In a way, your post's headline or title is more important than anything else within the post.
Think of it this way: if nobody reads your blog post, does it matter how well-crafted or useful it is?
Imagine if Dale Carnegie had written 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' but had titled the manuscript: 'Tips I've Come Up With Volume One'.
Your title needs to be relevant, descriptive and eye-catching. Consider the way you skim headlines in your Facebook, RSS, or Twitter feed. Most people do. It takes an enticing title to get someone to click through and read the content.
Don’t throw in the last minute, thoughtless title. Ever.
You will have seen the types of headlines that are most popular because many writers have learned how to grab the attention of potential readers, just as you are doing now. These strategies come from research, analytics and testing, and provide consistent results over time.
Here are 7 elements to seriously consider when writing a great headline:
1. Include Numbers
Like numbered lists, numbers in a title tell the reader not only what to expect (for example, '10 Tips ...' promises ten, discrete items of useful information) but that it will be broken down in a readily digestible way, which is attractive to busy readers with busy lives.
2. Use powerful adjectives and active verbs
Myth-busting, explosive, groundbreaking, free, sexy, guaranteed, streamline, supercharge, master, revolutionize ...
Don't just inform your reader what they're going to get by reading your post, use compelling adjectives and verbs to sell it to them. Again, consider why the reader should read your post as opposed to one of your competitor's. How do you intend to rock their world?
3. Include rationale
Now it's time to include information about the content of the article. The inclusion of tips, reasons, tricks and principles have been demonstrated to do well in blog post headlines.
4. Use trigger words
If it's possible to get one of these in, they also do well with readers. If you're searching for the solution to a problem, you're likely to frame your question beginning with 'who', 'why', 'where', 'what' or 'how'. Hence, these are powerful words to include in your headline title to garner organic search traffic and to demonstrate to your reader that this post will solve one of their problems.
5. Make a promise
Promising a result means being confident about your ability to deliver. Communicate to your reader exactly how your blog post will benefit them. Would you be more likely to click on a title if it claimed that it could provide the direct result that you desire?
Focus in on the target audience for the blog post, not the audience for your entire blog. Ask yourself:
"What does this post provide to my readers?"
Brainstorm to come up with a few options.
6. Keep it short
Keeping your text focused is at the heart of good writing, and it's crucial for your headline. If people are scanning headlines, you'll want to create an impact as quickly as possible, which means using an economy of words.
There's also Google and other search engines to consider because they will truncate long titles to fit their format. By keeping your headlines short, you control how they appear in listings, not Google.
7. Incorporate a keyword
Headline content is an important factor in how Google and other search engines categorize and rank your posts. Make the most of this by deliberately including an SEO keyword that this post is targeting. Don't force it, though. Unless it looks natural, it is about as subtle as a dead fish hitting a stagnant pond.
Keywords might be candy to search engines, but just as too much candy rots the teeth, too many keywords thrown into an article can seem forced and cause your site to go down in the search rankings. The use of keywords must be natural and relevant, so a good place to put them - as well as in the main title - is in the sub-headings of your blog post. Use two or three to break up the text on the page, leading your readers through your article, particularly if they are scanning your content for what they need.
Use these tips as a starting point for headline creation and a checklist to see where your headlines could be improved, getting more people clicking and reading the full content.
Jeff Goins, a blogger, and author of the Art of Work has created what has been described as the ultimate headline formula based upon these elements. It goes like this:
Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise
Apply the formula to your existing blog post titles to see if they can be improved. Keep it in mind going forward to help create headlines that hit the mark with both readers and search engines.
Bufferapp has more great headline formulas: https://blog.bufferapp.com/headline-formulas
Test Your Headlines
One of the best sources of insight into headline writing is closer to you than you might think. You can learn a lot from your past posts and your existing headlines.
We'll go through analytics and testing your blog in a later chapter, but it's worth starting to think about your blog as a continuously growing, living entity that you can observe and keep improving over time. Posts don't fade away. They remain on the internet for years, for as long as you let them. Whether they keep attracting new traffic and generate conversions depends on the quality of your posts and the effectiveness of your headlines.
Monitor your past posts and see why the highest performers have done so well. Did you have a great headline that inspired people to click through and read more?
The success of a post is not solely based on its headline, of course, but for now, try tweaking the headlines of poorer performers to see if there are any changes to your blog post stats over the following hours, days, and weeks.
AWeber increased the number of trial signups by 12% by changing just one word in their call to action. I can tell you that that word was 'NOW' - compelling, urgent, and direct. This simple tweak made a dramatic difference to their visitors' responses to that particular sign up button.
How do adjustments to your titles affect your blog stats?
When checking out the effectiveness of past posts, you'll want to consider these metrics. Which we'll go into in more detail in another article:
- Bounce Rate
- Time on Site
- Page Views
- Returning Visitors
- Social Shares
- Search Visitors
Consider using coschedule's Headline Analyzer to test how well your headline might do before you ever post it.
Headlines Take Time to Perfect
If you weren't already, you'll be abundantly aware by now that just because headlines are short, they are not quick to write. Quite the opposite.
David Ogilvy, cited as the Father of Advertising came up with 37 headlines and as many as 19 drafts of copy for a single Sears Roebuck ad. Over 30 headlines for one ad? You might be surprised how many you come up with when you let your creativity fly. You may well find yourself using idea 20 or 30, rather than one of the more prominent headlines that came out in the first ten.
If you're spending half your writing time coming up with good headlines, you're not alone. Some people advise just that distribution of time when writing persuasive content.
Writing great blog posts and articles takes time, research, attention to detail and patience. Put the same effort and energy into your headlines as you put into your articles to help your content get the attention it deserves.