“If the headline doesn’t make you feel inspired to read your own content, it won’t have that affect on anyone else either.”
This is one of the best headline writing tips I’ve ever read…
The quote gets right to the point and exposes the fact that most people don’t write headlines to be compelling, but rather to searchable or simply factually relevant to the article.
One of the biggest issues I see, aside from poor writing ability, is laughable SEO keyword-stuffing efforts. You can only stuff so many keywords, keyphrases, and semantic variants of either into a single headline, guys!
The rise of social has made the need for catchy and clever headlines even more important than ever before. Worse, if your headline doesn’t match your content (Ie., clickbait or downright terrible writing), your bounce rates are going to skyrocket.
Good content isn’t enough…
I’d bet there’s at least a zillion articles on the web by now. How many of them do you think are actually good?
There’s definitely a lot of junk. Especially those left over from the berry-dayz,before your average Internet user realised that manufacturers and their affiliates will actually lie to make money.
But, there is a lot of “good” content out there. You know, the kind that someone worked really hard on to stellar information and/or entertainment?
Most good articles sink quickly to Google’s double-digit page results and are never seen again.
“Good content gets read once or twice. Great content gets shared forever.”
It all starts with the headline…
Articles don’t get read, headlines do.
Trending articles on social media are the ones with the most compelling headlines. A headline gives the user a split-second snapshot of what they will learn, and yay or nay judgements to click or not are made instantly.
Ultimate list of headline writing tips that get more social shares:
- Listicles: Really popular, offering an easily digestible numbered list of tips, information or opinions (Eg., “10 Ways to Stop Your Dog Pooping on the Carpet”)
- Delight: Make the reader feel like they’re going to be really happy after reading the article (Eg., “You’ll Cry Tears of Joy After Reading This”)
- Punchy: Direct words and phrases can stop headline scanning in its tracks (Eg., “Want to Know What He Really Thinks of You?”)
- Negativity: Arguably the most effective technique for creating shareable headlines on social (Eg., “Taylor Swift Just Accused Kim Kardashian of Having Butt Implants!”)
- Curiosity: Curiosity wins clicks and social shares when done right (Eg., “This Single Grooming Tip Will Make You Irresistible to Women/Men”)
- Numbers: Numbers let the reader know they can scan the article quickly to get the gist, without spending too much of their valuable time (Eg., “20 Cheap and Easy Cleaning Hacks for a Sparkling Kitchen”)
Winning headline writing equation for both search and social:
Things get a little trickier when you’re trying to write for SEO and search at the same time. The two aren’t as synonymous as many of you think.
Matt Cutts has been over this before and to my knowledge, hasn’t changed the answer he gave way back in 2014.
Essentially, social accounts, statuses, follower count and other details, can change at any moment. Accounts disappear, are made private, or Google bots are restricted from viewing the page at some future point.
Thus, headlines need to satisfy both the search engines and the generic-headline-weary viewing public at the same time.
Copyblogger states the following equation is all you need to get the best out of each of these efforts:
- Keyword + Colon + Number + Benefit and/or Emotional Trigger
- Example: “How to Remove Acne Scars: 5 Natural Remedies That Actually Work
This particular equation says you should put your main keyword/keyphrase at the beginning of the headline. Then use a colon to link it to a benefit the reader will gain from reading it, or a specific emotional trigger to lure them into reading.
In the sample, you’ll see the popular keyphrase “How to Remove Acne Scars” followed by a scanable number “5 Natural Remedies”.
The “That Actually Work” part is an emotional trigger. The reason? Most who have severe acne scars have tried everything under the sun and nothing has worked.
In truth, I don’t always follow all these headline writing tips and have turned out “great”content…
In my opinion, sometimes putting the keyphrase at the start of a headline to satisfy search engines, will make the title look unappealing or cheesy to social users.
Copyblogger, Wordstream, Neil Patel and other online marketing heavyweights say to follow their headline writing tips or get left in the dust.
So, it’s probably a good idea to work their expert tips into your plan, and use them as often as possible!
Share your thoughts…
Main Image Credit: ITU Pictures/Flickr