We spend a lot of time writing our blog posts. We come up with ideas, research, plan, write and edit. It always surprises me that we can devote so much effort to this process and yet neglect one of the most important parts of our post. The headline.
Why are headlines important?
You may have written the most eloquent, informative or entertaining post but unless you entice people to read it all that effort could be wasted. Your blog title, like the name of a good book or newspaper headline is what hooks people in to find more.
When someone finds your link either on a search engine or a social network there are two key elements that will attract readers:
1. Your headline
2. Your opening paragraph
These elements make a reader decide if they are going to click.
A good headline will tap in to the emotion of the reader. They need to feel that they are getting something when they click your link.
That something could be:
- A story
- An experience
- A tip
You have one chance to catch your readers attention so it’s worth spending time crafting a good headline.
How long should a headline be?
To display in full in Google search results a headline should not exceed 65 characters. See the example below.
What makes a good blog headline?
The first question you need to ask yourself is – would that make me click?.
My blog headline writing has improved as I have read more and more blogs. Every morning I scroll through over two hundred blog titles in my Feedly stream. I’m looking for good articles that will either educate me or will be of interest to my social media followers. From these two hundred posts I may only read ten to fifteen articles.
I’ve been doing this for years and as a result I know what entices me to click. I have picked up the habit of writing headlines that mimic the ones that capture my attention.
Here are six types of headline that work for me both as a reader and a writer:
1. Headlines that tempt:
Example “My Favorite Home Grown Tomato Recipes” from Evin OK
This headline promises a personal insight. It’s not just any old list of recipes. The title suggests that these are all tried and tested by the blogger.
2. List headlines:
Example “5 Cardboard Halloween Costumes That Won’t Cost A Fortune” from Gimme Digital
As much as we may think we don’t like them, list headlines do work. The promise that we are going to learn five things when we click this post reassures us that it will be worth it.
3. How To:
Example “How To Make Pom Pom Hedge Hogs” from Molly Moo
People love tips, they love learning how to do things and they like sharing that information with others. Writing a ‘How to’ headline taps in to this positive emotion.
A quick look at my Google analytics tells me that three out of my top four blog posts have a ‘How To’ title:
- How To Post To Instagram From Your PC In 2 Steps – Cool Tool
- How To Add Maps To Your Facebook Page – A Trick And Some Alternatives
- How To Share Facebook Posts On Twitter
If you haven’t written a how to post yet give it a try.
4. Click Bait:
Example “Is Funny A Gender Thing?” from Tara Sparling Writes
When we hear the term ‘click bait’ it usually has negative connotations. Sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed tend to use headlines that are so tempting that it’s almost impossible not to click. We are used to seeing these in our Facebook feed. They annoy so many people that Facebook has tweaked their algorithm to ensure they get less prominence in the newsfeed.
Despite this good click baiting can work. The example above from Tara Sparling’s blog is enough to peak my interest. It doesn’t tell me a lot about what I am going to read but it does suggest a post that will push some emotional or intellectual buttons. Unlike some of the websites using click baiting techniques when I click Tara’s link I find that I am entertained.
As long as your post delivers on the promise of the title, click baiting can be effective.
5. Ask A Question:
Example “What is Accidental Damage Cover?” from the Chill Insurance blog
What questions do your customers commonly ask you? By posing these on your blog and answering them you could:
- Attract new prospects from Google searches
- Establish your expertise
- Reassure prospects that you know what they want
Example “Super Steampunk Wedding Ideas” from True Romance Weddings
Alliteration is the repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables of a phrase. (Wikipedia)
Alliteration can be enjoyable to read, to say out loud and to hear. There is something about it that attracts our attention and will make us more likely to click. The example above is from True Romance Weddings. If you take a look through their blog you will find more pleasing Alliteration.
If you are stuck for inspiration there are lots of tools that you can use to kickstart your writing. Here’s three that I have tried.
Split testing using Twitter
Twitter is a great medium for testing variations of a headline. Instead of writing one headline, try writing two or three and alternating between them when you post your link to Twitter.
For example if your main headline was:
“A Quick Guide To Writing Clickable Blog Headlines”
You may also choose to share tweets including an alternative headline:
“Are You Ignoring The Most Important Part Of Your Blog?”
“How To Write Blog Headlines That Get More Readers”
Take a look at your Twitter Analytics to see which version gets the most clicks and engagement. This will help you write better titles in the future.
Practice makes perfect
The real key to writing great headlines is practice. The more you write the easier you will find it. Once you have honed your skills you can go back to older posts and rework their headlines too.
Over To You
Do you spend time working on headlines? What tips and tricks have you used to make them work? What has been your most successful headline to date?