Writing Good Headlines
I easily could have made that the title of this blog post — but then you wouldn’t be reading it right now. The word “writing” is passive, “good” is vague and bland, and the title as a whole indicates no value or urgency to the reader.
An optimized, attention-grabbing headline is:
- Clear and valuable. Make sure your title clearly conveys what your reader will gain from reading your article or blog post.
- Colorful. If possible, use vivid language to grab the reader’s attention. This can certainly be a challenge for B2B bloggers who write about, for example, the textile manufacturing industry — but it’s entirely possible. If you need inspiration, check out this list of “power words”. You may not find a way to use “cadaver” in a headline (let me know if you do!), but the list is packed with other, more business-appropriate language that will help your blog post stand out.
- SEO-friendly. Your headline should be between 40 and 70 characters to ensure it won’t be truncated by search engines and social media platforms. Search engines also take keyword placement into consideration. For example, a title like “Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived” would likely rank higher for the search term “Harry Potter” than “The Boy Who Lived: Harry Potter”
Now that we’ve gone over the basics for writing high-quality blog post headlines, let’s drill into five tried-and-true formulas that are guaranteed to drive traffic to your website.
1. Number + Valuable Resources
Example: 53+ Free Image Sources for Your Blog and Social Media Posts (Buffer)
This was Buffer’s most-read blog post in 2014, and for good reason. “Listicles” are a hit online because of their easy-to-read (or more realistically, easy-to-skim) format. Not only that, but the word “free” adds even more value to a post that already promises a wealth of useful resources.
A quick tip: according to the Content Marketing Institute, headlines that contain odd numbers have a 20% higher click-through rate than headlines with even numbers. (As you can see, we took advantage of that statistic for this post — and you’re reading it, so it must have worked!)
2. Number + Expert Advice
Example: 5 Experts Share Top Social Media Advice for Nonprofits (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
Who doesn’t want advice from the experts in their field? Bring on the Logos (the Greek kind, not the brand identity kind) to let readers know you’re providing them with information from trustworthy sources.
3. “How To” + A Useful Skill
Example: How to Go Viral: Lessons From the Most Shared Content of 2015 (Buzzsumo)
Who doesn’t love a good how-to? This blog post title gets straight to the point, promising to teach you an elusive skill that few have mastered. Make sure you don’t oversell your post, though. Promising your reader they’ll learn how to write the next great American novel may make them click, but they’re bound to leave the page disappointed.
4. “Research-Backed” + A Bold or Controversial Statement
Example: How to Be Cool: 5 Research-Backed Tips (TIME)
Psh, as if an article can really tell me how to be cool, I thought to myself as I pushed my taped-together glasses up the bridge of my nose. But then I noticed that these tips are backed by scientific research, and my interest was piqued. This isn’t a topic that’s usually discussed so frankly, and certainly not in terms of research. This novelty, along with the promise of data, is what makes the headline so effective.
5. Number + Urgency
Example: Revealed: 19 Things to Know Before You Start a Blog (Blog Tyrant)
When I see this headline, I’m convinced the writer knows something I don’t, and I want to be let in on their secrets — now. The word “before” is especially effective. If the reader doesn’t already have a blog, this post is going to be a valuable resource. If they do have a blog, they may be concerned they’re missing out on some important tips.
Spread the Word
It’s not just what you promote but also how you promote it that will drive clicks and shares. Follow the tips from the blog promotion checklist below to help your content reach a wide (but targeted) audience.
One more tip: when you share your blog post on social media, try posting it a few times under different titles to see which one garners the most clicks and shares. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you can modify the headline by simply clicking the auto-generated one and replacing it with whatever you want. While this isn’t a formal, controlled A/B test because you won’t be splitting your audience into two randomized segments, it can still give you some insight into what grabs your readers’ attention.
Now, fellow bloggers, we’d love to hear from you! What’s the title of your top-performing blog post? Do you have any tips for driving more clicks and shares? Let us know in the comments.