The headline is the most important part of a blog post. Majority of people that see your posts will see the headlines only. Without a compelling headline not many will actually click to visit your article.
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.
Write at least five headlines per article
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. This also gives you more options and interesting angles when posting and re-posting your content in social media.
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 five 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.
Don’t resist this. Five headlines is not much actually, the people from Upworthy recommend you write at least 25!
To help you come up with more and with better headlines this article will feature structural rules, trigger words to use, proven headline formulas and real-life examples of successful headlines from my own blog. Let’s get started.
Structural rules for headlines guaranteed to get you clicks
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. Just give them a sneak preview by including statements such as “You won’t believe the number 5” or “Number 7 has worked incredibly well for me”. This forces them to click to check out the full thing.
- Work in curiosity, benefits or a combination of the two in your headline. Talk about “secrets”, “hacks”, “techniques”, “strategies”, “warnings” and “mistakes”. Make people feel they will miss out on something amazing and important unless they click on your post.
- Promise quick and easy to follow, how to advice, instructions, guidelines and solutions to challenges your readers are facing. People love “simple”, “easy”, “fast”, “instant” and “quick”.
- Create a great resource of information. Make it “the ultimate”, “the complete”, “the definitive” or “the best”. Everything something needs to understand about one topic in one single post.
- Try adding numbers and top lists to your headlines. The larger the number the most interest there will be. Everyone’s bored of top 3 and top 5, but top 77 might just do the trick.
- Ask questions. Write headlines in a question format. Just make sure to break the Betteridge’s law that says that every headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with a word “no”.
- Namedrop celebrities and other names your audience recognizes. I’ve compiled lessons learned from names such as Stephen King and Steve Jobs with great success.
- Be conversational and direct. 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.
Proven headline formulas you should 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.
Use emotional trigger words to engage people
Trigger words engage people on an emotional level and they work exceptionally well in headlines. They are also some of the most persuasive words in the English language.
Here’s a list of some trigger words you can start with:
- Eye Opening
- Jaw dropping
- Mind blowing
- Sky rocketing
Look for inspiration
Newspapers, magazines and websites online can be great idea sources, 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 such as Buzzfeed, Upworthy and The Daily Mail 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.
Some bloggers use social media to test out ideas for posts before writing them. You could try this out too. Send out a tweet with a quote, a statement or a piece of advice and see how people react.
If you see a larger-than-normal amount of responses and engagements it might be a topic you could expand into a complete blog post.
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.
The headline frames the rest of your visitor’s experience on your site. Visitors would feel tricked into viewing and nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a killer headline but getting a weak article.
Think how Google displays the headline in their search results
Google may not be as important in driving traffic to a site as it was before the rise of Facebook and other social media platforms, but it can still be a very valuable way of getting your content to more people. You should make sure your headlines display well in the 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.
In cases where your optimal headline is longer than that, try and do a shorter and more concise version for search engines only.
WordPress SEO WordPress plugin previews your search results snippet the way it will look in search results. It also allows you to write the “SEO Title”. This is the title that will show in search results while you still keep your original title on your post itself and in social media shares.
Learn and improve by testing and analysing 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 will suck and will 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!