Your blog post headline says only one of two things: “Read me” or “Don’t bother”. Here are six ways to make sure that your headline says, “Read me.”
The headline or title of your blog post fulfills several functions, all of which lead to the same thing. The goal of the headline is to draw the reader in.
The actual functions are:
- Make passers-by on your website start reading the post.
- Make Google show your post (so that searchers can click on the link and read it).
- Make passers by in social media and in search engines click on the link (and, of course, read your post).
- Make people want to share the post when they see it in social media (so that their followers can click on the link and read it).
Provide a specific benefit in your headline or title
Passers by will read your blog post if they feel it is worth their time. On Gilligan’s Island they would read your blog post over and over and over. They have lots of time and little to read. On the Internet, we have lots to read. Lots and lots and lots.
Don’t forget that people’s time is very valuable…so your title must show that your blog post is even more valuable. Else, why would they spend their time, never to recoup it again, reading your blog post?
If your title can explain a specific benefit of reading your post, it will have done its job. That is its main function: to say, “Read me.”
Include numbers in your headline or title
One of the problems with information overload is that so much of it is just blah, blah, blah. Lots of generalities and platitudes, and lots of repetition (especially in the news). It’s like ponying up to a buffet serving nothing but rice.
So much of what people read is general and not helpful in their specific situation. That makes numbers all the more important. Numbers are specific. The more specific the numbers, the more useful they will appear.
So we see that blog post titles with numbers are more successful. And headlines with odd numbers (like 7, 11 and 137) get the most attention. Why? Because 10, 25 and 100 are round numbers. They might be accurate, but they sound like somebody just took a guess.
But 11 is a very specific number. It looks like somebody counted or took a measurement. They appear to be more credible and authoritative. People don’t assume that you added something or removed something to get a 7 or an 11, as they might with 10 or 25.
Include keywords in your headline or title
This is one aspect that a lot of online marketers “get” – but only for one of two important reasons. Other bloggers and businesses generally don’t seem to get either reason.
The first reason, the more obvious reason, is for SEO. Keywords in the right places boost search engine rankings. Few places are more “right” than the blog post’s heading.
No need to write on and on about the SEO benefits of keywords in the headline. There is a less-known reason to include keywords.
When people land on your page or see the title in social media, a keyword-based title tells them what the post is about in their own language. This is important.
They will read an article that tells them what they want to read.
They will click on a link that promises what they want to read.
How do you know it’s what they want to read? How will they know it’s what they want to read? Because you used their language, the words they use to search for content. That’s the power of keywords.
If people are searching for “wallpaper ideas”, which of the following headlines will get them reading and clicking most?
- Creative spring wall covering ideas
- Creative spring home décor ideas
- Creative spring wallpaper ideas
- Creative spring beached whale rescue ideas
This principle is not just about blog posts. In my media relations days, I kept watch for news releases related to issues I was dealing with.
Some news releases had very straightforward titles. They said exactly what was being announced. A busy reporter could quickly scan the title to decide if he or she wanted to cover the story.
Other news releases had very cute titles. Yes, the writers were very clever, loved puns and were sure that their news releases would stand out from all the others because of their clever titles.
But a busy reporter would have no idea what the story was about, so they had no motivation to read the release. It was news releases like those that kept wastepaper baskets gainfully employed.
No need to keep the “delete” button gainfully employed. Us the searcher’s language in your title, so that they will want to click.
Include words like “how” or “why” or “you” and “this” in your headline or title
There are certain words that catch people’s attention and promise a benefit for reading, no matter what the topic.
“You” is a magic word. It promises to provide something related to the reader. It speaks to the reader. The reader is the center of the reader’s universe, so make them the center of your headline.
“How” and “why” instantly tell a reader that there is something useful to read. “What” can be equally powerful.
“How” gives very practical information. It tells readers that by the end of the post, they should be able to do something. They will have a new skill.
“Why” helps them understand the reasons behind decisions or options. It helps people make better decisions.
Together, “how” and “why” are powerful words that promise concrete benefits.
“What” can tell them what they need to do, what they need to know or what is happening (so they stay informed).
“This” tells them there is something specific. It’s like pointing the way for them.
SPOILER ALERT. In this six-part series, note that I start the headlines with “what” once and “why” once.
Make your headline or title around 60 characters
There is an optimal length for a headline or title.
Too short, and people might assume that the article in not substantive. Plus, a short title can’t convey what’s in an article as easily as a longer title. A title is, after all, a summary of sorts.
Too long, and people yawn before they get to the end.
At 60 characters, you should be about 12 words. The latest research shows that longer titles, 15 to 17 words long, attract more links.
So, there are varying factors in choosing the title length. My advice will always be to write the title that will be of most interest to readers, never mind advice or data about the “ideal” length. Just remember that titles over 60 characters might get truncated in search engine listings. So you should make sure any critical words remain within 60 characters.
Now, that’s a headline!
Many people spend as much time tweaking their title as they do writing their blog post. This might be overdoing it, or at least over-thinking it. But the headline is by far the most important part of your blog post.
So take the time to do it right, and apply these six steps as often as possible.
Want to learn more?
Read the free ebook How to create mouth-watering blog posts, based on this Infographc.