Updated: Jan 24
Did you know that, on average, only 20% of people read an article based on the headline (source: Copyblogger)? Most people will skim past headlines that don't appeal to them, which is why it's vital to create headlines that are appealing and clickable.
A headline is one of the first parts of your blog post that you should create because it sets up the main content. It also acts as a promise to readers - it should say exactly what they will get. This is the difference between genuinely good headlines and clickbait - clickbait articles don't fulfil the promise of their headlines.
In this post, I will share with you ten tips for writing the best clickable headlines. These tips are based on my own experience and data from recent research, and some of them include additional tools you can use to make the headline-writing process smoother.
So, if you are stuck coming up with amazing headlines, try these ten tips to break the block!
Why do Blog Posts Need an Effective Headline?
The headline is the first thing readers will see when they browse search results or your main blog page and is what stands between them and the content of your blog post. Copyblogger found that although 80% of people will read a headline, only 20% will read the main post.
Therefore, it's essential to maximise the effectiveness of your headline. If a headline is effective enough, it will:
Attract the right audience to your blog post.
Boost SEO through keyword usage.
Make a promise that will be fulfilled by the blog post.
A great headline will attract your target audience through keyword usage and the promise it makes to readers (more on that in the section below). Effective headlines have a higher clickthrough rate (the percentage of people clicking to read the article), meaning more eyes on your articles, brand, and business.
The risk of having a bad headline is that people will bounce from your site and find other sources of content to meet their needs. This means you will lose traffic, which will negatively affect your search engine rankings.
But how do you create an effective headline? I've put together a list of ten tips and techniques you can use to spice up your headlines and make them more clickable.
10 Tips for Writing Blog Post Headlines
1. Research keywords and use them in the headline
Before starting to draft your headline and blog post, you must do keyword research. Why? There are two reasons:
Keywords provide a focus for your content and headline.
Using targeted keywords in your headline will benefit your SEO ranking.
So, before sitting down to write your post and headline, make sure you take time to research the keywords you want to target. These keywords will give you a baseline to work from when crafting your headline.
You can use keyword research tools such as Ubersuggest to find the keywords you want to target and ensure you aren't using competitive keywords.
(Want to learn more about using keywords in your blog posts? Check out the blog post below to discover how to research and use them effectively in your blog.)
2. Create the headline first, then the content
When sitting down to write a blog post, your instinct is to write the content first and then create the headline after it is complete. While this can work for some people, it's less effective than you might think. Let me explain.
Writing the content before the headline means you don't have a focus to drive your content forward. As Brian Clark argues in Copyblogger, the headline is a promise to your readers of what the post is about. They will read the post with the expectation that it will meet the requirements that the headline suggests.
This principle can be applied to you, the writer. A headline you create is a promise of what the post you write will be about. As with anything, it's no good making a promise after the fact. With a headline in place before you write, your post will be more focused, will use the relevant keywords, and will fulfil the promise of the headline.
3. Use numbers
Do you ever wonder why so many blog post headlines have numbers in them (including this one)? Well, it's because they are very effective - and there's data to back it up. A Conductor study found that numbered headlines had the highest clickthrough rates than any other type of headline (source: Moz).
Why are they so effective? Because numbered headlines are very specific. Compare these two headlines:
Dog Training Tips
15 Proven Dog Training Tips That Work Instantly
Aside from the emotive language (which I will cover in the next point), adding a number to the headline makes it more specific, and therefore more clickable. The first headline does nothing more than say, "there are dog training tips in this article", but neither does it say how many or how effective they are. Readers like to know what they are getting before they read an article, and for all they know, the article could include two very generic tips that aren't effective at all.
So, yes adding numbers to your headline is worthwhile if you want higher clickthrough rates on your posts. But remember the number one rule: always meet the promise of your headline in the main post.
4. Use emotive language
The purpose of emotive language is to get an emotional response from the reader. Such feelings can be:
Using emotional language in your headlines will increase the likelihood of people clicking on your article. Why? Because the emotive language will cause an emotional reaction, and the response will be," I must find out more!"
Here are some examples of strong emotional words you can use in your headlines:
The list goes on and on. If you are looking for ways to improve your use of emotive language in your headlines, CoSchedule has a headline analysing tool that can be used to improve your current headline ideas.
