Headlines for your content are just as important as the content itself. In fact, some experts suggest that you should spend just as much time crafting your headlines as you spend writing the rest of the piece. No matter how much time you spend, remember that eight out of ten people will read your headline while only two of those ten will click through and read the content!
Here are five tips to help your headlines be some of the lucky ones:
1. Start with accuracy
There's nothing more annoying than clicking a title and find out you've been handed the old bait-and-switch. If you set an expectation in your headline, be sure you meet those expectations with your content or you risk losing the trust of your readers. While outlandish headlines might get more clicks, these click-bait titles do nothing to establish your reputation as an authority in your industry.
If your objective is to get more clicks while also keeping your audience happy, never promise something in your headline that your content isn't going to deliver. You may get fewer clicks, but the ones you get will be far more valuable.
2. Add Some Interest
Being honest doesn't mean that you have to be dry and boring. There's still plenty of room to add some spice to your headlines.
- Use emotional language. People love to love and they love to hate. Don't be afraid to add a little emotion to your titles.
- Use fun elements like rhyme or alliteration. "Six Simple Solutions" or "Five Fast Fixes" can give readers a subtle nudge in the right direction.
- Use superlatives. Suggesting that your content is “the simplest” or “the best” or otherwise the most of anything makes people want to click. The trick is getting it right. A recent survey shows that readers seem to prefer either an understated headline or an over-the-top approach – but nowhere in between.
3. Add some negativity
Outbrain published a study that shows that headlines that suggest negativity perform better than those that are neutral or positive. Headlines that use words like “never” or “worst” performed 30% better than those that had no superlative and 63% better than those that used words like “always” or “best.”
If you're having trouble coming up with anything creative or snappy, see if you can reframe your content to make it a list of things to avoid or otherwise turn it around into a negative. For example, instead of writing "Six Simple Ways to Save our Planet," try "The Six Worst Ways We are Destroying our Planet."
4. Don't forget about SEO
If you can slip a keyword into your headline without sacrificing quality, then do it. If it looks clunky or otherwise detracts from the headline, then try tweaking it a bit to come close to the keyword or try using parts of a longer keyword phrase that you're having trouble incorporating. Never sacrifice the quality of your headline for search engine optimization. After all, Google is only ranking your content, not reading it, so you're better off leaving keywords out if your headline is more appealing to the reader without them.
5. Start Deleting
Once you've crafted a headline that makes an honest promise and contains plenty of interesting elements, it is time give some thought to the overall length of the title. Keeping your headlines to 55-70 characters or less will keep them from getting cut off in emails, search engine results, and some social sharing outlets. Also, keeping your headlines short will make them easier for the reader to digest quickly and (hopefully) make the decision to click.
Just remember not to focus your efforts entirely on how various outlets will display your headlines. The formulas that places like Facebook and Google use to display headlines, snippets, and posts are constantly changing. If you write headlines that show up perfectly everywhere today, next week it might be a different story.
It's All About the Audience
Like most aspects of content marketing, what it all boils down to is the reader. If you focus on what speaks to your target audience while following a few best practices, you'll be well on your way to crafting headlines that your readers simply can't resist clicking.