Here’s the tough truth about blogging: most people are more interested in your headline than your content. I know, it’s crazy. I remember the first time someone told me, years ago, that some online publications were writing headlines before writing content. We laughed at the absurdity of it. Now, it’s common practice.
As much as we’d like to think that readers are hanging on our every perfectly-placed word, the reality is that you have seconds to catch a reader’s attention before they click away. Headlines are key attention-grabbers.
Crafting great headlines is an art that requires practice, trial-and-error, keyword research, and throwing lots of ideas around before deciding on one. And we can always get better. Here are a few great resources to get started.
- The 25-Headline Upworthy Challenge: Upworthy challenges writers to create a whopping 25 headlines for each article before deciding on the best one. Here, a Blinkist writer took the challenge and reported on their results, sharing insights and resources along the way.
- 30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas: Buffer’s blog is a wealth of information about blogging, social media, writing, and lots more. They usually go big and create epic, insanely-useful posts. This one is no exception. In it, Kevan Lee does a deep dive into crafting great headlines for blog posts, Tweets, emails and more.
- A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Blog Titles: In this post, HubSpot shares the outline for a simple formula for writing kick-ass titles and headlines. Formula steps include brainstorm, have a working title, optimize for SEO, and make it sexy.
- How To Write Headlines That Drive Traffic, Shares, and Search Results: CoSchedule gives the rundown on writing great blog post headlines, including using their cool Headline Analyzer.
Now you have some tools for crafting good headlines. How do your blog headlines look in comparison? Here are 4 of the most common mistakes you may be making with your own blog headlines, as well as some tips to improve them.
1. Too Vague
With millions of blog posts out there, you have to make yours stand out. One common mistake bloggers make is being too vague in their headlines. For example, a blog post titled “5 Great Hikes” will not catch the attention of either hikers or search engines because it’s too vague. Who are the great hikes for? Where are these great hikes?
The Fix: Make sure to drill down as far as you can into a topic. A much better headline would be, “5 Must-Do Hikes in Durango” or “5 Best Family-Friendly Hikes in the Bay Area.”
2. Too Wordy
It can be hard to distill a topic into a short headline. There are certain things we want to convey at-a-glance, so we end up cramming everything into the headline. The problem is, if you turn too many corners in a headline, or try to pack too much in, your headline loses punch. For example, a blog post titled, “A Recent UCLA Study Found that Drinking Water Out of Plastic Water Bottles May be Contributing to Future Health Issues” just doesn’t get the job done.
The Fix: A better way to frame this post would be: “6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Drink Out of Plastic Water Bottles” or “Study Links Plastic Water Bottles to Health Issues,” or “Is Your Water Bottle Making You Sick?”
3. Too Newsy or Dry
If you have a news blog, then, by all means, make your headlines as newsy as you want them to be. However, if you run a blog about crafting, or basketball, or comic books, you want your headlines to match the content. For new bloggers, it can be tricky to shake the idea that your writing has to be academic, or newsy, but your readers want to connect with you as a person—not as a stiff and academic-y robot, which can happen if your posts are too newsy. For example, a craft blog post with the headline, “New Crafting Paper is Composed of 70% Cotton, 20% Linen, and 10% Hemp” is absolutely uninteresting.
The Fix: Find what’s interesting about this particular paper, and zoom in on that. A better headline would be, “10 Reasons Crafters Will Love This New Paper,” or “Meet Your New Favorite Crafting Paper,” or “7 Things to Love About the Newest Crafting Paper.”
4. Misleading Headlines
Make sure that your content delivers on your blog post headline. If your post is titled, “The Greatest Songs Ever Written,” you’d better have a lot of evidence that the songs you’ve chosen are in the running for best songs ever. If the songs are just the ones that you’re into this month, take a different approach with your headline. You may know you’re just being playful, but readers may not and the post ends up feeling like click-bait—where you put something you know will attract readers in the headline without delivering in the content.
Another example is to make a promise, such as, “Make $2,000 this Week From Your Blog.” This is just not realistic. Yes, some bloggers make big money from their blog, but for the everyday reader, making $2,000 this week is probably not going to happen.
The Fix: Be clear about what your blog post is about. If it’s a list of your top songs of the month, title the post, “My Top 10 Songs of the Month,” or “What I’m Listening to (and Loving) this Month.” If you really have a strategy for bloggers to make $2,000 this week, then share away. You might title your post “How I Made $2,000 in One Week by Blogging.” But, if what you have are some strategies for people to start monetizing their blog, be honest about the results people can expect with a headline such as, “How to Start Monetizing Your Blog This Month.”
What did I miss? Do you have any blog headline mistakes to add to the list? In the comments, let me know.
Photo: Moyan Brenn (CC-BY)