It doesn’t matter how stunning your blog post content is. A lousy headline will ensure your audience never reads it. You have to put the same amount of thought into your blog headlines as you do your topic selection and content writing.
Blog headlines create a first impression. They have to intrigue people and pique their interest, irresistibly luring your prospective audience to read on. Blog headlines are a sales tool. The right wording makes your post stand out from the mind-numbing clutter of literally thousands of other reading options.
Your blog headlines have to be short and sweet, a teaser in our quick-scan world. If your headline is too long readers will drift off before they even to the end, ensuring they certainly won’t be around to read your actual post.
So your blog headlines have to be eye-catching and thought-provoking. If you’re feeling performance anxiety, here are a few tips to help you improve your headlines:
1. Write the headline first … or maybe not.
Experts disagree on this. Some say you should write your headline first, because you have to clarify what readers can expect to get out of reading your post . Writing the headline first also helps you keep your content on-topic and tightly written.
But some blog pros believe savingthe headline till last finalizes the creative process and helps bring your topic more sharply into focus. Drafting a working title, like movie producers do, will help you stay focused as you’re writing your content.
Regardless of when you write your headline, give it the time and thought it deserves.
2. Keywords play a starring role.
In reality, blog headliners must speak effectively to two very different audiences – readers and search engines. The trick is to incorporate keywords so they perform their crucial SEO-boosting work for you, yet write a headline that appeals to real people, too.
As with all web-based content, you have to speak your readers’ language. The work you’ve already done researching keywords helps you think like a customer (potential reader) when writing your blog headline. Some industry thought leaders suggest that using your second-tier or niche keywords may be more effective and may offer more natural wording.
Using blog headlines to drive SEO matters, so you can get ranked high enough to be at the party. Search engines index and rank using headline content to detect post content. Experts say the first words in your headline are more effective to attract search engine attention than later words. And sticking to around 40 characters will allow your entire blog headline to show in search results.
3. Good blog headlines come in many styles.
Here are some examples:
- “Why” – an invitation to explore a topic, the thinking person’s headline.
- Posing a question – questions are good for ending your post but also initiating capturing reader interest, because people just love to be asked what they think.
- “How to” or “tutorial” – promises no-nonsense information to meet a specific need.
- Direct offer – leaves no question about what you’ll get. This is most often used in advertising headlines but can be effective in blogging, too.
- List – an extremely popular format. Numerals have a near-magnetic attraction — 3, 7 and 10 tend to be the most effective.
- News – be one of the first to learn
- “Context: phrase” – immediately identifies your subject, then introduces your specific topic.
4. It’s all about your prospective readers.
Your blog headline should identify what’s in it for them if they read your blog post. Personalize it with “you” or “your,” and compose with your audience in mind. You may not appeal to everyone, but you probably don’t want to anyway.
5. Bland is boring.
So avoid passive wording at all costs. When was the last time you saw something boring and wanted to know more about it? Instead, use action-oriented adjectives and adverbs — what journalists call “trigger” words – to grab attention. But don’t over-do it because you shouldn’t promise something you can’t deliver, nor do you want headlines that belong in the National Enquirer. Use words like:
6. Study the pros.
Read newspaper and magazine headlines to see which specific words writers use and how they use the words together.
7. Keep it simple.
Headlines should instantly identify what your blog post is about. Cute, cagey or cryptic language will only confuse readers, in which case they’ll simply move on to something more appealing.
And, finally – you’ve heard this before – don’t forget to test your blog headlines, so you can learn by doing how to perfect your ability to write tantalizing ones. Tracking results and analyzing which headlines have been most successful.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lady Madonna