Is Your Headline the Best That It Can Be?

is-your-headline-the-best-it-can-be

Did you catch the headline at the top of this post? Did you like it?

Good. That’s the point.

When I was preparing this post I spent a while trying to craft the perfect headline. Here are ten that didn’t make the cut:

  • Have you got the perfect headline?
  • Is your headline convincing and converting visitors?
  • 5 Ways to Make Sure You Have an Epic Headline
  • Is Your Headline the Very Best it Can Be?
  • Is Your Headline Costing You Money or Bringing in Big Bucks?
  • The Secret to Writing the Perfect Headline Every Time
  • How the Best Bloggers Craft Their Headlines
  • 5 Secrets to Crafting the Perfect Headline Every Time
  • The Amazingly Simple Secret to Crafting the Perfect Headline
  • The Professional Blogger’s Secret to the Perfect Headline

You might be thinking to yourself, ‘who writes ten headlines for a single blog post?’

The answer, of course, is anyone who wants to attract readers.

With so much noise in the content and social marketing spheres attracting visitors is a challenge at the best of times. Crafting a great headline is one way to attract new visitors and cement your hold on regular visitors. If your content is good and if it lives up to the promise of the headline you’ll be well on your way towards content marketing success.

But how do you know what sort of headline works best?

And what sorts of headline is going to attract interested clicks and new visitors?

Here are five things to keep in mind when crafting the perfect headline.

Get The Length of the Headline Right

Buffer has a fantastic post on how to hit the right length for just about anything online, including headlines. Depending on where you want your headline to work for you – in an email, on social media, or on a search engine results page – you’ll need to work to some different parameters.

However, as a guideline, working to Google’s 70 character limit is a good idea, and CoSchedule suggests keeping it to between 40 and 60 characters.

The headline at the top of this post comes in at 44 characters – right on target.

Mix Up Your Vocabulary A Little

CoSchedule also goes into detail about the word mix that headlines should contain. In short, a good headline is composed of:

  • 20-30% common words
  • 10-20% uncommon words
  • 10-15% emotional words
  • At least one power words

CoSchedule does a great job explaining the difference between common, uncommon, emotional, and power words – do click through and read their post and check out their amazing Headline Analyzer.

Choose From the Five Types of Headlines – But Avoid One of Them

There are at least five types of headlines.

First there are ‘Generic’ headlines are exactly that: generic. They get the point across and can exist in hundreds of different forms. Most headlines are generic.

Next there are ‘How To’ headlines. These are specifically designed to promise the visitor a practical guide on how to do something.

There are ‘Question’ headlines, too. These ask a rhetorical question and promise the reader an answer. If the question is interesting enough, the visitors should click through to find your answer.

Then there are ‘List’ headlines. You’ve seen these everywhere: 10 ways to do X, 5 secrets of Y. These are attractive and can suggest either a small number of tips no one has heard before (‘The 3 Things Every Leader Does Before Breakfast’) or a broad review of everything about a subject (‘100 Ways to Improve Your Resume’).

Finally, the fifth type of headline if known as ‘Clickbait’, and this is the sort of headline you want to avoid. If your headline is all about short term clicks in exchange for trading off long term value you should avoid these sorts of headlines – unless you work for BuzzFeed, that is.

Get a Little Emotional

Studies have proven that emotional headlines, and headlines that trigger emotions like anger or happiness, are much more likely to be shared than headlines that have little emotional appeal.

Good headlines get readers excited, pull on their heart strings, make them smile, make them mad, and above all give them a reason to click.

Example? Try these two headlines for the same blog post:

  • It’s Possible to Improve Your Test Scores With A Little Extra Work Each Week
  • Don’t Panic: Here’s How You Will Lift Your Test Scores In Just One Hour

The difference? The first suggests an improvement is possible, the second guarantees change; the first suggests a ‘little extra work’ and the second puts a number on that work; and while the first uses the word ‘improve’, the second uses the word ‘lift’, implying a larger improvement.

Which one passes the emotional test? The first headline tests as 5 times more emotional than the second, and its definitely preferred.

Take Your Time

It takes time to craft the perfect headline, so don’t rush.

Some have recommended taking as long to write the headline as to write the post in its entirety. I don’t know that i’ve ever spent as long crafting a headline as I have writing the 1000 words that follow, but it is worth taking your time.

Check the words, play with tenses, play with grammar, think about punctuation, then run whatever you have got past another person to see what they think. Read it out loud a couple of times, think about what others will imagine when they read it to themselves, and make sure the formatting is going to work on your blog or site.

But never rush it – this is likely your best shot at getting a new reader to click on your post. You’ve got one shot, make it count.

Conclusion

To summarize:

  1. Get the length of the headline right
  2. Mix up your vocabulary a little
  3. Choose the right type of headline
  4. Get a little emotional
  5. Take your time

Get it right and you’ll be all that much closer to converting one-time visitors into readers, readers into subscribers, and subscribers into clients.

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