Most of us spend much more time creating content than creating a headline. Mostly I have an idea for a post, create the content and then think of a headline. I then write the headline with the keyword(s) for the SEO in mind.
But if you think about how we decide what to click on the internet the headline is much too important to be an afterthought. If you look at your blog’s analytics a lot of the traffic comes from search engines. On Google listings, you only see the headline and 156 characters of the meta description. In most cases, this is your content’s only shot at being chosen over all the other great content on the web.
In this article, you will find an interview with a professional writer, tools to create and improve a headline and two plugins that monitor the performance of your headlines in your blog.
[clickToTweet tweet=”You have 2.6 seconds to win a new visitor – make your headline count!” quote=”You have 2.6 seconds to win a new visitor – make your headline count!” theme=”style5″]
My friend Larry Arrance of Cornerstone Consultants is a professional “Wordsmith”, a copywriter with a wealth of experience in all kinds of copywriting areas. He has published several books and regularly teaches writing workshops. Larry helps business owners and professionals to get their message across with more clarity and power.
Larry’s formula for promotional content:
- I – Interrupt
- E – Engage
- E – Educate
- O – Offer
[4:10] The headline comes first before the actual email or blog. That doesn’t mean you are stuck with it. But the headline also guides what I’m putting into the blog.
[6:15] WIIFM > What’s in it for me. Whatever you are writing has to be relevant to what your audience is doing.
[7:30] Stay away from headlines that promise something when your content is about something else. People feel duped and won’t trust you anymore.
(Here is my post about Clickbait.)
[8:50] Email subject lines will follow the same pattern but with email you will have to be much shorter. A lot of people use the preview window that also shows the first line of the email. So the beginning of your email is very important for the open rate.
Keep your email subject lines tight – 7 words max. That’s why that first line is so important.
[14:35] If you can spare ten minutes a day you can write two books a year.
[18:00] I give myself two or three headlines that best match up with the content.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘The purpose of your headline is to make them stop’ ~ @larrance” quote=”The entire purpose of your headline is to make them stop” theme=”style5″]
Tools to write a better headline
As I mentioned in the introduction, I am often guilty of treating the headline as an afterthought. This article is supposed to change that. With this in mind, I started with the headline. There are several tools that help with writing a good headline and I also found one to measure the quality or effectiveness.
Portent Title Maker
https://www.portent.com/tools/title-maker is called a “content idea creator”. So you can actually use it to find a blog post idea as long as you know what term should appear in your headline.
Fair warning: This tool is so much fun you might just spend too much time using it. As you can see above the title maker comes up with a lot of funny headlines that may or may not have anything to do with what you want to write. But it also comes up with a breakdown of all the elements of a headline and why they might be helpful to get your content seen.
There are a lot of posts on the internet that talk about headlines. Some even offer swipe files to copy and paste into your own blog. Be careful not to become a slave to these recipes. Worse than losing a few new visitors would be to lose loyal fans by boring them with the same type of headline all the time.
For example, A friend of mine told me recently “If I get one more email titled “5 things….” from X I’m going to unsubscribe”
Darren Rose from Problogger posted a great podcast on this topic: http://problogger.com/podcast/156/
http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer# This tool goes beyond the design phase and analyzes your headline and even gives it a score. For this post (and all future posts) I ran all my headline ideas through the analyzer and got the following score:
As you can see, the tool looks at different aspects.
- Common words
- Uncommon words (Increase the number of uncommon words in your headline to improve)
- Emotional words
- Power words
My Headline “Win The Content Game With The Most Amazing Headline” could use an increase in the number of uncommon words.
It is ok in the Emotional and Power categories. “Great headlines are usually made up of 10-15% emotional words.
With 51 characters the headline is under the 55 character limit recommended and the 9 words included in it are ok too. Apparently headlines with approximately 6 words tend to earn the highest number of click-throughs.
I am happy with my score of 75 for this post. I believe my headline captures what I want to convey and is sufficiently optimized.
The exercise was a little stressful because I am not used to someone judging my work like this. But it is like having a good coach that tells you what’s good and bad without beating around the bush.
Two tools for the indecisive
This headline tweaking is tough! And at the end, I still often end up with a couple of choices I like. There is a tool for that. Actually, I know two tools:
I’ve used Kingsumo Headlines for about a year now and I am happy with the results. For my little blog, the lifetime fee is $99USD.
How to use it: I add multiple headlines and the tools automatically tests them. It starts showing the different headlines in searches and my blog first in random order. After a while, it tells me which ones performed better and I can delete the ones that underperform.
The tool is relatively new and I have not tried it. But I use Thrive to create landing pages and am quite pleased with the product. Thrive Headline Optimizer does the same A/B testing as Kingsumo Headlines but it also looks at how much time visitors spend on the content and how far they scroll down. It looks like a very good alternative to Kingsumo and starts at $67US for one site.
After spending the time to go through this exercise and learning the things Larry talked about I am confident that I will write better headlines in the future. I will also go through some of my more important posts and consider re-writing the titles.
What are your headline tricks? What have you learned?