This Secret will Earn you 10X more Blog Traffic.
Which would you read?
- Zach Wahls Speaks About Family
- Two Lesbians Raised a Baby and This is What They Got
Guess which performed better?
The first title got 1 million views on Upworthy, while the 2nd one had 17 million views. From being fantastical, to generating curiosity, to creating a human connection with your human readers, strong headlines are key to content marketing success.
Sometimes, in the midst of all the other pressures that go into writing the perfect blog post, we forget about one of the most important aspects of this process: the title. You can write the most scintillating, in-depth tutorial on how to advertise on Facebook that has ever been written, but if the first thing the reader sees is “Facebook Advertising: How To” you might lose out on tremendous potential, no matter how great the content is.
There’s also a distinct drop in readership between title and post. Eight out of ten users will scan your actual headline – and from there, only two out of ten continue reading. It’s your job to make that conversion as easy as possible – and to hook in that other 75% of readers.
To begin, we’re going to look at the basics.
What Should You Write About?
Unfortunately, a headline can only be as good as its subject. So before we dive in to headlines, let’s start by reviewing tools to help you brainstorm and come up with ideas for magnetic content.
Where can you seek inspiration?
Feedly: Feedly is a great content marketing tool that allows you to synthesize the news and content coming from specific resources, sites, and industries into one feed. You should have several feeds for your niche, your company, your interests, and your services – then, cruise through these everyday to see what the top, hot stories are for each element.
Key to using Feedly is having amazing SOURCES. Before you start with content marketing, you’ll want to identify leading industry sites and grab their RSS feeds, properly categorized in Feedly. Then you can easily/quickly scan titles to incite ideas for content. In addition, look at the number between the source and the title – this indicates the total social shares for that article. Articles with the greatest number of shares will indicate high popularity.
Buzzsumo: Buzzsumo is another site that allows you to quickly peruse content that’s already created a “buzz.” You can also highlight specific sites or competitors to see what content coming from them is the most viral. For example, if you ran a parenting phone app, you might want to check sites like Parenting.com to see what stories are getting the most hits from them. You can also search by keyword if you are not sure what the top sources are. Using Buzzsumo, you can get an idea for what that particular audience finds “shareable”.
Topsy: Topsy offers a great prediction tool of sorts. It takes all of the data, mentions, hashtags, and various activity from Twitter and uses it to gauge how successful or popular certain topics would be. This is a great place to try out a blog topic to see if it has a “viral” element to it. You can also go directly to Twitter itself to see what’s being talked about, shared, and discussed.
Buzzfeed/Upworthy: These sites offer some of the most well-shared stories on a constant basis. They cover pop culture, humanitarian issues, technology, and much more. You can search these pages for topics within your industry to see where the conversation is the most interesting – and in need of some added input from you!
Crafting your Headline
If your content is enticing and share worthy, then creating powerful headlines will be a natural development. If your topics are dry and uninteresting, then you’ll have a challenge creating powerful headlines! In this section, we’ll go through the steps of creating persuasive, compelling headlines. p culture, humanitarian issues, technology, and much more. You can search these pages for
When looking at a headline’s length, it’s necessary to understand that readers skim everything – including the title. Only the first and last three words of a title are actually absorbed by a reader. This means, when formulating a headline, you need each word to pack a punch.
But that doesn’t mean we want the shortest possible length – this is, after all, an important part of marketing your content, and for SEO purposes, there is such a thing as “too short.” The approximate length of the headline should be about 55 characters for the perfect balance between too long and too short.
That looks about this length:
What Words Should I Use?
Scientific studies have actually found the kinds of words that work better to create an alluring, clickable headline. Twitter released a study that found titles that are more actionable – in other words, chocked full of verbs and adverbs – did better than titles with more nouns or adjectives.
While it’s good to see the actual numbers, the sentiment behind the information isn’t hard to believe. It’s the difference between writing a more descriptive, passive title and a driven, active title. Which of these would you click on?
The House That Cost Only $2,000
What if You Could Pay Only $2,000 To Move Into Your Dream Home?
The latter, right?
When writing your blog titles, try to have an equal number of nouns and verbs – if not more verbs.
You should also try to structure your language as a “you” as opposed to “us”. A recent report shows readers respond better when an article is more catered to what it can do for them, and let what is has done for it’s writer (s).
So, when phrasing your headline, think of something like this:
And less like this:
Formatting Your Headline
While headlines may seem to have an obvious formatting style, there are specific techniques you can use to make them even more clickable.
