It’s not uncommon for the headline of a blog post to be almost an afterthought. You get an idea, outline the post, write the body of it and then quickly skim the draft for some key points to put into the headline. We’re all guilty of this at times. (Oh, if I could only have a second shot at some of my old headlines!) But as long as we’re all striving to improve, we’re doing the right thing.
The truth is, readers choose to engage with, or ignore, your post based almost exclusively on the headline. So, these short descriptors need to pack a powerful punch. And they deserve a great deal of a writer’s time and attention.
Emotion, Numbers, and Novelty
The experts will tell you that there are three primary things (give or take—experts never agree on anything!) you must take into account when writing engaging headlines:
- Emotion — Boring text is, well, boring. With so many people and companies vying for a reader’s attention, who in the world is going to spend time reading a post titled “How to Work More Efficiently” when they instead could be reading a post titled, “These Common Inefficiencies Are Killing Your Company!”? This second headline is going to generate more emotion (probably fear—“Oh no, I hope we’re not making these mistakes!”) and increased readership.
- Numbers — We’re all busy people. Even if your post has the most helpful information ever written, if it’s going to take the reader 30 minutes to read it, they are likely to skip it. But, if they know that it’s just “5 Tips” or “7 Key Considerations,” they’ve probably got time for that.
- Novelty — I’ve never seen a number on it, but I’d guess that anyone who tends to get some of their information from blogs sees hundreds, if not thousands, of blog titles every year. Consequently, even a well-written title can be passed by if it uses the same words as every other blog title. “5 Powerful Tips for Better Writing” probably isn’t going to perform as well as “Add Rocket Fuel to Your Writing: 5 Tips.”
Put Them to the Test
While writing great headlines is as much an art as a science, there are tools that can give you an objective opinion of your writing. They use algorithms that take the factors above (and others) into account in producing a grade for your headline. Two of our favorites are provided by CoSchedule and the Advanced Marketing Institute, but there are surely dozens out there.
A word of caution: As I mentioned above, experts rarely agree on anything. Some favor short headlines, some claim to have “hard facts” that longer headlines do better—and this is the case with any criterion you select. As an example, you’ll see that the headline of this blog post rated much better with CoSchedule than Advanced Marketing Institute. That's in part because Advanced Marketing Institute's headline analyzer is more focused on the emotional impact of a headline, which statistics show is related to how much a post gets shared (a subject for a future blog post.)
My advice is to try a number of tools and see which ones give grades that correlate with higher readership for your target personas. That’s critical. When you find the right evaluator, it can help you fine-tune your headline writing for the best results.