There are two ways of looking at headline writing. Either you realize it’s the most important thing you can do for your post and spend copious amounts of time pondering over it, or you fall into the trap of believing it’s the easiest part and write whatever comes to mind so you can get on to the other tasks.
No matter how you approach it, there’s no denying that writing a clever headline is one of the most fundamental elements of blogging.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just writing whatever pops into your head, especially if you want your headline to attract maximum traffic. If you don’t think it’s necessary to think about SEO when writing your headline, you may end up with low click-through rates and lower search rankings.
In today’s world of blogging, you are competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other bloggers with the same content. To stand out among the crowd, your headlines need to be clever, engaging and SEO optimized.
Sounds like an impossible task, eh? We’ve put together a guide for you to follow that will help you overcome the obstacles to create a clever headline that is great for SEO and increasing your click-through rates.
4 Tools for Creating a Clever Headline
If you aren’t deliberating over your headline, you aren’t giving it the attention it needs. According to Copyblogger, “on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” If your headline isn’t catchy and engaging enough to attract the attention, you’ve lost all that potential traffic.
Additionally, a good headline can increase your conversions for that post up to 528%. See the infographic below for a quick look into the 4 ways you can begin to write better, more engaging headlines. (If you’d like to embed this on your own website, the graphic must link back to this post with proper credit to Make Traffic Happen).
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1. Write the Content First and the Headline Last
If you write your post first and your headline last, you will have more information and ideas to help you generate an appropriate and catchy title. Writing a headline isn’t only about grabbing attention. It’s also about making sure the headline fits the content.
The more connected the two are, the better your click-through rate and the lower your bounce rate will be, because readers know exactly what to expect and they aren’t disappointed.
Writing good headlines is one of the main principles of our SEO the Easy Way strategy. Without great headlines, you’re leaving valuable traffic on the table. As you’re writing your post, keep these things in mind:
- What is the main benefit of this content?
- Will the content help the reader solve a problem?
- What is the most interesting part of the content?
- Does it contain exciting news or updates your audience cares about?
- Is there an emotional aspect to the content?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you should be armed with an angle that is appropriate for this content. Are you trying to encourage a new behavior, give new information, evoke an emotion? These are all things that should be considered.
★ TASK: Write down 5-10 possible headline angles based on the content. Brainstorm emotions and problems that can be solved by your content.
2. Write Your Headline for SEO but Don’t Write an SEO Headline
This might sound contradictory, but it’s not. In order to rank well in search results, you have to speak Google’s language, but you’re not only speaking to Google.
SEO headlines often end up sounding keyword heavy and boring. You may manage to stuff your keywords in there, but it’s not interesting or enticing to readers.
We can agree that an SEO headline isn’t a great idea, but we can’t ignore that SEO is important to a headline.
What does SEO mean in a headline?
It’s more than just keyword inclusion. There are a few important SEO-related boxes to tick.
Include Target Keywords
It’s important to include certain ranking signals in your post, and that includes adding your target keyword to your headline.
The problem often becomes how to fit the keyword into the headline without it sounding keyword-heavy or boring.
The way to alleviate this issue is to add additional information to the headline. This might include things like:
- Number or data
- Emotion and action words (see this super-useful list of power words)
- Promised outcomes
Use the above ideas to spruce up your headline, but don’t write click bait headlines that make outrageous claims.
★ TASK: Write down your target keyword and brainstorm ways you can add additional information to make a headline that is clear, informative, motivational and catchy.
► Example: My target keyword is “London cooking classes”. A boring SEO headline might be “London Cooking Classes to Try”. By adding additional information, I can turn this boring headline into a more exciting one, like “5 Outstanding London Cooking Classes For Beginners” or “Expand Your Kitchen Skills Today: 5 London Cooking Classes to Try”.
Be the Answer
One of the practices we urge most often is “be the answer”. Google is always looking for the best answer to a query.
One fantastic way to do that is to focus on helping instead of telling. If your blog posts tell someone about your experience, rather than provide information to help them with their problem, you won’t gain as much traffic from search.
You need to provide the answer people are looking for, instead. In order to rank really well for a specific query, you need to show that your post provides the best answer.
Use the headline to prove your post can answer the question. The good news is that the answer to the query often contains your target keyword if you’ve chosen it appropriately (read more on choosing optimal keywords).