Center your headline.
This separates it from the rest of the text easily, and establishes it as the first thing the reader should read. While this might sound simple, there are a lot of sites and writers that get this wrong – and as soon as your blog’s structure confuses or convoluted your purposes, you’re going to lose a lot of people.
Make the words easy to read.
Lettering should be in black or dark font against a white/light background – or vice versa. If your title is hard to find or read, your chances of getting the reader to get to your actual article are next to nil.
Use title case.
Capitalizing each word just looks correct, grammatically sound, and helps, once again, separate the title from the article.
Get your punctuation straight.
If you have a longer title, use ellipses or a comma to give the reader a breath. Run-on sentences or exhaustive phrases with no breaks will only scare people away – who would want to read a blog post from someone whose title wasn’t even pleasant to read?
Use quotation marks.
This method has been found to catch the eye – it immediately gives the authoritative sense that the article is citing someone of importance.
Have a subheading.
Subheadings are a great way to offer more information about your article that readers can skim without committing to reading the article. This is also a good place to put quoted material, too.
This is a good example of a perfectly formatted headline.
Formulas To Try
Now, we can get into the nitty gritty – formulas.
Writers and bloggers might blanch at that word – formula? What about originality, quality writing, and creativity?
But while there’s plenty of room for all that, headlines do have specific techniques and structures that have been proven to be popular. Here are just a few.
Add an element of surprise.
We all know those articles – the ones we’d never read in our wildest dreams, but simply couldn’t skip over because the title made it sound like we’d be missing out on something if we didn’t read it. In your title, taunt the reader with something new and tantalizing – making it harder for them to forgo reading:
Pose your title as a question.
It’s a more creative – and powerful- way of telling people that you have an answer to something they might have asked themselves before:
Poke at their curiosity.
Hint at something particularly surprising in your title:
Use a negative.
Pose your title as a means of helping them avoid or caution against mistakes. It’s harder to ignore an article whose title hints at a problem many people have or worry about having:
Give a guide – and benefits.
Offer the blog post as a guide of sorts by engineering your wording as a “how to.” This is a famously potent means of getting readers to click on your link – from Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which has sold more than 15 million copies, to some of the most popular articles online like “How to Travel Around the World for $418” and “How to Be an Effective Liar”. “How to” articles do more than simply give you a tutorial – they are subliminally telling the reader the benefits they glean from reading their post. And a title that hits on the right kind of benefits for their target will go viral.
- “How To Make Your LinkedIn Profile #1 in Your Network.”
- “How to Start Your First Advertising Campaign.”
- “How to Create an Ad that Has to Be Clicked.”
Readers like knowing exactly what they’re getting. They’re much more likely to read a blog post that tells them exactly what they’re getting, than a post that is about the same subject, but much more vague on how it will deliver this information.
Using numbers also signifies that you know your stuff. A medical article detailing seven signs you might have hypothyroidism immediately sounds like a reliable source, as opposed to a more general article about hypothyroidism symptoms.
Numbers also allow you to do something that never fails – appeal to individual ego. Use them to set forth an “identification” quiz of sorts.
Target your audience.
You do it when advertising, when writing – so why shouldn’t you do it in your title? Make sure the people who would most benefit from your article know that this post is, indeed, for them.
- “For Marketers Sick of Low ROI”
- “Are You an Employee Who Wants to be a CEO?”
- “Twitter Users: Are You Sick of the Hashtag?”
When All Else Fails: Fool-Proof Formulas
When you’re writing a lot of content, sometimes even the best writers can lose their creative juice when they’re on their third article of the day. Copyblogger offers some of the best title formulas that will rarely fail.
· “Who Else Wants [Blank}?”
The universal phrase is a tool of commiseration, of encouragement, and of casual conversation – and it pulls everyone in. Titles like “Who Else Wants To Get Better ROI on PPC Ads?” are perfect.
· “The Secret of [Blank]”?
Everyone wants to feel like they’re in the know. If you’re offering something that’s meant to inform someone of something that isn’t very well-known, they’re going to want to read it. “The Secret of Paying Less for Adspace While Getting More Conversions.” This also links to another phrase, “Little Known Ways To [Blank].”
· “Here is the Method That is Helping [Someone] Do [Something]
This formula plays on our human need to constantly compare ourselves to others – and suggests the reader it can help them gain an upper hand. “Here’s How the Best Marketers are Using Social Media to Make Thousands.”
