Headlines are More Important Than The Blog Post
A sentence takes but a moment to write. No real work involved in writing a “sentence.” But a headline? That’s another thing entirely.
A headline is what will make people click or ignore you. It’s the most important aspect of blogging and it’s the part bloggers skip out on or pay a minor amount of attention to.
Because there is a game being played around you that you’re unaware of. Headlines, click bait and click through rates are real things. These are metrics bloggers (and YouTubers) pay close attention to because they matter.
Without a strong headline, people just won’t click to read. If they don’t read you just wasted your time writing that blog post and you totally failed to get any sort of attention.
This is even more true online than it is in print media
With print media you can still skim an article to get the general idea of what it’s about. Maybe the headline was not a tremendous attention grabber. You’ll still spend a few seconds skimming the article to determine its worth. But with online publishing however, your online content does not get this benefit.
People share you content on Twitter of Facebook – they only share the title. New traffic hits your website and they will within the first 5 seconds determine if this website is relevant to their goals and if this website is worth their attention. Otherwise, they’re going to ignore what you have to say.
Why won’t people read what I write!
When I started blogging on my personal website I struggled to get people to actually read what I wrote. I was able to get traffic because I understood SEO and had a diligent work ethic. But my stats for my main website at that moment in time were grim. Traffic was great but the time on site and page views were terrible. People came to the website and either stayed 10 seconds or clicked on one page and spent 30 seconds on that second page.
The causes of this could be a few different things:
- Your website is loading slowly.
- You’re getting traffic that is irrelevant to what the website is about (e.g. traffic from a website on running marathons would be a terrible fit for a dating website).
- Your content is difficult to read because of grammar errors, and it’s not easy to read because of small text (people want to skim easily).
- Your headlines suck.
The culprit was my headlines.
How To Write Headlines
Headlines need to incorporate a bit of SEO but they also need to be click worthy. I was writing generic headlines like “It Never Gets Easier Than Now” – You already know what the post is going to be about. Some personal development drivel, regurgitated ideas passed off as wisdom.
All because of the first impression that title has. It’s basic and bad. It gives the reader a sense that the whole blog post is going to be basic and bad (even if it’s not).
A bad headline:
It’s my blogs birthday!
It’s bad because it conveys no value. It has no pressing reason for me to read it. I feel like my time would be better spent NOT reading it. I also could care less that you’ve been writing a blog for over a year.
A good headline:
12 bits of wisdom from 12 month of blogging freedom.
Good because people are selfish. This looks like something I could learn from. Maybe a lesson on writing or how to blog properly so I could imply these insights into my own projects. It also has a bit of curiosity to it. What exactly are the 12 bits of wisdom?
Here are some templates to help you:
- The stunning truth about XYZ
- How XYZ evolves
- On embracing XYZ in a _____ world
- Th Facebook exodus and the…..
After you have written content online for a few years you begin to understand what words, phrases and sentence work towards driving the highest click through rates and what phrases go ignored. It becomes an subtle skill you develop. One which you don’t even realize know you have.
3 Tips For Writing Powerful Headlines That Work
1 – First read, read and read. Develop a substantial vocabulary of words. Next, take note of post titles on other websites that seem to have gotten a lot of attention via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
2 – Spend some time over on Reddit.com. Take not of what people are sharing and the titles of the content they are sharing.
3 – Steal headlines. Go to some of the most popular websites in your industry and take a look at the “most popular” post section and notice how each post title is crafted.
If these post titles worked for them, you can craft them in such a way that they will work for you too. Remember, no idea is original. It’s the execution, timing, and your selling proposition that makes the difference.
Isn’t it bad to copy? Isn’t that sort of like stealing? No, professional copywriters do this too (and probably these blogs/websites too).
They keep a collection of “winning” copy known in the industry as “copywriting swipe” for inspiration and to use in their work. Develop your own swipe file of killer titles for your own inspiration.
SEO and your Headlines
Now, you could post title after title with a small bit of hyperbole like:
“How to Make $3746 in 7 Minutes.”
…but if you have no traffic it does not matter how clever, interesting or outrageous your titles are – no one is on your website so no one is going to read it, share it, and spread it.
You need traffic to get the proverbial ball rolling, and the best traffic for long term growth is from search engines.
To write content that ranks well involves many factors that you don’t even have direct control over. The things you do have control over however, the things you should obsess over, is your content and headlines.
Headlines need to include your keyword that you are trying to rank for. Let’s examine this.
The “How to Get 5,347 Facebook Likes on a Facebook Post in a Week” is a good title because specific details are simply more believable than broad meaningless assertions. Any one can write what they think, but if you have data and a methodology that led you to getting 5,347 likes to something you wrote on Facebook, people want to know (meaning you can’t just write hyperbole, you need to back up what you say).
There is no right way to incorporate your keywords into your titles unfortunately. You simply need to know what your keywords are and figure out how to incorporate them into some winning titles you have curated from other websites. That’s it.
For example, the blog post is going after the keyword “writing headlines.” Most of the content currently ranking in Google has titles like “7 Powerful tips for Writing Headlines” or “how to create winning headlines in 3 simple steps.”
You have to take a look at what is already ranking, then think about where your title fits in. You can’t just copy, but you need to pay attention what words are being used. Most titles don’t have “writing headlines” in the blog post title. Instead they just have “writing” and “headlines” but not in that specific order.
So that’s how I came up with the title: “Writing Headlines That Steal Attention (3 Easy Steps!).
It incorporates the elements of what is already ranking, has the keyword in it and is unique.
You should be spending a significant time on your titles. Stress over your titles. Worry about them. Make them good. It’s worth it because otherwise NO ONE is going to read what you write.
Lastly, traffic also needs to convert -otherwise what’s the point?
Another lesson from my old high traffic website with basic titles and low engagement is that your traffic needs to convert, otherwise whats the point?
Getting a lot of traffic is addictive. It feels like you are making progress. But traffic does not pay the bills. Traffic does not necessarily grow your readership and reach. Engagement does. Engagement is people taking action because of your copy.
So while you could try to rank for a broad phrase like “how to be awesome” – who cares? It’s not exactly quality traffic you’re going to be getting. I would rather rank for something like “best microphones for Snagit screen recording software” than “how to be awesome.” One is a buying audience, the other is broad and un-targeted.
Conclusion – Writing Headlines
In conclusion, SEO is important for your headlines. It’s important to write headlines that rank well for keywords and phrases but also are clickworthy.
Create content people love and create content that search engines love. Write post titles that are purposeful and pithy. Titles that also contain your keywords but have best practices of copywriting incorporated into them. Put the time in to create something that people HAVE to click.