5 Pro Tips for More Effective Blog Post Headlines

by 14 04/16/2012

If you want your blog posts to get noticed, it’s important to learn how to write attention-grabbing headlines.

Many people think that headline writing is a guessing game, but that’s not true. There’s an art and a science to writing better headlines, and studying techniques that the pros use is one of the best ways to write more effective headlines.

If you want to learn how to grab readers’ attention by writing more effective headlines, keep these five tips handy to improve your headline writing skills.

Tip #1: Keep headlines at 10 words or less

Aiming for ten words or less  is a good rule of thumb for headlines.

If your headline is longer, you might be clouding your message with too many words. Headlines that are ten words or less are easy for readers to scan, and they’re easy to share on Twitter. Following this rule is the best way for you to know your headline is close to the ideal length.

Aiming for ten words or less also helps you to edit out unnecessary words and phrases. As an example, let’s compare two potential headlines for this post:

1) 5 Headline Writing Tips That Will Get Your Blog Posts Noticed Online

-AND-

2) 5 Pro Tips for More Effective Blog Post Headlines.

The first headline example is twelve words long, and the second is eight. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the second example uses extra words “that will” and “online,” but neither carries  much weight in the headline. By editing those words out, the headline becomes tighter and more effective, and that’s the goal of the 10-words-or-less rule.

With this said, ten words or less isn’t a magical formula, and there are times when longer headlines work better. But if you’re able to keep most of your headlines at 10 words or less, you can be assured that you’re blog is on its way to headlining with the best of them.

Tip #2: Make a promise and keep it

Every headline makes a promise to deliver something to the reader, and if you want to maintain your credibility, it’s important to always deliver on that promise.

For example, if I write a post with a headline such as The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Twitter Followers, that post better be the ultimate guide. If it’s not, and instead, it’s a short, sloppily-put-together post on getting more Twitter followers that’s no different than the hundreds of other posts about increasing Twitter followers, then readers will be angry.

The reason they clicked in the first place was to find the ultimate guide for getting more Twitter followers. Anything short of an ultimate guide will be a disappointment to  the reader.

Remember this: Every headline makes a promise. If you want to keep your readers happy, always deliver on your promise, and never promise more than you can deliver.

Tip #3: Don’t reveal too much

Another secret for effective headline writing is to not reveal too much information. If you give away everything in the headline, there’s no reason for anyone to click through because  they already know exactly what’s going to be in the post.

Instead, leave an information gap between what’s conveyed in the headline and what will be covered in the post. This creates a level of intrigue that compels readers to click through to satisfy their curiosity.

Let’s consider a sample headline:

The #1 Reason Businesses Don’t Close Sales Online.

If you’re reading this headline, you almost have to click through to find out what it’s about because you want to learn the number one reason businesses don’t close sales online. You don’t want to move on to do something else because you want to learn about this obviously important reason.

If, instead, the headline was written as:

Most Businesses Don’t Close Sales Online Because Their Websites Are Too Ugly

With the second headline there’s much less motivation to click through. People already know what the article will be about, leaving them no reason to click to read more.

As long as you don’t give everything away in the headline, you give readers more reason to visit your site to see what you’ve written.

Tip #4: Be ultra specific

Revealing too much information can be a problem for headline writing, but so can revealing too little. If people don’t have enough information available to motivate them to click through to your site, then they won’t. One way to solve this is to write headlines that are ultra specific.

For example, if someone was writing a post after Steve Jobs passed away, they could write a headline such as this:

You Will Be Missed

That’s great and really thoughtful, but what does it tell potential readers? Not much.

It leaves the reader wondering, “Who will be missed? Me? The writer’s dad? His cat Fluffy? Someone else?” The reader doesn’t have enough information to decide whether or not he wants to read the article.

If, instead, the writer wrote a headline saying:

You’ll Be Missed, Steve Jobs

Anyone interested in Steve Jobs would click through to see what the writer had to say. Since there’s more information and the headline is more specific, readers have enough detail to work with and can make a better decision about whether or not they want to click through to read the post.

When it comes to headlines, you never want to give away too much information, but you also don’t want to give away too little.

Tip #5: Use exciting adjectives

Many writing teachers teach students not to use extra modifiers.

They’ll tell you that extra adjectives and adverbs water down prose because it’s better to use stronger verbs and accurate nouns than to use extra adverbs and adjectives.

For example, it’s better to say “Michael Jordan dominated in the NBA,” than it is to say, “Michael Jordan played really well in the NBA.” The vigorous verb “dominated” communicates more  about Michael Jordan’s career than the weaker, modified verb phrase “played really well.”

When it comes to writing headlines, exciting adjectives are preferred. The proper use of adjectives draws readers’ attention and gets your posts noticed.

Let’s consider the adjectives used in the following examples: “Pro” in 6 Pro Blog Tweaks to Get More E-mail Subscriptions, “Remarkable” in How to Create Remarkable Websites for Boring Products, and “Essential” and “Effective” in 7 Essential Elements of Effective Internet Marketing.

As shown in these examples, the adjectives pro, remarkable, essential, and effective all make the headlines more interesting than they would be without them.

Conclusion

As you can see from these tips, there’s more to headline writing than choosing a title that sounds good for some reason or another. There’s an art and a science to writing good headlines, and these five tips provide the tools you need to begin crafting better headlines starting today.

What about you? Have you used any of these tips, or do you have any you’d like to share? Leave a comment and we’ll discuss it below.

About 

Joseph Putnam is a copywriter and blogger who writes for startups like KISSmetrics, CrazyEgg, SlideShare, Wibiya, Conduit, Rejoiner, and more. He loves the science of marketing and conversion rate optimization.

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14 COMMENTS

Katelin Tiernan

Great post! Very helpful and I love that you ACTUALLY follow these rules as well. It is so frustrating to read a blog post offering tips for blog writing and not following them. Superb job!

April 16, 2012 Reply

Tony Zemaitis Assoc Marketing Consultants

Very good – people all too often ignore the importance of a headline in all mediums – blogs, websites, letters, emails, proposals etc.
Headlines asking a question with a positive outcome are also great eg “Would like more…?”.
Also “How to…” headlines work well.
And as the other comment says – yes they do work!

May 25, 2012 Reply

bingo

Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your site. You have some really great articles and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely
love to write some content for your blog in exchange for a
link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested.
Thanks!

June 23, 2013 Reply

diego fernando filo

My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for.

Would you offer guest writers to write content for you?
I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome website!

July 23, 2013 Reply

Jermaine

Wow, interesting post.

March 15, 2014 Reply

Martin

Its like you read my thoughts! You seem to grasp so much about this, like you
wrote the guide in it or something. I think that you just can
do with some p.c. to power the message home a bit, but instead of that, that is magnificent blog.

A great read. I’ll certainly be back.

April 19, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    hahaha. Glad you stopped by, Martin. Joseph certainly knows his stuff.

    April 20, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Martin, we look forward to hearing from you again :)

    April 20, 2014 Reply

Jolene

You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something
which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex
and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of
it!

April 24, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    You’re right, of course. It’s easy to analyze what works, but another matter entirely to be able to do it well. Keep up the effort, though, and it does get easier. Thanks for commenting, Jolene!

    April 24, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Jolene, glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the great feedback :)

    April 24, 2014 Reply


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