Headlines are arguably the most important part of an article. Most people will never get past them to lay an eye on the actual text. Even more importantly, It’s the only chance to draw people in.
This is true for any type of media. But when it comes to online media, such as blogs, headlines play an even larger role.
Unlike newspapers or magazines, online media is endless. The only way to gain readers is by standing out and attracting them to your content, rather than someone else’s.
But to even be in the running for attention, your article needs to appear as an option. Whether on search engines or on social media, getting your article to pop up is the key.
A good headline will be able to rank high and gain visibility, but also turn potential readers into an actual audience.
These 7 steps are guaranteed to set you on your way to writing winner headline:
1. Make it irresistible
The number one priority for any headline is to motivate people to take the extra step, click the link and read the article.
The first step is to get noticed. In this age of endless feeds, titles fly by quicker than ever, and there are way too many for one person to read. A good header, that gets traffic, literally has to pop out of the screen to grab the reader’s attention.
The best way to ensure clicks is by appealing to people’s curiosity. A good article provides readers with value. But the headline has to hint at the value, promising it without giving it away.
There are certain things our brains simply find irresistible. People love secrets, facts and ideas. We crave knowledge, and the more exclusive, the better.
“9 Business Development Secrets” and “9 Business Development Tips” sure do sound similar, but which would get more attention?
Another surefire method is to use cliffhangers. Providing just enough information to get people interested, but holding back on the actual gems, will get readers to enter.
2. Throw in some power words
Some words have a greater impact than others. We’re hardwired to react to these words, making them leap out and demand our attention.
People crave newness. Words like “introducing”, “suddenly” and obviously “new” have an immediate impact. They have a clear relevance and they come with the promise of exclusive knowledge.
Another way to invoke a reaction is by going negative. Threats draw out an emotional response, much more than positive promises.
“Why Your Blog is Losing Traffic” resonates much more than “How to Boost Blog Traffic”, right?
3. Be accurate
Click-baiting is no longer a viable method to gain readers.
Making a huge promise in the title may get you a large chunk of traffic today. But once readers realize the header oversold the article, they probably won’t come back.
Take, for example, a headline that states “11 Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook”. Potential readers will, without a doubt, be Facebook users. If the article goes on to include tips that are actually geared more towards Twitter, it loses its relevance with the target audience.
Gaining readers is about trust. Once that trust has been broken, your blog will quickly get blacklisted by its target audience.
A good tip is to include extra information on the type of media found inside, in the header. If your article features photos, make it known before people click. This makes things clear right off the bat, bringing in only the right kind of reader, one that’s more likely to stay.
4. Keep it short
Optimal headline lengths differ, depending on where they’re presented. So, there isn’t one good amount of characters or words, rather a set of things to consider when writing a headline.
Search engines have a maximum title length. Google typically displays around 60 characters, though this changes periodically and depends on the device on which it’s displayed.
Optimizing the length of a header for social media is slightly. Articles shared on Twitter or Facebook usually perform best with a header of around 8-14 words.
Headline lengths should be determined by more than algorithms though. People react differently to different lengths as well. It’s best to make sure the title isn’t a mouthful and is easily digested without requiring too much thought.
“These 8 Instagram Marketing Methods are Guaranteed to Organically Increase your Blog Traffic” is much wordier and harder to understand than “8 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic Through Instagram”, though they retain the same meaning.
5. Optimize for social media and search engines
Search engines and social media platforms are two very different entities. And though some articles may be geared more towards SEO, and others towards social media shares, most find themselves somewhere in the middle.
The best way to approach both is by using appropriate keywords. Different fields and platforms have different optimal keywords, and they should be researched to get the best results. There are many online tools you can use to find the ones best suited for your article.
As a rule of thumb, keywords should also be positioned as soon in the headline as possible, without compromising meaning or coherency, of course.
Getting your article shared on social media has a lot to do with your headline. People want to post things they resonate with, that they perceive as part of their personality. So, it’s important to give them “sharable” titles, ones they would want to flaunt.
6. Optimize for your audience
It’s easy to get caught up in SEO and title lengths, but it’s crucial to stay in touch with the human side. Purely optimized headers aren’t necessarily appealing to people. They lack a human feel, and as a result, eventually rank even lower.
A good way to make sure your headlines are working is to consult and share with others. Write a few working titles, based on the guidelines above, and ask people which appeals most to them.
At a more advanced level, you can a/b test headlines, while already online, gathering information on what works for your own target audience.
7. Use numbers
There’s a reason so many blog articles use lists and numbers. They’re a great way to effectively communicate the value a reader can get, without having to pay too much attention.
Placing digits in the beginning of a header catches the eye immediately, especially in an endless scroll format. Which is, these days, what a good headline is meant to do.