Extra, extra, read all about it! Or don’t; it all depends on the headline. CopyBlogger found that, on average, 8 out of 10 people are reading your headline, but only 2 of those 10 will read your content.
Microsoft found that the average reader has an attention span of 8 seconds. In that time, you have to hook your audience and keep them reading, or else they’ll be another figure to your bounce rate.
And it all starts with your headline.
Learn how to make your articles and blogs stand out from the crowd, starting with the first thing readers see.
What are you more willing to click on: “Helix House Offers Marketing Solutions” or “New Media Firm Promises More Sales, Stronger User Engagement”? While geared more toward a company than the average reader, more business owners would prefer to read content with the second headline.
Why? It shows that reading the piece of content will benefit them: Helix House can get business owners more sales and stronger user engagement. By showing a benefit instead of just stating “we offer solutions,” the headline naturally entices people to click on it. You can also be more mysterious with this headline, such as “Four Ways to Up Your Organic Searches.”
It also offers a level of expectation – business owners expect to find an answer as to how Helix House backs up their claims.
Expectation and benefit are two of the seven key ingredients to writing a good headline, as outlined by Moz.
The other five are as follows:
Curiosity: Make a clear headline that entices the reader to want to know more. This commonly includes questions, such as “How do I” or by combining two unexpected topics.
Emotion: Elicit emotions from your readers by adding adjectives in your headlines, such as killer, amazingly, or mind-blowing. You can add in exclamation points, capital letters (BEST ways to REDUCE Body Fat), or something that draws attention to the headline such as arrows or asterisk. You’ll often see clickbait pieces or advertisements using this tactic.
Tangibility: Put a clear picture in your readers’ heads to make it an easy thing to grasp. Moz gives the example of “The Cat in The Hat Teaches SEO,” to which a reader can immediately imagine a tall cartoon cat in a red and white hat about to teach them the ins and outs or search engine optimization.
Appearance and Length: The length and appearance of the headline play a large role in keeping someone engaged. For example, “The Cat in the Hat Teaches SEO” sounds a lot better than “SEO and You: A Beginners Guide to Learning the Ins and Outs of Internet Marketing” to the average reader.
Sound: Does the headline roll off the tongue? This is a subconscious way of making people feel comfortable and interested in the topic. Using alliteration and lighter sounding words are more pleasing to hear than harsher diction, such as peaceful versus cacophony.
There is more to a headline than making it look and sound good; you have to make sure it has content that benefits your website by using keywords and SEO (search engine optimization).
In the SEO world, you’re looking to earn a high click-through rate, a low bounce rate and rank well on analytics. However, only looking at rankings doesn’t always make for an interesting headline.
Say you’re writing content for a company that promotes animal wellness, such as a vet’s office. Begin by identifying your topic and ensuring there is ample research that relates to the company’s core values and mission of promoting animal health. Next, choose your keywords that relate to the company. This will boost their organic search rate naturally. Once you identified the keywords, you write the headline, “Best Pet Food Brands for Your Dog.” While it’s not terrible, it could be a lot better. Using the seven techniques above, try comparing two brands in the headline to incite curiosity, expectation and emotion?
What about, “Blue Buffalo’s Ingredients Wow Dog Owners, Iam’s Falls Flat.” While lengthy, it gives the readers an expectation of finding out what Blue Buffalo ingredients put it ahead of the competition, Iams. It also gives emotion with terms such as “wows” and “falls flat” while making the reader want to read more about why their choice brand of pet food isn’t up to par.
The first headline only targets “pet food brands,” while the second adds “Blue Buffalo” and “Iams.” Adding in brand names will increase your organic search visibility as it gives your blog a better chance to appear when pet owners are researching food brands.
Click-through rates (CTR) and bounce rates were mentioned earlier in this blog, but what exactly are they? A CTR is the average number of click-throughs per impression, typically on an advertisement. A bounce rate is the average number of people who leave the website after only interacting with one page.
The goal of good content is to keep readers clicking through your website and not clicking away immediately.
Blogs are a popular form of keeping websites consistently updated, improving their organic search rates and letting their audience know the business is informed on numerous topics. Their purpose is primarily to inform readers.
The first way to do this is through your headline. You need to hook the readers while letting them know exactly what the point of this blog is about. A headline about pet food is expected to be about pet food, but what else can readers expect to learn from your blog?
Using the pet food example, try the headline “Iams vs. Blue Buffalo: Which is Better for Your Dog?” Interested readers known exactly what to expect from this headline: a comparison of two popular dog food brands, Blue Buffalo and Iams.
While a blog is used to inform your audience, content writing is used to make a sales pitch. Content writing headlines are more geared to making an action happen, instead of keeping engagement high, though they utilize the same techniques.
For content writing headlines, focus on the benefits and inciting curiosity. Lists, facts, and emotional adjectives are great to add as well. Most importantly, use the word “you/your” as much as possible to connect with your audience.
A blog writer may go for “Grooming Tips for Cats” while a content writer may try “Reasons Why X Is Better For Your Cat” or “Top Five Grooming Tools For Your Dog.” One is meant to inform on grooming techniques, while the other is meant to sell the reader on a product.
The importance of social media cannot be understated, though the difficulty of getting a post circulating is a challenge all writers face. Remember, it all starts with the headline.
If your headline makes your readers think to the future, then you’re on the right track. The most viral phrase in a headline that appears on Facebook is “will make you,” according to Buzzsumo’s study on 100 million headlines. A headline geared to the future draws audience because of the unknown – they want to know what to expect.
Think of headlines like “The New iPhone Features Will Blow Your Mind” or “X Will Make You Angry.”
Like with all content, readers want to know what they’re about to read. Be sure to tell them the “what” of the story, such as “What You’ll Get in the New Tesla Model X.”
Empathy racks up shares as well. Emotional headlines that hit people where it hurts, such as “Depressed People Eat Twice as Much of This,” or a testimonial of how X benefited someone, as outlined by Neil Patel, usually perform better on social media. Listicle and headlines with tips also tend to do well on social media.
Always be sure that the headline is on brand with your company, however. A headline left on a cliffhanger, such as “You Need To See This To Believe It” may not be what your readers are looking for.
The perfect headline is accurate, concise and interesting enough to click on, but also technical enough to score well with SEO. Marrying the two together is not an easy task. It takes practice and looking at the analytics to know what your audience is clicking on and what they’re not. Keyword research will give you insight on what readers are looking for. Utilize keyword tracking tools to ensure you’re up to date with the newest organic search trends.
Draw your audience in with emotional words and curiosity, show them how it benefits them, keep your headlines easy and pleasing to read, and make them tangible for the readers to connect with.
You have about 8 seconds to turn a reader on to your content and if you do, only about 20% of them will read on past the headline. Make it your goal to boost your own engagement, starting with the first thing readers see.