See how we did that? No? Well, read on and we’ll tell you what it was about that headline that made you want to click through to read this article.
Headlines are perhaps the most important part of your blog posts. We don’t mean that as hyperbole, either. It’s estimated that as high as 80% of the people who see your headline will NOT click through to the content it’s advertising. These are the people you need to grab and reel in. Convince them to join the 20% who DO click through, and find out what they’ve been missing!
Solve Their Problem
Most people are searching Google for solutions to a problem. Maybe their kitchen sink tap is dripping, or they have a gap in their production line at the factory, or perhaps they’ve recently been directed to start a content marketing initiative for the company (you never know what folks are searching for, do you?). Whatever the pain point, they’re looking for a solution. Show them how you can provide it.
Some examples of headline starters that appeal to one of the many possible problem scenarios you may encounter:
Need it fixed NOW: “Fast ways to…”
Need it fixed RIGHT: “The best ways to…”
Need it fixed CHEAP: “The easiest/cheapest way to…that you can do yourself!”
Need to know, “how would YOU fix this?”: “In your situation, I would…”
Need to know how a Scientist would fix it: “Try this, it’s backed by science…”
Yep, respect is the name of game when it comes to writing headlines. Your potential audience has things to do, and problems to solve, and they don’t need to waste time clicking on a bombastic headline only to find a puff piece with a bunch of affiliate links and no actual information.
Make sure your headline accurately portrays the information that follows in the article. This is why we suggest not picking a headline until after you actually write the piece. Use a working title you came up with while brainstorming (hang on, we’re getting to that) as your starter. Then, once you have the content drafted out, you’ll have a much better idea of which direction makes the most sense for the title.
You may find that none of your working titles is the right one, and that’s cool. Working this way gives you the freedom to write a new one that works better.
Brainstorm, and Do Your Research
Brainstorming can be done at any point in the creative process when you feel stuck. In the beginning, it’s great to come up with bucket loads of working titles, especially if you have someone to bounce them off of. That outside perspective can be invaluable in helping you see your subject in a new way.
When you send a draft to someone for editing, also send a short list of possible titles to get their opinion. Reading your draft will be their first introduction to the subject as well as the title options, so they’ll have fresh eyes to offer input.
And finally, when you’re done with the piece and it’s time to select the winning title, getting the opinion of someone who HASN’T been staring at the material for hours can bring even more great insight.
On the research front, start with N=1. That means you’re the subject whose opinion is being sought. What headlines do you like? What opening words or phrases get you to click through? Are you a fan of “Best of” posts, or do you prefer lists? Despite what you may have heard growing up, you’re not that different from others in your age group, so chances are if you like it, so will they.
Oh, and while you’re at it, check in with your competition. Yep, that’s right, the competition. Look at their content and see what’s working for them. See how they’re crafting their headlines and whether or not they draw you in. Then deconstruct what they did and see if you can use a similar format for the piece you’re working on.
Tips and Tricks
Don’t be cutesy. Headlines need to be catchy, yes; however, if they’re just twee, they won’t give you the punch, or the SEO juice, you’re looking for.
Keep it brief. Anything beyond 70 characters will likely be cut off in search results. What’s the right length? Glad you asked--this is where A/B testing is your best friend.
Use brackets. Set off a feature of your headline, when people see [new study] or (interview) or even *cough*cough* (and how to write one) at the end of a headline not only is their interest piqued, but now they know in advance that they have some good stuff waiting. This clarification has been shown to lead to better click-through rates, up to 38% better, in fact.
Iterate. We touched on this earlier, but it can’t hurt to repeat ourselves with something this important. Come up with a dozen (or 2 dozen, or a handful, the point is more than a couple) working titles for your piece, then start writing it. Leave the final decision for after the piece is done and you see which direction you took it in.
Questions. People like answering questions, even rhetorical ones.
Numbers. “7 ways to…” “4 of the best…” “top 10 ideas for…”
Lists. Even if they aren’t numbered, lists appeal to the human sense of order.
And Finally, Remember That Respect Thing?
It comes into play again when we say you need to craft your piece for your audience first and foremost. You may have noticed we didn’t even mention SEO once. Oops. Oh well, the point stands, you are creating your content for your audience first, then for SEO. By respecting your reader's time and energy, they will understand and appreciate your intent, and it will endear you to them.
When you use keywords based on searches your audience is doing, that will help your SEO.
When you put those keywords at the beginning of your title, your readers will notice, and Google will too.
And when you write fascinating, engaging content that draws new readers in, search engines will most assuredly notice.