‘With literally millions of blog posts and articles published on the Web every day, how am I going to get mine read?’ Sounds like a question you’ve been asking yourself? Good, it means you realize that among heavy competition in the online world tomorrow isn’t promised. No matter how solid your readership is, it can start thawing any day if you won’t keep the quality up and their interests piqued. One of the most basic but at the same time most difficult methods of keeping your audience on their toes is writing compelling headlined. Bare with me, as I present to you 9 tips for writing bomb blog post titles.
Let’s start off by picking the great marketing mastermind, David Ogilvy’s, brain for his idea on article headlines:
‘On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.’
— David Ogilvy
Pretty neat, huh? Catchy blog post titles are prime real estate at the the article’s top floor. Since most of the times the title will be the only thing that your prospect readers will pay attention to, making the first impression count becomes an absolutely critical skill.
Great blog post titles sell articles to readers. The goal of a writer is to get a full read, boost conversion and generate social media shares. By the way, regarding the latter, I read that research has shown, that many Twitter users will retweet articles with cool headlines even if they haven’t read them, just to boost their own cred. Well, how about that? Spending those extra 15 minutes to come up with something nice doesn’t seem to be such a waste after all, does it?
Use numbers in blog post titles
A quick look around the Web leaves little doubt that this right here is one of the top practices when it comes to writing blog post titles. My claim is easily supported by examples of sites like BuzzFeed or Complex, which make a living off creating incredible numbered lists.
Using numbers in blog post titles is a simple, yet effective strategy that is being utilized by the biggest players delivering content online. In case you were wondering if there are any particular numbers you should stick to, the answer is ‘no’. On one hand, some readers have a preference for round numbers like 10 or 50, on the other, irregular numbers can help you stand out and be remembered. See what I did there with my title?
Be clear in what you’re saying
Just a friendly reminder. Great blog post titles are accurate, that is, they let the reader know precisely what the article is going to be about. Mind you, simple doesn’t mean simplistic.
If you want to coax your readers into the piece you’ve just published, don’t leave them wondering if they should spend their precious time on what you have to say. Look, you’re trying to sell your article using its title. Think of it as of a situation at a retail store. Would you rather have the sales assistant amuse you with some irrelevant stories or hit you with the facts about what you’re getting for your money’s worth?
I know you’d like to let your ingenuity run wild from time to time, it’s ok, I do too. However, simplicity and clarity over unnecessary creative fireworks can work wonders. If you’re not writing for a narrow audience on purpose, but rather trying to reach as many people as possible, you pretty much need to have the weakest link on your mind when designing blog post titles. Clever puns may simply fly over their heads and keep from clicking.
This tip is largely related to my previous point. While you’re crafting your powerful blog post titles, trying to create an avalanche of readers, make sure you don’t outdo yourself. Staying relevant and being able to deliver what you’ve promised in the body copy are more important in the long term.
Unfortunately for us, web writers, our prospect readers will only see strings of letters making up our blog post titles before they make a decision to proceed or cancel. What this means is that you not only have to be on point but also include the complete information about the content. Usually, there will be no photos, captions or leads, as it is the case with printed magazines, that help the reader decide whether to proceed or not. A good rule of thumb, though, is that it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver, than the other way round.
Let me be the man of my word and keep it brief. Basically, due to various limitations of search engines and social media character counts, you want to keep your blog post titles as short as possible.
Not an any price whatsoever, obviously, but shoot for up to 70 characters of 8 words. The shorter a headline is, the easier for reader to get the point.
Why do I think this is a useful strategy for writing killer blog post titles? Because inquiring minds need to know. As simple as that!
Think of your headline as if it was a cliffhanger. How do you feel when your favorite TV series or a book chapter ends on one? Duh! You want to know what’s coming next, obviously. Creating curiosity, controversy and mystery might be some of the most effective, however most difficult techniques of writing headers. They will work if you pull them off right, though.
What you have to do, essentially, is spark your readers’ interest without giving out too much detail. You need to know your audience well, however, as some people may consider this to be click-baiting, especially if not done correctly.
State the value in blog post titles
You want people seeing your blog post titles to invest their valuable time in reading the whole pieces. Alright, what’s in it for them? What will they get out of it?
When designing content strategy, take some time to establish what are your readers’ needs, fears, frustrations, desires, etc. Then think how can you help, what can you teach them, what mystery can you unlock before them. Article headline has to promise a benefit, show that it holds value, that there’s something to learn from it.
Juice it up a little
Ok ok, I know I said you shouldn’t be overly creative with blog post titles, however, I also said that simple doesn’t mean simplistic. It’s a thin line you have to walk between different territories when it comes to writing potent headlines.
Now, let me give you some examples of how you can easily spice up your blog post titles. For starters, alliteration, which for the purposes of this article can be explained as having the same initial letter in a string of words, seems to never go out of fashion. It looks good and sounds good, what else can you ask for?
Another method would be to use strong or non-positive language. Mind you, this heavily depends on your audience which must not have a problem with you dropping an occasional f-word or complaining a bit.
Thirdly, try making friends with THESAURUS. He’ll help you out immensely with expanding your vocabulary. Again, I want you to convey a simple message in your blog post titles, not sound like you dropped out of middle school. Don’t settle for the first word that comes to your mind, unless you’re Shakespear reborn. Probe the alternatives to better convey emotions, be more precise and entertaining in what you’re saying.
Try some word wizardry
The tips I’ve just discussed are definitely word-related but were just meant to give you some general idea as to which direction you can go to, to make the blog post titles you write stand out. Now I’d like to give you a couple of sure-shots for instant implementation in your headlines.
Some of the words that do the trick most of the times when it comes to clicking and reading the whole article are: quick, easy, discover, free, secrets. Well, that in itself makes a heck of a headline, huh? No, but seriously, the reason why they work is pretty self-explanatory. Who doesn’t want things that are described by one or a couple of those words? Don’t overdo them, though. Some readers may have an averse reaction to them, so again, use sparingly, depending on who your audience is.
There are also the so-called trigger words like: why, what, when, how, which have been proved to work very well with a broad range of readers. Basically, what they do is they indicate that the article is going to answer questions or solve problems.
Optimize your blog post titles for SEO
I’ll keep this one short. Obviously, keywords matter when it comes to search engines. It’s great if you can include them in blog post titles but do not do it at any price.
If not for search engines, use them for people who also scan titles for keywords they’re interested in, and it’s good to put them as close to the beginning as possible.
With web dwellers’ attention spans growing shorter by the day, blog post titles are your five minutes of fame. Headlines must resonate with your core buyer/reader persona, so adjust the language to them and include a promise of a benefit that they’ll find valuable.
The whole purpose of a title is to make people read the next sentence, and the sentence after that, and so on, up until they reach your call to action. If they stop at the headline, well, your entire body copy might as well not exist.
There isn’t a single formula, where you fill in the blanks, that everyone should use, and thank online gods for it. This would make things bland and headlines would simply stop working. Mix and match the techniques I’ve shown you and check the Analytics for what works. Also, remember that being able to write great blog post titles will prove to be helpful when it comes to email topics, slogans or tweets. Good luck!