★ TASK: Think about a question or query you might type into Google in order to find the post you’ve written. Make sure your headline makes it clear that your post would answer that question.
► Example: I’ve written a post on easy hiking trails in Yosemite National Park. If I title my post “Hiking in Yosemite National Park”, I’m not demonstrating that I have the best answer for someone who’s looking for “easy hiking trails”. It would be better to use a headline like “7 Easy Hiking Trails in Yosemite National Park”.
You talk about this extensively in our SEO the Easy Way Course which is a step-by-step proven strategy created and still used today by us at Make Traffic Happen.
3. Use a Proven Formula
Headline writing isn’t new, so there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. There are formulas that are proven to work.
Why not use one?
It will help you craft clever headlines, and cut down on the amount of time you will inevitably stew over the best version of your headline.
If you focus on a headline formula that converts, you will have a much better chance of attracting traffic. Of course, your content has to match the formula, too. Some popular content formulas that work are:
- List posts
- How to posts
Here are some statistics that will help you make informed decisions when crafting your headlines:
- The highest number of click-throughs go-to headlines with approximately 6 words.
- You’ll receive more click-throughs on a headline containing around 55 characters.
- People tend to read the first and last words of a headline and skip the middle.
Once you’ve decided on the format of your post (and hopefully already written it), you can use the following method to create a catchy headline.
Number (or) Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise
▶ Example: I’ve written a post about alleviating migraine headaches. A possible headline might be “How to Alleviate Your Migraine Headache”. It’s okay. But nothing special. Using the above method, my headline might be something like “10 Proven Ways to Successfully Alleviate Migraine Headaches”.
★ TASK: Use the formula above to craft 5-10 possible headlines.
4. Use a Headline Analyzer
You may not be sure what makes a perfect headline, so why not let the computer do it!
There are many tool out there that will analyse your headline to tell you if it’s engaging and/or powerful. One tool we like to use is Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer.
Once you’ve used the tools above and brainstormed a few possible engaging and clever headlines, the headline analyzer will show you if you’re on the right track or not.
All you have to do is open the tool, put in your headline and click Analyze Now. (Note: You do have to sign up to use this tool, but it’s free.)
★ TASK: Put your brainstormed headlines through the headline analyzer and try to achieve a score of 70 or better. Use the tips given to improve your headline until you have one that you think works well for your post.
▶ Example: Using a headline example from above, I put “10 Proven Ways to Successfully Alleviate Migraine Headaches” into the analyzer and was given a score of 65. From there, I worked on a few alternative phrases. With the headline, “How to Overcome a Migraine Headache: 14 Tricks That Work” I got it up to a 72. As you can see from the screenshot below, there are other ways I can improve the score for this headline, so I can accept 72, if I’m already happy with the headline, or continue to work on it to find a more powerful phrase.
How to See If Your Headline Is Working
Once you’ve chosen a headline, your work is not necessarily over. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your post to see how well it is attracting traffic and converting.
You shouldn’t analyze the headline’s results until after you’ve got enough data to work with. After a few weeks or a month, you can look at your Google Analytics stats to see how the post is performing.
Unsure which metrics to check? Read our guide on finding your key metrics. The click-through rate will tell you quite a bit about how well a headline is working.
I use my average click-through rate as a guide. You can find your average click-through rate in Google Analytics. If the new post isn’t earning the average click-through rate, I try adjusting the headline.
After another couple of weeks, I can see from the stats whether the change had a positive or negative affect.
If you have a way to do A/B testing, I think it’s always a good idea to try two headlines against each other and go with whichever one earns the best click-through rate.
How to Adjust Your Headline to Earn More Traffic
When you determine that a change to your headline needs to be made, you will have to determine which part to change. We recommend only changing one aspect of a headline at a time, so you can easily analyze what is working and what isn’t.
It’s not always necessary to make dramatic changes in a headline.
Here are some ways you can adjust your headline:
- Increase the number of list items
- Choose new emotion or power words
- Choose a different format. Instead of a question, try a “how to” approach.
- Use a variation of your target keyword, if you think the problem is a boring, or strangely worded keyword.
Headlines are very important. The first impression a reader has about your content is the headline and they won’t click through to read the post if they don’t like what they see. You have somewhere around 6 words to draw them in. Make those words count by improving your headline writing skills. By doing so, you can increase your traffic and your search rankings.