There is an art to writing post headlines and bloggers have to learn this art in order to better attract visitors. Your potential visitors are busy people. You are competing to get their attention and a share of their valuable time, and you compete against many other things. Their work, their family and friends, their social network, their interests, all the other media and websites and many more factors.
To attract visitors and draw them in you must write powerful, relevant and eye-catching headlines for your posts. Your headlines must be sharp, they must make people curious and prompt them to click on your link no matter the distractions and the competing choices in their news feeds. If you achieve this your headlines will help your posts get more clicks, more shares and more engagement.
Spend time and write more than one headline
Some bloggers feel that it is difficult to explain what their post is about in a few words. Maybe that just shows that the post is not interesting enough and not written in the most optimized way. In other words an article that you cannot explain in a punchy headline may not be an article that you want to publish in its current state.
Many writers would spend majority of their time on the body of content itself and then just create a last-minute headline to finish it off before publishing. This is not the optimal way of doing it. Instead you should try and spend much longer time on figuring out the best headline for a post. After all not many will read the body of the content unless the headline attracts them in the first place.
Spending more time on the headline should be spent on writing several different alternatives. Writing more than one headline for each post forces you to think more about the headline and makes you think outside the box. Your first couple of choices might be something you’ve tested before or might be just something that comes first to your mind, but making yourself think of more than 3-4 headlines gets you in a more creative mindset. Eventually you’ll get to something that is not your typical headline and that might just be the one that works best.
Structural rules for writing irresistible headlines
It is difficult to pinpoint a distinct pattern of headline writing as there isn’t one really. If there was a simple solution we would all be getting thousands of clicks and shares. There is a lot of guesswork and trialing involved. Here are some structural rules, tips and ideas that you can follow in order to reach the widest audience and boost clicks when writing headlines.
- Develop a headline that tells people exactly what the article is about and what is in it for them so they know right away whether or not it is something they would like to click on
- Know who you are targeting and what problem you are solving and directly address the need of your audience
- Tell a story and make people curious in your headline but do not give everything away. This forces them to click to check out the full thing
- Promise quick and easy to follow, how to advice, instructions, guidelines and solutions to challenges your readers are facing
- Try adding numbers and top lists to your headlines
- Work in curiosity, benefits or a combination of the two in your headline
- Ask questions. Write headlines in a question format
- Refer to the audience. Make your headlines self-referencing to your visitor by adding “You” or “Your”
- Make your headlines condensed. Examine your headlines with a critical eye to make every word count
- Be informal and personal. After all you are competing in Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds amongst posts from friends and family
- Think how Google displays the headline in their search results. Google shows between 50-60 characters only – it shows exactly what fits in a 512 px. If the headline is longer they will not display the full headline. WordPress SEO plugin previews your search results snippet so it is worth making sure the headline is not too long before publishing.
Headline formulas you can try on your site
Most winning headlines can be distilled down to a fill-in-the-blank formula template. These templates can then be used for any topic that you are covering. For some ideas and examples of the above structural rules try writing your headlines using the formulas below. Do save this post so you can reference these when developing your own post headlines.
- How To ___________ – Step-By-Step Guide
- The Ultimate ___________ List
- How To ___________ In 10 Minutes
- The Pros And Cons Of ___________
- The Easiest Way To Make Your ___________
- 12 Sure Fire Ways To ___________
- 8 Shortcuts For ___________ In Record Time
- Get ___________! 12 Ideas That Really Work
- The Lazy ___________ Way To ___________
- 16 Lies ___________ Like To Tell
- 13 Warning Signs That ___________
- The Shocking Truth About ___________
- 10 Things Your ___________ Won’t Tell You
- How Safe Is Your ___________ From ___________?
- Do You Do Any Of These ___________ Mistakes?
- Don’t Do These 17 Things When ___________
- 16 ___________ Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making
- 11 ___________ Mistakes That Make You Look ___________
- 15 Things Your ___________ Needs To Hear You Say
- Unlock The Secrets Of ___________
- 7 ___________ Secrets Every ___________ Should Know
- The 16 Essentials Of ___________
- How To Take Charge Of Your ___________
- How To Make ___________ Work For You
- What ___________ Can Teach You About ___________
- Can You Really Trust ___________?
- 5 Little Known Ways To ___________
- 3 Little Known Factors That Could Affect Your ___________
- Get Rid Of ___________ Once And For All
- 12 Cool Tools For ___________
- The Complete Guide To ___________
- 18 Tips To Jump-Start Your ___________
- 14 Things I‘ve Learned About ___________
- 18 ___________ Hacks: A Cheat Sheet For ___________
One note from me is not to overuse any one of these as that would make them less effective.
Look for inspiration
Newspapers, magazines and websites online can be full of inspiration and ideas for your own headline writing. Keep an eye on them. Magazine front pages are full of irresistible headlines. Just take a look at front pages of Men’s Health or Cosmopolitan.
Also online sites like Buzzfeed have their headlines and listicles as big traffic driving factors and major reasons for their success. Explore them, learn from them, note interesting styles and formulas, and try and implement them on your own site.
Deliver on what your headline promises
Important point to make is that you should not oversell in your headlines and that you should always deliver what you promise. Do your best to write a compelling headline but do also deliver the quality content. There is nothing worse than clicking on a great headline and then seeing the content that is not being able to live up to the headline. The headline is worthless if the post does not deliver on its promise. Visitors would feel tricked into viewing and nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a killer headline but getting a weak article.
Test and analyse the data
An important part of the headline writing process is analysing the data and implementing the learnings to improve your future headlines. An easy way of doing this is to go through your visitor data and see which posts worked well and which don’t. Let us take a look inwards at some of the most visited articles on my site and analyze the headlines. Here are some examples of my posts that have been quiet popular that you could learn the format of and adapt to your own content:
- Best WordPress Plugins: 18 Most Downloaded WordPress Plugins Ever
- 8 Thesis Theme Design Tips To Make Your Site Better
- From 0 To 200.000 Visitors, 8 Blogging Lessons Learned
- 10 Elements Of Style Of Post Writing
- 24 Plugins That I Currently Use On My Site And Why You Should Use Them Too
- How To Install WordPress – Step-By-Step Guide
- 8 Things Every Blogger Can Learn By Studying Perez Hilton
What I learned from my past headlines is that having a “how to” or “top list” headline works great to attract visitors. Other things that seem to make headlines more clickable are quotes, numbers and popular names. These types of headlines make a specific promise of what’s in store for the visitor, they also make the visitor curious to find out more, or they attract the click thanks to the use of a popular name that the visitor has feelings for.
Just keep on writing and improving
What makes people click is a difficult question to answer and I hope that this article has explained you a little bit behind the art of headline writing and inspired you to work on your upcoming headlines or even go back and rework the headlines of some of your existing posts. Last piece of advice is to constantly test your headline writing, see which articles get most shares and views and do more of what works best. Some of your headlines might fail but you have to accept it, move on and keep writing more. All you have to do is explain people why they should click and read your article and not the next one that is in line waiting on their Twitter feeds. Good luck!