5. Be very specific
Which headline do you think is better?
How to Write a Blog Post
How to Write a Blog Post Structure
How to Craft a Perfect Blog Post Structure in 7 Steps
The more specific the headline is, the more likely it is that someone will click on it. You can see from the examples above that the first headline is too generic; there are many angles the post can take on the topic, so how does someone know if it provides the answer they are looking for?
The second headline is more specific, clearly providing an answer to a question the reader might have. But the third headline goes a step further by being really specific, highlighting that the post will cover seven steps to take when writing a blog post structure.
Why does it need to be specific? People search with a specific thing or question in mind, and they filter out potential content that they believe won't meet their needs. Having a specific headline not only shows readers exactly what your post is about but also selectively filters for your target audience. The readers who click on the article and read it are more likely to engage with your brand and potentially become new leads.
6. Provide a solution to a problem
Following my previous point, being specific in your headline naturally leads to providing solutions for specific problems through your blog posts. Your blog posts should provide a solution for a problem the reader has, and this should extend to the headline.
Make sure the problem and solution are clearly shown in the headline. For example:
Both headlines have a problem:
Using images in blog posts
And both provide a solution:
Tips for overcoming writer's block
Ways to source images
It's up to you how you frame the headline, as long as you reference the problem and solution you are exploring.
7. Ask a question
Have you considered asking a question in your headline?
Earlier in this post, I talked about using numbered headlines and I referenced a study by Conductor. This study also looked at "Question" headlines, which turned out to have the worst clickthrough rates of all five categories (source: Moz).
I know what you're thinking: if it's the worst performing type of headline, then why should I use it?
This data references entire headlines that are a question. For example: what are some ways to easily train a dog? Clearly, these headlines aren't as effective as they aren't specific and they don't make any promises to the reader about what the article is about.
However, you can add a question into a headline and combine it with the numbered approach. For example:
Struggling To Train Your Pooch? Here Are 15 Proven Dog Training Tips That Are Guaranteed To Work.
Linking back to the previous point, the question acts as a voice for the problem (i.e. finding it difficult to train a dog). The rest of the headline provides the solution to the problem. More importantly, the headline is still specific and it makes a promise to the reader on what the article is about (which you must still fulfil).
So yes, you should avoid using question headlines, but you can still use a question within the headline when combined with other headline types.
8. Make it unique
You can choose to make your headline unique. Sure, you can research other headlines on competing blogs and use them as a baseline for your own, but you can also do something daring: create a headline that has never been used before.
If a headline has never been used before, then it will have little to no competition. No competition means potentially higher ranking results when someone searches for something related to your post.
But how do you go about creating a unique headline? Google search is your friend in this case. Use the search function to type out your headline, and research different combinations of the same message. It will take a bit of extra effort, but the results will be worthwhile.
9. Recycle previously successful headlines
Do you have at least one headline that worked in the past? Recycle the formula and use it again in another post!
If it worked before, chances are it will work again for another post, which will save you time coming up with an alternative headline.
10. Consider adding a bonus
Adding a bonus to your headline is a great way to increase the clickability of your headline. They are usually tagged on in parentheses "( )". Some bonuses might be:
(plus 3 free tips!)
(free template available!)
(and how to use [product])
These bonuses add extra information and content to the headline that also makes it sound exclusive to the reader. It's almost like whispering to someone, "Psst, if you read this article, you'll also get this!"
But be careful. Make sure that your blog post content fulfils the promise of your headline, and that includes bonuses. If you mention a free template as a bonus, make sure it's easy to find and download. If you include extra tips as a bonus, make sure you include them in your content and make it worthwhile for readers.
Writing effective headlines that hook the reader while not being clickbait-y is a tough skill to master. A great headline will make a promise to the reader of what the article is about, so when readers click on the post, they will expect that promise to be fulfilled.
A bad headline runs the risk of losing traffic because it's either not interesting enough, or the article doesn't live up to the expectations the reader has from reading the headline.
This post covered ten tips based on recent research and my experience thus far in writing blog post headlines. They include using keywords, emotive language and numbers, being specific, and providing a solution to a problem the reader has.
The most important thing to remember is the promise - always fulfil your promises when writing, no matter what the piece of content is.
If you liked this post, be sure to check out the other posts referenced in this article!