Before the internet, we used to go to libraries, research various topics and get informed on world events. The librarian, the local newspaper, as well as your grandparents used to be the main, most trustworthy sources of information and news.
Today on the other hand, in a matter of seconds you can have all the information you need about a research project done in Sweden, a revolutionary printer built in Japan, or 100 reviews on the high end restaurant that just opened down your street. Information is no longer a shortage. What’s scarce now, is human attention. Remember I told you how people have an attention span that is shorter than of a goldfish? Well.. welcome to 2016 and our attention based economy.
Users used to scan through your blog post, deciding whether it’s something useful and relevant, before diving into it. Now, with billions of notifications, pages, articles, websites, pop-ups and email marketing messages – users scan through your title, and solely based on that, decide whether it’s worth clicking the link and accessing your blog. Your headline is not the cherry on top of your desert, your headline is what sells your content. And though we’ve briefly touched upon this subject in our Blog Like a Pro article, we felt the need to dig a bit deeper and outline a few useful tricks to help you write catchy headlines. Not to mention the significant impact a good title can have on your SEO.
Title in Progress
When crafting a few potential headlines (yes, a few – nobody canceled the good old A/B testing) for your article, ask yourself a simple question “Would this get me curious and make me want to read it?”. If the answer is yes – great, carry on. If the answer is no, try to do some research on relevant keywords, see what people search and are interested in the most. Two great platforms to check for search trends are Google Trends and Buzzsumo. Doing some research will not only give you a better perspective on trendy topics, but also some inspiration on ways to formulate your headline.
Compare the popular links with your draft(s) and shape it accordingly. For example, if your article is about morning routines, there is a variety of ways to make it attractive:
– 5 Reasons why you should have a Morning Routine
– 3 simple steps to add to your Mourning Routine, to become more productive
– A healthy 10min morning routine to start your day in the best possible way
– 3 tricks every photographer should add to their morning routine
Though we will be analyzing the structure of a good headline in the following sections, it’s helpful to point out a few elements from the examples above. One – notice the usage of numbers in most of these titles? Two – most of the keywords use/offer easy, simple, quick solutions – to improve work, life, mood, health. Three – the last title targets very specifically a certain group of people. If you are a photographer – obviously you Want and Need to make sure you are doing those 3 things!
Now let’s break down all these “rules” that help you write catchy headlines:
Keep it Simple
Now this is a rule that can be applied anywhere, in anything. Your title should be easy to understand, and give the readers a clear picture in terms of what they are about to read. While using humor, sarcasm, or a trendy reference can sometimes be a winning strategy, there is also a 50% chance that it will confuse, mislead or simply not be understood by your audience. And these types of “fails” may not only cost you blog traffic, but hurt your overall credibility. So, unless you know your audience extremely well, and vice-versa – your audience subscribed to your blog exactly because of your writing style, your jokes and that dose of sarcasm, irony and straightforwardness (i.e. Mark Manson) – Keep it Simple!
Also, keep it short. Not just because of the character limit on Twitter, but because it has to take only a few seconds to read and understand what’s your article about.
Keep it Accurate
Your headlines set certain expectations for your readers. If you fail to meet and fulfill those expectations, you lose your readers’ trust and attention. So make sure your title doesn’t oversell your content. Respect your readers’ time and experience with your articles and blog. Make it worth their while.
Make a Promise
And it better be a good one! Promise your readers something valuable and interesting. Help them improve their lifestyle, their workflow, their travel planning routine or healthy cooking skills. Teach them something new and fun, share relevant experience and useful recommendations. Make it bold and alluring, but don’t overpromise.
Make a list. Use Numbers
If you think about it, almost every third article that you see online now has numbers in its headline. Why? Because it works! Structuring your content into a list of steps/tricks/rules makes it a lot easier to read through and remember. It’s a checklist, and people love checklists.
Want a test? Which of the following you’d be more curious to check out?
– 6 things you need to stop doing to become more productive
– Improving Productivity starts with improving your lifestyle
Though both headlines can lead to the same content and recommendations, the first one will surely collect more traffic and clicks as compared to the second one – because it promises an easy, list type of read. And we all love easy, simple and quick solutions.
A curious fact is that we are better at remembering lists with odd numbers of items, rather than even ones. For this reason, blog posts that include odd numbers in their titles tend to get 20% more traffic over titles with an even number of items.
Don’t be afraid to use strong words, to emphasize and attract your readers. There are tons of keyword lists available online, which have been tested out and proven to work. Your keywords should trigger strong emotions and reactions in your readers’ minds, be that inspiration, curiosity, sympathy or even anger (in the context when the topic is debatable, and they disagree with your opinion). Here, are just a few examples of Power words you can experiment with:
And of course, don’t forget about the Why, What, When, How, Which. These are helpful to use, because they promise an answer to an important question or problem. Similarly, terms such as This, These can create an extra intrigue and suggest an immediate answer to the created question.
For examples: “You are probably making these 3 mistakes while planning your wedding reception”. If you felt the immediate urge to find out whether you are making any of those 3 mistakes, our headline trick worked.
Handy Formulas to Keep in Mind
To wrap up all the the above elements and tricks that can help you write better and catchy headlines, here’s a list of “formulas” you can use when creating your headlines:
– Number quick/easy/simple steps/ways/tricks to something (i.e. 5 simple tricks to shoot better studio portraits)
– How to something (i.e. How to Blog like a Pro, How to organize the wedding of your dreams with a X budget)
– All that you need to know about something (i.e. All that you need to know about SEO)
– YOU/ME type of headlines (i.e. How to find YOUR inner voice within photography, How meditation made ME a better person)
– Top 10 lists
– Why (i.e. Why your blog posts aren’t getting enough engagement and how to fix it)
Apart from these few headline formulas that you can use when creating your titles, you can also look for a dose of inspiration and fun on Portent’s Content Idea Generator. While it won’t create the headline for you, it may get you some ideas in terms of structure and wording.
One final step, and you are good to go. CoSchedule created an amazing tool to analyze your headlines, give you a score and recommendations for improvement. After putting together one or a few potential headlines, tests them out with their Headline Analyzer. Experiment with longer and shorter titles, and see which scores best.
Our title, for example, “How to write catchy headlines that will attract more readers” scored 77. I started with the main keywords that I knew the title will include no matter what, and experimented with various formula types, while taking into consideration the recommendations of the analyzer. You can see how the score changed based on the words added or removed.
So, if you are reading this, it means you’ve just got a whole lot of new information to chew on and try to implement in your blogging strategy. I say “try” and not “do” because sometimes, while following all rules and advise – you may get lost and create something perfect from SEO perspective, but sounding completely strange for your reader. Remember to always choose the reader over any search machine and optimization strategy. In the end, it’s real people who will be reading your content, engaging with your ideas and thanking you for sharing your work, thoughts and experience.
We can’t wait to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic. If you know and use any additional tricks and formulas when creating your headlines, we would love to hear them!