in the long-term, especially in organic search?
Yes. Yes they could.
Don’t get me wrong. Question headlines aren’t bad all the time. Asking questions inspires curiosity, which can inspire your audience to click and even contribute their thoughts to the discussion.
But there are times when you should question your question headlines.
Here are six questions to consider when you’re considering using a question headline.
1) Have you actually answered the question?
Question headlines fail when you fail to provide an answer. So many publications ask big questions, but then either tend to cop out toward the end or never really answer the question in a satisfactory way.
How many times have you seen an article end with some variation of “only time will tell”?
If you’re going to ask questions from the outset, you better answer them by the time your readers reach the end of your content. Otherwise, what was the point?
2) Is your answer better than other existing content?
Chances are that a piece of content on the web has already asked and/or answered your question. Before you hit publish, type your question into your favorite search engine and see what content pops up.
Chances are also good that you can create a better piece of content. One that provides a more concise answer, or a more thorough answer, or an answer that showcases your brand’s vast expertise, or that challenges or counters the “wisdom of the crowd”.
Don’t just aim to be yet another answer – there’s enough average content on the web. Make sure your content is the best answer (and also interesting and memorable).
3) Can the question be answered with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’?