Writing an effective blog post headline is one of the most challenging steps in getting your content ready for publishing, and one of the most rewarding if done well. The headline is the lure that will draw readers to your content; it’s worth taking the time and effort to get it right.
Here is a simple 3-step guide to crafting the perfect blog post headline that will grab your audience and make them click through to your post.
Step One: Choose a Tone
The first step in writing a headline is choosing a tone that will appeal to your audience. Should it be funny, serious or lighthearted? You can learn more about choosing tone of voice in this post I wrote for the Writtent Academy. Tone of your headline will often match your blog post, but not always. Remember, the headline’s job is to get attention while the blog post needs to contain relevant and engaging content; treat them independently for best effect.
Step Two: Choose Your Method
Method #1: Be provocative.
As Contently points out, the Huffington Post has done a very good job of using provocative headlines to attract attention. Provocative headlines can be extremely effective, but just be careful not to be so heavy-handed that you end up writing clickbait.
Clickbait: Sensationalist headlines created to entire readers to click through, but which lead to irrelevant or low-quality content.
Don’t do that. It might garner some traffic up front, but readers will learn pretty quickly to avoid you. If you are writing a provocative headline, make sure the click-through content delivers exactly what your reader expects, or more.
- “Cat Jumps Three Stories to Escape Apartment Fire”
- “NYC Woman Finds $3000 in Gold Krugerrands on the Subway”
- “This South American Hair Loss Treatment Will Blow Your Mind”
Tada! You’ve written something sensational that has to be clicked to be believed.
Method #2: Be direct.
Tell your reader exactly what he or she will get in exchange for clicking. This no-nonsense approach is likely to be appreciated by most readers.
- “9 Reasons You Need a Vintage Record Player”
- “The Definitive Guide to Australian Wines”
- “How to Become a Professional Storm Chaser”
Method #3: Or, be obscure.
Obscure headlines are trickier and less stable than provocative or direct headlines; because the reader is not sure what to expect, their reaction to even the best quality content could be negative if they were hoping for something else.
Obscure headlines can definitely entice readers to click, but use them at your own risk. Try to at least hint at the subject matter to increase the chance that your reader will be satisfied.
- “This Man Went Home Early, and You Won’t Believe What He Saw!”
- “Do You Agree With This Judge’s Jaw-Dropping Ruling?”
Step 3: Add Pizzazz
Now that you’ve filled in the black and white by choosing your tone and method, it’s time to make it sparkle and color to your headline. Choose one or two of the following tools to help make your headline more appealing.
- Alliteration. Used judiciously, alliteration is a powerful ally. According to Matt Thompson of Poynter.org “it pleases the brain while it’s parsing information, and a ‘pleased’ brain is more likely to feel like reading your piece.”
Example: “17 Crowdsourcing Capers You Just Won’t Believe”
- Numbers. That example is also perfect for the next handy tool: use numbers in your headlines to let your audience know exactly how much of what they will get in return for clicking and giving your their time, and to help them identify with your subject.
- Use an adjective. Interesting adjectives in headlines gives the reader an expectation of what emotional reaction they might get from reading more.
Example: “The Strange and Fascinating Life of Howard Hughes”
- Ask a question. What better way to grab someone’s attention than to address them directly and ask for a response.
Example: “Are You Ready to Learn the Secrets of Woodworking?”
Here are a few other rules and tips for creating catchy blog post headlines:
- Use assistance. Bounce ideas off of others, reference the internet, brainstorm, or group-write.
- Write multiple headlines. Create at least three and choose the best to publish.
- Use strong language. Use language that shows off vocabulary and interests the reader.
- Use something catchy. Use catchy phrases or rhymes to attract more attention.
- Sell the benefits of reading the post – if the reader can gain something from reading make sure they know what they will gain allow the post to tell them how.
- Use one of two of your best keywords. This might seem like a no-brainer, but give the reader just one good, specific and interesting topic and they’ll stop scrolling long enough to give it a second look.
- Keep it short and sweet. Make sure the headline contains only a few very effective words. Basically, by using no more than 65 letters or symbols you are forced to create a succinct, effective headline. Not only that, but you also create a headline that won’t be truncated in search results, and is short enough that including it in a Twitter share will still leave room for comments.
- Create a sense of urgency. Make the reader feel like they need to know this information now or they won’t be able to function.
With a little practice and a bit of research, you’ll soon develop your own methods for writing knockout headlines for your blog posts that will grow your audience and encourage social sharing. For example, I started out writing headlines last, but I’ve since learned to perfect the headline first and use it as a focal point while creating my posts.
How about you? If you have your own habits and methods for creating headlines, I’d love to hear about it.