How To Write A Perfect Blog Headline
Are blog headlines really that important? Let's delve in.
Headlines exist for three reasons:
1) To summarize the topic of the blog post so the reader knows what it's about,
2) To give the reader incentive for taking time out of their day to listen to what you have to say,
3) To provide SEO that gets your article found in Google searches.
Every day we see hundreds or thousands of headlines competing for our attention on social media and news websites. Studies have found that two million new blog posts are written every single day. That’s a lot of competitor content to cut through. So your headline needs to both be interesting to the readers who see it, but also practical enough to get seen. This means you balance SEO with good writing.
On average only 20% of people who see your content headline (this is called an impression) will click into the post (this can be called a view or reach). With so much competing information we reserve our time for posts we are sure will be valuable to us.
Due to this high level of competition, your headline needs to be sensible. A headline does not exist to be witty, humorous or overly clever. A headline should be clear, succinct and promising of value. It should consist of keywords that your reader is likely to plot into a search engine when seeking content such as yours.
Wit and humour are only added bonuses if you have already met the criteria for a useful headline. If you’re going to make it witty, witticism should be relegated to a parenthesis after a colon, leaving the first half of the title as a clear summary of what the following text contains. A second option is to place your pun in the excerpt, so it appears below the title but not within the header itself.
Realistically, your blog headline should be the long-tail keyword for the topic of your blog post. This is something you should already know before you start. (Otherwise what are you even writing right now!?)
My long-tail keyword for this post was “how to write a blog headline”, so it was clear from day one that this was my title. All there was left for me to do was add in a hook that showed the reader there would be value inside the post. I’m not just teaching you how to write a blog headline (i.e. find the “post title” section and type in the title), I am teaching you how to formulate the perfect headline. Therefore, even if you’ve been writing blogs for years you may still be looking to improve and this content could be valuable to you. Plus, I plugged it into Google and there were no hits in the first page so I’m not directly copying anyone doing well in SEO right now.
How long should a headline be?
Experts do not agree on this subject, but the answers vary from six to 12 words. Hit 15 words and you’ve gone too far, but there’s a marked performance drop-off below five words. 70 characters is the maximum for a full title to appear in a Google search, so do with that info what you will.
Firstly, you should speak in second person. This blog post should be of value to the reader, not to you. Therefore, convey in your heading specifically how the enclosed content will help the reader by speaking directly to them. Your readers aren't crowded around a communal computer, your content is read by one individual at a time. Speak to that individual.
Secondly, use active rather than passive voice. In an active sentence the subject (the reader) is doing the action. You aren’t talking about the reader, you're talking to them and encouraging them to take action in some way. Delete any wishy-washy language and exclude any words that are unnecessary.
For example, a bad heading would be “How Entrepreneurs Can Make More Money”. A better performing headline would say something like “Learn To Earn More As An Entrepreneur”. It’s in an active voice and is speaking directly to the reader, rather than about them.
- Capitalize each word. The appropriate capitalization of a headline is every word before a colon.
- Sell the value: Ensure there’s a “power word” or phrase in the title that uses psychology to convince the reader of value. Pinterest contains some handy lists of power words.
- Don’t oversell: Cramming your headline with superfluous adjectives about how useful your blog is read as fake and generates suspicion. You’re not a scam artist, so don't sound like one! You’re giving away real, valuable information that can stand on its own. Exaggerating the value of your content just leads to disappointment. Remember, undersell and over deliver.
- Focus on the last three words: Studies show that after the first word of a headline we skip to the final three words to see what it’s about. We don’t have time to read every headline in the world! For example, in “How To Write A Perfect Blog Headline” my readers scanning their newsfeeds would read the words “how - perfect blog headline”. Those four words alone cover the need-to-know information about what is contained in this post and would be enough to convince the reader if this blog post is worthy of their time or not.
- Approach your headline practically
- Use long-tail keywords
- Make it about the reader, not you
- Keep it below 15 words
- Don’t oversell
Headlines are serious business, they can be make-or-break for you. Your headline needs to cut through the noise by staying succinct and accurate so a potential reader can easily decide whether your words are worth their time.