One of the worst things you can do when crafting a blog post (or, for that matter, an email, ebook, webinar, etc.) is to give short shrift to your headline. Unlike writing for something like a magazine, your headline is often the one shot you have to sell your post and draw in readers. And those who read your headline? Only 20% will click through to check out the article.
Regardless of whether people see your headline in search engine results, in their email, or through social media, it has to be compelling so that people will not only click through to read the article, but will also share it. The following tips will help you to punch up your headlines and turn them into winners.
Pitch To Your Audience
Keep your audience in mine when you craft your headline. What are they looking for? What are they afraid of, concerned about? What do they want? Similarly, use “you” or “your” in the title to address them directly. You’ll get the reader’s attention if you use the 2nd person (you) in your headlines.
Make Your Headline Into A Question
A question mark in your title will catch the reader’s eye, and asking them a question will help to draw them in. What is the answer? They’ll have to click through to find out.
Headlines Need To Be Clear, And Need To Deliver
And you’d better provide an answer for that question! You’ll lose a reader’s trust if you promise something in the title and then never deliver on it in the article. Your headline needs to clearly spell out what you’re offering in the piece – avoid metaphors, jargon, or being too clever – and then you need to deliver on what you promised. You don’t want to give everything away with the title, however. Readers should be curious and want to click through for more info. At the same time, you don’t want to disappoint them by not following through on what the headline promises.
Seriously Consider Using “How To” Or List Format
People love to learn something while online, and they realize that how to or list articles are great ways to do that. If you opt for a list headline – like the one for this article – start with an actual numeric number (ex. 9). Much like having a question mark in the title, a numeric number will catch the eye. Studies have also shown that using an odd number will get you a higher click through rate (CTR) than an even number.
Concentrate On The Language Of Your Headline
You can be clear and still create an effective and appealing headline by concentrating on the language that you use. Action words such as verbs help to inspire, well, action, so try to include them in place of nouns and adjectives whenever possible. Strong language, used sparingly, can also generate clicks, particularly if you concentrate on the negative. Words such as “hate,” “worst,” “terrible,” and even “no” can draw in readers, while even words with violent associations (“kill,” “dead”) can be very effective. You can also use alliteration as a more subtle way to get a reader’s interest.
Keep Your Headline To 70 Characters Or Less
Short is better with headlines, particularly in the online world. 70 characters is all Google will allow you for titles in search results, so if you want your whole headline to be displayed, keep it under 70 characters. This will also keep it under the 140 character limit for a tweet (your headline + the shortened link to your article). In terms of words, keep it around 8-12 words maximum. The shorter the better, and every word should count! Toss out any weak words.
You can get both character and word counts by pasting your headline into the online Character Count Tool (https://charactercounttool.com/).
Write Your Headline With Keywords In Mind
Using keywords (and keyword phrases) in your title is good for a couple of different reasons. First, it helps the reader know immediately what the article is about. Second, including your keyword of choice in your title will also get you better Google search results. If used, keywords should show up close to the beginning of the title to best get the reader’s attention. You can use the Google Adwords Planner (https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/) to get ideas on which variations of your keyword/keyword phrase is most likely to get the highest CTR.
Keep The Headline Consistent With The Rest Of Your Blog
You should develop your own style with your blog, and your headlines should reflect that style. Readers like consistency, and suddenly going “off style” will be jarring for them.
Write Many Versions Of The Headline
Don’t just write one headline and slap it on the article. Write a few, or even a dozen, using some of the tips in this article. When you have a number of headlines, look through them carefully. Which catch the eye? Which are most interesting, most clear? Whatever you’re writing on, you’re an expert in, if only because you just spent a significant chunk of time researching it. Which headline would YOU click on? If you have friends you trust, you can also run the headlines by them and see which they would click on.
If you have any additional tips on writing the perfect blog headline, please share them in the comments!