· “Stop [Problem] Once and For All”
This is an easy way to target readers who will benefit from your subject – and let them know you have the solution.
· “Here’s a Fast Way to [Solve Something]”
It’s alluring because it’s offering convenience, while hacking into an entire readership of people who share a common problem.
· “What Everyone Should Know About [Blank]”
This can be helpful if you have a subject that’s really big – and may be harder to whittle down to specifications we’ve used so far. This way, you can bank on the fact that your article is so thorough while also finding a way to get it all across in a short line. “What Everyone Should Know About SEO Management.”
Testing the Success of a Blog Title
If you’re stuck creating a blog title – or, the more common case, stuck between several versions and unsure of which to choose, you have several tools in your arsenal.
Have a good following on Twitter? Put them to use!
- Make a schedule for all of the titles you are considering. If you have more than two you want to test, schedule two titles for one day, and do the next two titles the next day.
- Make sure you tweet your two blog titles an hour apart so they are tweeted around the same time of day – and make sure you chose the time of day during which you get the most traffic!
You can use truesocialmetrics to see what time period of the day you get the most visits.
Here’s Copyblogger’s typical Twitter activity:
If someone wanted to test a title from Copyblogger’s account, the best time of day would be around nine in the evening or nine to ten in the morning.
- Tweet your first title. Wait an hour, then tweet your next title. Give the process a whole 24 hour period before you go back and note the results for each title.
- When the 24 hour period is up, use a site like Bufferapp to see which titles got the most response.
Don’t have a huge following on Twitter? Using a newer account? No problem.
You can use paid testing to promote each tweet and follow the same routine. This way your lack of followers won’t impede your Tweet’s visibility (it’ll also get you some followers, while you’re at it!)
Tweet your blog’s varying titles an hour apart. If you have more than a couple you want to try, keep it to two titles today and do the next one or two tomorrow at the same time of day. You don’t want to get inaccurate results because you tweeted one in the morning and one in the evening.
Are you (Up)Worthy?
Even if you aren’t too keen on the Twitter idea, the same process can be used on any platform. Just look at one of the best “viral” news curators on the internet: Upworthy.
They get 3 million unique hits to their website a month. They’ve been hired by Gap, Pantene and Target to share their content. They’ve perfected the “viral share” as a story from Upworthy is guaranteed to permeate the interwebs with the ease and stealth of a Google update.
But how do they do this?
Their process is infamously thorough. For every piece of content an Upworthy writer creates or curates, they must come up with 25 headlines. While many of these headlines are expected to stink, there is usually at least one or two gems in there – and because they must write so many, the sheer number of them usually forces the writer to think “outside the box.”
Garrett Moon illustrated the process by coming up with 25 titles for a post about Facebook’s decline in the marketing world. As you can see, the titles get better and more original as they go on.
For a simple run-down of this process, Upworthy usually follows this routine when creating headlines:
- Write 10 headlines.
- Write another 15 headlines.
- Go back and delete the 15 worst headlines from the bunch.
- Go through and mark your best five headlines.
- Conduct a poll. Ask a writing team, your Facebook friends, anyone, and ask them which they like best. Keep a tally.
- Conduct an A/B test. You can use the aforementioned Twitter technique, or you can use any other platform to interact with your audience, like an email list or Facebook post.
From there, you’ll be creating titles worthy of Upworthy!
Prepare a Swipe File
So, you’ve got your awesome blog title, and now you’re ready to post your entry for the whole world to see!
Instead of waiting to tackle the title-process until you have an idea for a blog post, you can constantly hone your own personal formulas and titles by creating a Swipe File. This could be anything – a Google Spreadsheet, a Word document, or even a sticky note. But you should designate a specific place to keep every title you come across while perusing the internet.
Here’s an example:
This is a great way to get better at recognizing good titular elements as well. Find yourself drawn to that article on the Facebook sidebar? Can’t go back to work until your read the headline from the Huffington Post that popped up in your email? Write those down, and keep them for future reference. If they drew you in, chances are there is something about them that will draw in other people as well.
Some marketers and bloggers even like to share their swipe files and trade them with others. It’s a great way to keep the juices flowing, and make connections with other people. Offer to share your swipe file on your blog!
Blogging in and of itself is a pivotal practice in the world of online marketing. This means every element that goes into honing the perfect post is extremely important, but that is particularly true for the headline. Your headline is the equivalent to a paid ad – and your blog is the landing page. If your headline is exciting, intriguing, and informative, you will have no problem drawing readers with ease.
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