Have you ever published a post and sat there while NO ONE reads it? Even though you’ve spent hours painstakingly drafting print-perfect, informative copy. You’ve included in-depth research and written in a conversational tone that you know people will love. But still, no one’s reading it.
The chances are, it’s because your headline isn’t persuading people to click. Without a catchy, eye-grabbing headline, no one is going to invest their time in your post, no matter how fantastic it is.
It sucks but it’s true.
Within this post I’ll give you everything you need to write headlines that people will be desperate to click on.
Headlines are like houses
I always use the analogy of houses when it comes to analysing headlines. For a second, just think of your prospective readers as buyers, and they’re in the market for a new house. Now, there are millions of houses to choose from so you need to make yours stand out from the crowd. How are you going to do it?
Think of the headline as the overall image of the house. Would you expect these house-buyers to choose the one with the gate hanging from its hinges, vines over growing the walls, and with grimy windows? No, not a chance. They want the double-fronted new house, the beautiful gardens to the front and rear. And that’s what you need to give them.
Even though the dilapidated house may be beautiful inside, with original Victorian tiles and a fireplace made of cast iron, no one will even cross the threshold. They need to be persuaded to come in and have a look around.
Use your keyword in your headline
If you’ve been planning your blog post then you will have written the whole thing around you one keyword. After all, it’s what you’re looking to rank for. You need to make sure you include that keyword in your headline as it sets out what will be included in your post/article.
Keywords are important because they are what people search for in
their chosen search engine Google. Because they use these terms as the basis of their search, you need to be tailoring your articles/posts around them. That way you’re more likely to be found by web users.
On the flip side, if your headline doesn’t contain the one keyword people are liking for, they’re going to move on, quickly.
Do you know how powerful numbers are? I’ll give you an example; if you’re a business I told you that LOTS of people use Twitter to grow their brand, you’d think “yeah, sounds ok”. But if I told you that there are 328 million people using Twitter and they’re ALL potential customers? Now you’re listening.
When you use numbers in a headline, you are laying out for the reader what they can expect from the post. And how long they can expect to be reading it. That’s important for web-readers. Their time is precious and they know it. What they don’t need (mostly anyway) is a huge article with no end in sight. They’ll most likely click away form your post.
by using numbers you can identify your subheadings. Readers use these as reference points for scanning your article.
Also, did you know that headlines with odd numbers get more clicks than those with even numbers? Crazy right? But true. You clicked on this article, how many ‘killer tips’ am I offering?
I’m getting ALL the feels
By using emotive language, you’re encouraging people to click. Let’s look at two examples side-by-side. 1) I won vs 2) My ultimate struggle against writer’s block, and how I managed to win.
You see the difference? The first headline is ambiguous and doesn’t really make you want to click and find out. What did they win? An old boot, a car, what? But there’s nothing there that makes you feel for the article and what it might contain.
Sometimes it isn’t really the context of the article that makes people click, that’s the beauty of it. It’s the emotion that grabs people and makes them want to read. Have you ever clicked on an article, and then another, and then another, and before you know it, you’re thinking to yourself “how did I get here?” Yeah, we all have. That’s because you’ve been drawn in by great headlines that have persuaded you to keep on clicking.
You can be super creative with your headlines and use them to your advantage. One trick you can use when writing headlines is checking out thesaurus.com. This will help you to utilise different words across your headlines. What you don’t want is 25 different headlines that all say 11 essential tips… If you use thesaurus.com, you’ll be able to change up your headlines and keep them looking fresh.
By adding emotive words you’re evoking passion in your readers. The more passion they feel, the more likely they are to click. And we all know what clicks lead to!
Keep it short(ish), Dude!
Headlines should be emotive, informative, and beckoning. They shouldn’t be a paragraph.
Wordy headlines are exhausting. You’ve probably seen them in the past but can’t remember them because you swiftly moved on.
Research has shown us that the best headline length (for google search) is 70 characters . If you’re planning your headlines in a smart way, you shouldn’t need more than this. As we’ve previously discussed, readers on the web are (rightly) extremely impatient. So by optimising your headline so that it’s punchy, informative, and emotive, you’re backing yourself to get loads of clicks.
We want specificity
This could fall into the ‘too wordy’ category but I wanted to explore it a little bit more.
I’ve seen headlines in the past that are too informative and too descriptive. The problem here is that the author of the article has focussed too much on the other headline factors, and not enough on the ‘punchy’ factor.
If you’re specific in your headline then the reader will be encouraged to read it because they know they’r enot about to embark on a 2,000 word article of pure waffle. By doing this, you’re also ensuring your article is always on point, and doesn’t deviate too far form the source material.
Remember that your headline shouldn’t be longer than your introduction. If that sounds too obvious then I think you’ll be ok.
Hey, what year is this?
When I was researching this article, I found a lot of informant form 2015. That’s information is now 3 years old, and it made me wonder if it was still relevant. So instead I added “in 2018” on the end of the search and, voila! more relevant information started popping up.
By adding the year to the end of the post title, you’ll be telling potential readers that, not only is your article relevant, it’s also up-to-date.
Also, you can revisit these types of posts and update them to make them relevant for that year. For example, next year, add 2019 onto the end of your post. It’s a good way to ensure that your content is reusable and is ‘evergreen’.
It’s all shock and awe, baby!
Don’t be afraid to make an outrageous claim. But do be afraid if you can’t back it up.
So Game of Thrones is the ‘worst series ever’ huh? Ok, why? If you honestly truly believe that, then say it. I’d definitely read it and it’s sure to invoke passion in a lot of people. What you need to be mindful of, is the fact that you will be called out on it. Don’t just write an unpopular opinion headline because you know it will get you clicks. You still need to add some value for the reader. Otherwise, what’s the point?
By adding a shocking headline, people will be intrigued by what’s going on inside the article. They’ll then click on the article and see the quality of your content. invoking feelings in other people isn’t a hard thing to do, so utilise your ability to do that. Don’t think you have the ability to do it? I think you’re wrong. I know you can, because I know that everyone has an opinion, and more often than not, they clash with others.
Find inspiration from the best in the business
I always check out Buzzfeed. Not because I necessarily like most of their content, but damn do they know how to write headlines. It’s click-heaven. By looking at their formula you’ll be able to use it for yourself.
This isn’t copying per se, it’s just using an industry trick that you know works, and works well! Buzzfeed has millions of visitors every month because they know how to write emotive and impactful headlines. You can do the same, it’s just basic research.
I highly recommend using the ‘Headline Analyzer’ by coschedule.When you input your chosen headline, it shows you a score based on the following things;
- Word balance; specifically, the amount of ‘common’, ‘uncommon’, ’emotional’, and ‘power’ words,
- Headline type; for example, this article’s headline is a ‘List’,
- Length analysis; the overall length of the headline,
- First and last words in the headline; because that’s what people read,
- Sentiment; positive or negative feelings,
One more thing to remember
Your headline should be the product of your article, not the foundation of it. If you keep this in mind, your writing won’t suffer. If you forget this little rule, you’ll end up writing purely for the headline which can make your article stifled and unsure.
If you liked this article, please consider sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. Also, I’ve put a lovely ‘pin’ right at the bottom here. I wonder where that would look good? 😉
As ever, thanks for reading 🙂