By Nicole Duhring
Headlines are important. Sometimes more important than the content you’ve spent hours creating. It’s a discouraging but true fact of online readership. According to stats from Copyblogger, 8 in 10 people will read a blog post headline, while just 2 in 10 will read the content. You want your content read, and the way to a reader’s heart is through the headline. So what’s a blogger to do? Check out some tips:
Write the headline first.
In the newspaper world, the rule of thumb is often “write the headline first, and the story will follow.” So often as writers we get caught up in the story and the content, but it doesn’t matter how good the content is if you’re not going to get readers to click. Starting with the headline helps you narrow your focus so that you can sharpen and tighten your content without wandering through 10 extra paragraphs of fluff.
Same goes for how tos. “10 ways to…” and “5 reasons to…”-type headlines quickly grab a reader’s attention. They want to know what to expect when they click, and that builds trust as you deliver on the headline’s promise. And people want to learn. If you’re teaching the reader something new or an easier way to do something they already do, they will click. Let the headline reflect that. See 7 examples of how you can make list posts work for you to boost readership. And if you want to read more on why lists work, The New Yorker has a great article here.
Keep headlines short.
According to jeffbullas.com, headlines with 80 characters or less received 66% higher engagement on social media than longer posts. And the engagement numbers get better as the headlines gets shorter.
Make your headlines social media-friendly.
Along with keeping them short, the words you choose matter. Ideally, you want your content shared, retweeted and reposted, which in turn builds your audience and boosts your CTR (click-through rate). But you have to catch the reader’s attention and give them a reason to share your content. Dan Zarrella has a great list of the 20 (bet you’ll click!) words and phrases that are used most often in ReTweets on Twitter. Read them — and use them!
Be search engine friendly.
SEO (search engine optimization) matters. You want your posts clickable on social media, but you also want readers to be able to find them after you’ve exhausted your social media resources in the days, months and years ahead. Use keywords and names. Numbers work well too.
Know what doesn’t work.
Startup Moon studied more than 100 blogs to analyze the differences between the most shared posts and the least shared posts. “Announcing,” “wins,” “celebrates” and “grows” are all examples of words that will not get you a click or a share. You don’t want to sound like a press release, and you want your reader to think they’re getting something new – information they can’t live without. Simply Measured has an interesting list of the most popular words in viral headlines. Use them to your advantage.
What about you? What elements have you found that work and what doesn’t work? Let us know in the comments. Happy blogging!