When it comes to blogging, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the middle of a huge crowd, with everybody screaming at the top of their lungs. And all you want is for your own voice to be heard, too.
How the heck will you get anybody’s attention?
There are a lot of tips and techniques you can use to get people to notice and read your blog. But, there’s one that a lot of writers don’t spend much time thinking about — not realizing that it’s the secret weapon that all the best content writers use.
What is it?
Your blog title (aka the headline).
Judging a book (or blog) by its cover
Imagine working your tail off, crafting an excellent blog post that’s informative, funny and just all-around awesome – and nobody reads it. You’re sitting there wondering what happened. The blog was great. Why didn’t it get any attention?
We’ve all been there. Every single one of us, from brand-new writers to industry veterans. And it’s frustrating.
It could be, though, your blog title just wasn’t interesting enough to make people want to read further.
The smart people at HubSpot know a thing or two about attention-grabbing headlines:
“Before you publish a new post, you need to come up with a compelling headline that catches the reader's eye – otherwise your post may not get read at all.”
You might think, “Oh, but headlines can’t matter THAT much.”
Surprisingly, they do.
The folks at Copyblogger have discovered that on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
And Peter Koechley, the founder of Upworthy, has seen some startling results when experimenting with headlines: “When we test headlines we see 20% difference, 50% difference, 500% difference. A really excellent headline can make something go viral.
Related Post: How Long Should Your Blog Posts Be?
Blog titles that grab 'em by the heart
“Okay, lady,” you say. “I get it. Titles are important. But how do I write a great blog title that grabs attention and makes my reader want to know more?”
That’s a good question, and it’s one that you’ll probably keep asking throughout your writing career as you fine-tune your skills. There are a bunch of elements to a high-performing headline. And we’ll get to those. But to use those elements to their full potential, it’s important to understand the two pillars of a great headline:
VALUE + RESPECT
Value in your headline gives your reader an immediate answer to the question: “What will I get out of reading this?” If you can’t communicate in your headline how your blog post will make their life easier or better, how it will answer a question or solve a problem they have, then you aren’t giving them any incentive to click.
Respect is what sets you up as a trusted source of information and keeps people coming back. We’ve all been sucked in by clickbait headlines that promise something completely different than is delivered. It works once – maybe twice. But then we catch on, tend to ignore those posts and view the source in a pretty negative light. Content marketing has to build trust. And once you lose it, it’s gone.
So, what are the tools we can use to infuse value and respect into all our headlines?
Headlines are like pizza. Seriously.
So now we get down to business: how to craft a great, attention-grabbing blog title.
There are a few elements that you can insert into your headline that immediately make it more compelling and interesting:
- Include numbers (“5 Reasons Why Garlic is Great for Your Health” vs. “Why Garlic is Great for Your Health”). Numbers make the headline specific, which lends authority.
- Add an attractive adjective (“The Hassle-Free Way to Get Your Sink Sparkling”). Adjectives like this are great for conveying value because you’re showing the reader what will result from them reading your blog (i.e. less hassle!)
- Use call-to-action words. People like direction, instead of just aimless information. So instead of “Secure Data Storage Ideas,” you could use “Keep Your Data Safe From Hackers With These Ideas”. (You’ll notice that the title also conveys value, showing the reader that your tips will save them a lot of trouble and anxiety.)
- If possible, fewer than 50 characters is best, as you’ll be able to see the entire title in search engine results.
The fun thing is that you can then treat headlines like a pizza order: you just mix and match your elements and wind up with something delicious! (I was going to say it’s like Mad Libs, but then I’d be aging myself.)
For example: The 5 No-Fail Steps to Choosing the Best Tablet for Your Kids.
You’ve got a number (5), an attractive adjective that conveys value (no-fail), an action word (choosing), a promise (the best) and your keyword (tablet, kids).
Or, you can shake it up a bit, and go negative: “Avoid These Pricey Traps When Getting Your Next Cell Phone.” You’ve still got action words (avoid, getting), your keywords (cell phone) and an important adjective (pricey) that shows the value; if they read your article, they’ll save money.
Don’t do the same style every time, as readers will soon get bored if EVERY blog you write is “The [number] [adjective] Ways to [verb].” Mix it up a bit, and have fun with your titles — just make sure they always show the reader why they should click.
And the best part? You can easily test them. Take an old blog that didn’t get much traction, give it a spiffy new headline and re-distribute it. Take notes of what headlines got the highest open rates, and analyze what it was about them that worked.
With some practice and testing, your blogs should get a better click rate, and you’ll get much more attention in that crowded, noisy room.
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