Whether you’ve written just one blog post or 500, you can probably agree on one thing – writing a good headline is hard. You’ve got to use the right keywords, create intrigue, decide on the tone, and ensure it all fits into the ideal word count. No pressure.
The thing is, your headline determines whether or not readers click on your post and share it on their social channels. You can’t just wing it; you’ve got to have a technique. In the words of advertising legend David Ogilvy, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
To find out how to come up with a click-worthy headline, we spoke with Joanne Paulson, a veteran headline writer, blogger and novelist.
Bloggers can learn a lot from traditional media headlines
“Coming from a traditional news background, where goodness knows headline writing is hard enough, I found blog headlines posed even more challenges when I started to take those on,” Paulson reflects.
Luckily, the basic rules of traditional headline writing are also helpful for blog headlines. When in doubt, go back to the basics.
“News headlines had better tell the reader what’s to come, do so objectively and clearly, and be as concise as possible,” says Paulson. “Blog headlines give you a little more room to play, but in my view, they should still follow those basic rules.”
Tried-and-true tips for writing the best possible headlines
“If you want someone to follow your blog, be clear, honest and helpful,” advises Paulson. “That being said, blog heads need to engage readers on a different level from news heads; they’re more of a call-to-action than traditional headlines. And so, intrigue is more important.”
Paulson also recommends the following techniques:
- Use strong verbs
- Ask questions
- Provide your points in list format, and say so in the headline
Avoid disappointing your readers by steering clear of clickbait
Clickbait titles might help you get a few more clicks initially, but Paulson advises against them in the long run.
If you’re luring audiences in via clickbait headlines, they “will normally be disappointed with the content in the click-through, and not return to your blog,” Paulson says. “Differentiate yourself by telling the truth in the most engaging way possible.”
Paulson also gave a real-life example of how much headlines mattered when it came to promoting her latest novel.
“I could have written a sales post something like this: ‘5 reasons why you should read my great book.’ Instead, I tried: ‘So mysterious. So romantic. So action-packed. And so free.’”
The end result? “I did get a very good click-through rate on my newsletter and decent action on the sales site (Amazon),” Paulson reports.
It’s time to get even more creative
When it comes to headlines, Paulson says it’s time writers break the mould.
“I’m personally sick of the ‘5 ways to sell thousands of your widget’ format,” she says. “It’s time to mix things up, and thereby differentiate your content. Some of these approaches have been overused and I tend to roll my eyes and assume they’re clickbait.”
Of course you want your blog to stand out from the crowd – and it all starts with the headline.
Stop dreading headline writing and instead take the opportunity to tell the truth and get creative. If you need extra headline and blogging help, try a headline rating tool like CoSchedule, or get in touch with us – we’d love to get your blog up and running at peak performance.