11 Ways to Write Damn Good Headlines
I'm going to be bold here and create an ultimatum for bloggers.
Your headline is the most important part of your blog post.
Because if you don't have a great nay, sensational, awe-inspiring headline for your blog post, no one will ever read it.
As such, it doesn't matter if the content is top-notch. It doesn't matter if you've discovered a cure for cancer and you're telling everybody about it in your post, because no one will click-through from the headline to read it.
Good. Now here's how to ensure you content does get read -- 11 proven strategies to craft a phenomenal headline that drives traffic.
1. Use Odd Numbers
Everyone already knows that human minds have a thing for list posts. It's not a difficult concept to fathom either -- telling people exactly what they'll get out of reading your blog post has always worked to generate traffic.
But here's something you probably didn't know: odd number list posts get 20% more traffic than their even contemporaries.
Example: 11 Things Everybody is Doing Wrong at Work
2. Ask a Question
What's the best way to get your reader involved with your post right from the get-go?
Dean Rieck of CopyBlogger says to ask a question, and he's right. Questions appeal to reader emotions like few others can. It promotes that ever-important conversational tone vital to a good blog post.
It makes readers want to know more.
Example: Are You Making These 11 Mistakes at Work, Too?
3. Use Power Words
Power words are key to connecting with your reader and getting them to perform a certain action (they're also great for call to actions). Power words connect with readers and inspire emotion.
Here are a few examples: fooled, smash, fatal, and warning (here's 313 more). Practice using power words not only in your headlines, but also in your actual post content.
Example: 11 Fatal Mistakes Everybody Makes at Work
4. Mix in Keywords
Keyword-centric headlines are crucial to getting your blog post ranked highly on Google. Whenever possible, focus your SEO headline (separating your SEO headline from your "actual" headline is easy with theWordPress SEO plugin) around your target keyword(s).
Whether or not you mention your primary keyword early in your headline is a major Google ranking factor. Naturally, you should always be writing for humans, but keep Google in the back of your mind as well.
Example: 11 Mistakes at Work All New Employees Make (keyword: "mistakes at work")
5. Give an Order
One of the worst mistakes you can make as a blogger is to assume that random Internet surfers know what they're doing. More often than not, if you tell them do something as small as clicking through from a headline, they'll just do it no questions asked.
Don't be afraid to be assertive and forceful. After all, you are the expert.
Example: Read These 11 Mistakes You're Making at Work NOW
6. Give Them a Reason to Click
This tip works best when combined with the above tip #5 -- snap a command, then give them the reason why they should obey it. Yes, you should be able to garner a decent amount of traffic even without the latter portion, but trust me -- giving people a reason to click will skyrocket your CTR.
We're only surfing the Internet because we want to get some benefit/reward out of it -- nobody reads a blog post just to encourage the author.
Example: Reading This Post Will Make Your Boss Like You 541% Better
7. Create THE Resource on XYZ Subject
One of my favorite content strategies (I use it all the time) is to write blog posts that are meant to be the resource on something. In other words, it's the only piece of content anyone needs to read on the subject.
Not only is this a great way to avoid content marketing mediocrity, but this tactic allows you to use phrases like "the ultimate/comprehensive/definitive guide to" -- phrases that are proven to increase CTR.Neil Patel's guides at QuickSprout are classic examples of this.
Example: The Ultimate Guide to Eliminating Mistakes from Your Work Habits
8. Sneak Previews
Viral content sites like Upworthy, Viral Nova, and Buzzfeed frequently use this tactic. There's no definitive/accepted term for it, but I like to call them sneak previews.
In essence, you use a list title, but then mention one of the numbers in the latter portion of the title to drive clicks. Not a good explanation? Perhaps it's best demonstrated with an example.
Example: 11 Mistakes You're Making at Work. #5 is Just So Obvious.
9. Be Controversial
I love stepping on people's toes. You know why? Because the strategy never fails to elicit a response. In other words, controversial blog posts gets comment -- negative and positive. User engagement gets a huge boost, and you can get some good discussion/debate on your post.
People hate to be insulted or to have their ideals insulted ... which is why they will click if you insult them or go against one of their pet peeves. That's also why websites likeClick Here You Idiot trigger tons of traffic (go ahead and click it, I'll wait).
Example: 11 Stupid Mistakes You're Still Making at Work
10. The Timeless How-To
It's common knowledge that searchers want solutions. People search the Internet for something because they want to solve a problem. More often than not, the solution to that problem is easily manifested in an old-fashioned how-to post.
There's a reason why sites like WikiHow and eHow were able to amass huge popularity.
Example: How to Not Suck at Work -- 11 Mistakes to Eliminate Right Away
For some reason unbeknownst to mankind, people love reading about celebrities -- particularly if you're able to pull off a unique angle that the big-time publications haven't caught on to yet. Drop the name of a popular celebrity in your title, and you could well be looking at hordes of traffic from your next post.
Even if you're not in the celebrity niche, you can still name-drop well-known brands like what Marcus Taylor did with Deconstructing How Mashable, ProBlogger & KISSmetrics Reached Millions of Readers.
Example: 11 Work Mistakes That Won't Help You Get Hired by Facebook
Which of these tips is your favorite? What type of title will you be crafting for your next blog post? Let us know in the comments.
Don't forget to check out 25+ Resources to Teach You How to Write Killer Headlines For Your Blog!
Great article Helen! I would add to the list….” stay away from academia type writing” and “always add humor”
Thank you for checking it out, Carla! Thank you for the tips – indeed humor is a great booster for the engagement and the CTR. It is tricky, though, to write that perfectly humorous, professional, intriguing and polite headline, all at the same time:)
Bookmarked this article weeks ago and have finally got round to reading it. Very glad I did! Will be sharing it, thanks Helen!
Kirsty, thanks for stopping and thanks for sharing! Glad you liked it, come back for more :)
Excellent advice shout out to Lisa Irby for sharing this article on G+ I’ll have to test this out myself.
Great, thank you for stopping by and letting us know :)
Hi, Helen. This article is very great. Thank you for sharing !
You’re always welcome.
What I want to say is “go to hell for promoting these [to me] highly annoying headlines”, but the truth is that you’re right. No love lost toward most of the modern headlines and I am turned off by most of these examples. As it’s often the case, I assume that everything in these article are of sub-par quality (but of course, not always (also… personal experience, not fact)).
But I’m an odd goose, evidence says. Modern headlines isn’t for me, but seems to attract the attention of the general mass.
I ended up here while researching terminology and not for the article per se. :)
I’m so lonely.
Congrats for the noteworthy blog you’ve set up at writtent.com. Your enthusiastic take on the subject is definitely inspiring. Thanks again!
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