A guest post by Syed Ali Abbas who blogs at Writers Blog.
Good news bloggers! One headline can give you up to NINETEEN times better results than others!
It means your Clickthrough Rate (CTR) can go from 2% to 38%, from 4% to 76%…
However, writing headlines is an art, not a science. To find your most productive headline, you need to follow a few rules and do a lot of practice… and I do mean A LOT!
Understanding the purpose
To write effective headlines, you must understand their purpose first.
Grab a copy of today’s paper, or better yet a magazine. Look at the front cover and you’ll read something like this:
Sex Scandal Of The Hottest Celeb, Corruption Charges Laid Against A White-Collar Politician, 10 Protesters Killed, Innocent Victims Sued, or something equally sensational.
Obviously, there’s a lot more happening around the globe than just calamities, homicides, sex and corruption. Then why only such grizzly stuff makes it to the front cover?
It’s simple. That’s what sells magazines and newspapers. These uncanny newsflashes force people, who read newspapers (and some of those who don’t) to buy it.
As a blogger, your goal is a little different – to get a click.
Nevertheless, the rules are the same!
Why bloggers need to pay MORE attention to the headlines?
David Ogilvy, the father of advertising, said:
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
Bloggers must take this advice to heart. Let’s see why.
If you’ve ever written for print publication, you’d know that you write the body and ‘they’ write the headline. In other words, a perfect stranger will smash your efforts with a sledgehammer.
It sounds cruel, but also rids you of the tedious task of crafting a decent headline.
But you don’t have this luxury.
For a blogger, headlines draw people in through search engines, social media, RSS feeds, or even the blog itself.
The basic purpose of your headline is to force the people read the first line. The purpose of your first line is to get the reader read your next line and so on, till the last line and then Call to Action.
It all boils down to the title – if it wasn’t catchy enough, you’re dead in the water.
So here are five rules that will make sure you reach your target audience and get as many clicks as you deserve:
1. Optimize your Headline for search engines and they will come
To get a click, you’ve to reach out to your audience first. You can do so through several channels yet search engines are the biggest source of traffic to any blog.
Your title is the first and foremost aspect search engines consider to assess what your write-up is all about.
Make a mistake while optimizing your post headline, and you have ruined your whole effort.
To make your titles search engine-friendly: write 70 characters at most; use the keyword, better yet start the title with the keyword (only if it doesn’t look creepy); don’t stuff too many keywords; and don’t write duplicate titles.
2. Put your target prospects in your headlines, and you’ll prosper
Now, this is interesting. Once you reach your audience, you have a few seconds to force them for a hit.
John Caples, the head of one of the largest advertising agencies in the United States, analyzed 100 most successful headlines. Then he picked the most commonly used words in them. I have chosen top eight of these, as shown in the table below:
Times used in 100 most successful headlines
As you can see, ‘You’ and ‘Your’ collectively were used more than the rest of the top eight.
That’s the effect of putting your audience in your headline.
If I see myself in your headline, I’ll be curious enough to check it out… won’t you?
3. Use successful templates and they will attract masses
You don’t want to re-invent the wheel.
Likewise, you don’t want to develop an original headline by stressing your mental muscles.
Just put your thoughts into a fill-in-the-blank “template” that works for almost EVERY topic in ANY niche.
All the good writers have thousands of such templates either saved to a file on their PCs or (the smarter ones have them) floating around in their heads.
These templates were fabricated by the likes of Eugene Schwartz, Claude Hopkins, Ernest Hemmingway etc. in certain time and money-tested ways.
Though these headlines might have changed the world, they haven’t changed a bit.
4. Don’t worry about the length of your title, it’ll be good
You have to keep it under 70 characters to make sure that the whole title appears in the search engines.
However, the length doesn’t matter much when it comes to effectiveness.
Fourteen word headlines get almost as much readership as three-word headlines. The more important thing is to get your message across than trying to truncate your title to a certain length.
On the other hand, don’t make your titles immeasurably long that the reader forgets the message.
A simple rule is the Headline Breath Test.
Read this headline aloud:
The Amazing Secrets To Legitimately Profit From “Insider” Information On The Stock Market And Save More Money
Ran out of breath, huh? Even if you didn’t, you’d read the headline once again to comprehend all the contents.
Online readers are cruel. They don’t read twice. Don’t make them read twice!
Now read these titles, you’ll grasp their crux straightaway:
- How to Earn $30,000 a Month with Low Budget Projects
- Are You An Overeducated Underachiever?
- They Laughed When I Sat At The Piano. But When I Started To Play… (John Caples)
The last one was quite a mouthful. You have to try hard to say it in one breath, but the punctuation mark (period in this case) makes it pass the test.
Hyphens, brackets, colons and commas are the other most commonly used punctuations in longer headlines to make them fathomable.
5. Use power words and people WILL read
Power words are like super-fit, extra-beautiful and ultra-stylish people – your eyeballs just don’t miss them.
Here are some of my favorite power words:
Little-Known Secrets, Lies, Art of, Taxes, IRS, Do You, Amazing, At Last, Bargains, Dangerous, Threat, How to, You, FREE, Hot, Sexy, Life, Breakthrough, Only, Fighting, Errors, The Truth About, Now, Sale, How Would, Advice To, Love, Facts, Discover, The Inside-Secrets, Announcing, Amazing Secrets, New, Mistakes, Smart, Brilliant, Dying.
Feel free to save them in a file (or bookmark this page) for use in your future blog post titles.
Two Vital Tips
- Write your headline first. Save it for last and you’ll want to write the darn thing quickly and be done with it. If the headline doesn’t get the required attention, it won’t bring the desired results.
- Double check your title for spelling, grammar, punctuation or factual mistakes.
Mistakes in the body make you look dumb, but you can get away with them if your content is brilliant.
However, you’ll never get away with a mistake in your headline, no matter how good it is.
What to do now?
Just as with any other marketing strategy or concept, the golden rule to writing successful headlines is to PRACTICE… PRACTICE and PRACTICE, and then TEST… TEST and TEST in an endless loop.
The best platform to test your headlines is Twitter. You can try as many variations of the same title as you want and get instant results.
Follow these laws and you will get much better results… maybe up to 19 times better!
What rules do you follow when writing your blog post title? Share your story in the comments.