We all know as SEO and marketing oriented people, that headline rocks: they are calculated as important factors in SEO, they help ranking high in SERPs, they encourage people to click on links and consequently affect click-through-rate (CTR), traffic and return on investment (ROI). As many experts keep repeating the same old adagio: “pay attention to your headlines”, in this article I will present few steps on how to get better at writing headlines that drive traffic.
Step 1: Come up with a topic
When I start thinking about writing a new blog post, my main idea represents my very first headline. Let’s say I want to write about creating headlines. My first title would be something like “How to create headlines“. This helps remind me what I want to write about even few days after I got the idea.
Then, when I start writing, I let the inspiration flow.Only at the end, when I re-read my blog several times, make the needed changes in terms of style, grammar and content I might end up either changing the title completely or refining my first draft. It might be that while writing the proverbial juices took over and I ended up diverting from my main topic; instead of talking only about headlines, I started talking about the essential elements that every blogger should keep in mind when writing. If that was the case, I need a major title change. Conversely, if the title still applies, I move to the next step.
CoSchedule-How to make better Headlines: Test1
One of my favorite SEO tools is definitely CoSchedule headline analyzer, as it gives a headline a score out of 100 based on four main parameters: common, uncommon, emotional and power words. The title “how to create headlines” gets a score of 61/100 which is equal to a C-. As expected from a very first draft, the title need some improvements. By looking at CoSchedule analysis, the headline is considered too short and too light in words. In addition, it does not include either keywords that people look for or strong negative or positive words that people are generally attracted to. Taking inspiration from the result, we can start making the headline more attractive by adding keywords and emotional terms.
Step 2: Add keywords to help SERP
As highlighted in step1, our headline needs a little bit of TLC; in specific, it needs additional keywords and emotional words. To begin with, “How to create headlines” could be improved by adding “for your blog“. This option achieves multiple goals: it adds length, specificity and contributes to generate interest in people who are looking for a guide on how to generate better titles to attract an audience. Finally, to make the title even more specific, I decided to change “create” with “write“. The final title will then be “How to write headlines for your blog“.
CoSchedule-How to make better Headlines: Test2
The second proposed headline scores already much better, 72/100 indicating how adding just few extra keywords helps generating a more powerful headline. As the headline contains now 7 words, CoSchedule ranks the new title having a good length, in terms of words and characters. However, it ranks poorly in terms of sentiment as it does not express a strong feeling but rather a neutral one. So far, our title has the right length, contains keywords such as headline and blog, but needs a bigger emphasis on generating a strong negative or positive feeling. Therefore, our next step would be coming up with words that stir strong emotions in our readers.
Step 3: Add some feelin’
As indicated in Step2, our headline needs some keywords that stir strong emotions, either positive or negative feelings.
If we think about it, there are 5 aspects on which our lives turn around: health, finances, relationships, emotions and purpose. Every time an headline dips into one of these aspects the chances of stirring people’s interest raises. Lets’ give you one example for each scenario:
- How to create headlines and become a less stressed blogger (health advantage)
- How to create headlines and increase sales (financial advantage)
- How to create headlines to engage with your audience (relationship advantage)
- How to create headlines to inspire your readers (emotional advantage)
- How to create headlines that turn people into entrepreneurs (strategic advantage)
Therefore, we could stir feeling by simply referring to one of these key aspects of everyone’s life. Let’s take into account the first case: we dip into a strong feeling (being stressed) and also the cause of such stress (writing a blog) by addressing a solution (How to write headlines). Therefore our new title would be something like: “How to write headlines and become a better blogger“.
CoSchedule-How to make better Headlines: Test3
The third proposed headline has again an higher score compared to our first one. It scores 73/100, a B+. The headline has the right amount of words and characters, it contains enough emotional and power words.
By adding “to become a better blogger“, we specify that the article will address mostly bloggers who might strive to become better at what they do. As bloggers we have also more freedom in creating headlines that might range from very technical to humorous, a liberty that marketeers might not (often) have. As we have now covered all the main aspects of what makes a good headline, we could just stop here and be satisfied with our final product. However, we could try to strive for more and maybe get some better insights into headline making; for instance, by changing headlines to powerful headlines, we score 74/100 in Coschedule. We have now a great title!
Step 4: Take advantage of Marketing History
Marketing has been around since mankind started trading. We can easily imaging merchants promoting the wonders of their goods to potential customers. Marketing acquired a well-rounded scientific identity starting from the 20th century, when people such as Howard Gossage, Leo Burnett and Claude C. Hopkins helped defying marketing key features still valid today. In particular, the pioneering work of Hopkins helped the understanding of how headlines can contribute to the success or failure of a marketing campaign.
As explained by Peter Sandeen, in his book “101 headlines formula” you can basically write any headline by following some simple rules:
- Start with a positive headline: “You need to”, “The secret of”, “What you can do”
- Ask a question: “Where”, “Why”, “Would you”, “Which one”?
- Be inspirational: “Learn today”, “Do not be afraid”, “Discover how”, “The easiest”
- Explain how: “The art of”, “Boost your”, “Become more”, “Here’s how”
Despite not getting a higher score on CoSchedule by adding words such as “Learn Today” or “The art of” to my title, they are still valid in helping you generate better titles.
In conclusion, to create powerful headlines, you need to:
- Come up with a topic you want to write about
- Summarizes your post content in 3-5 words
- Add some keywords to make it more specific
- Give your post keywords that stir strong feelings and raise emotions
- Take advantage of past marketing successes and learn from them
- Test your final product with CoSchedule headline analyzer
- Track your successes with Google Analytics
- Repeat and reinforce your successes