Blog posts need great headlines to get shared via social media – just like sales letters, newspaper articles and any other medium where you’re competing for attention. A great headline will stop someone in their tracks and they’ll click trough to your post. Make no mistake: People reading your blog are always just a click away from reading something else.
It’s a balancing act to win new readers and keep existing readers interested, you need to write headlines that seduce people in. Here’s how to do it.
Make It about Your Reader
This is one of the laws of copywriting, yet one of the most commonly broken by bloggers.
For example, posts like “What I did today” or “photos from my holiday” are common enough posts by bloggers who think they have an interested audience.
The reality is, if your blog titles are about you, you’re losing audience rather than gaining it. Your audience may consist of just your mum and she might like to see your holiday snaps, but the rest of us couldn’t care less. Your blog titles should always be about your reader, what reading the article could do for them, about the powerful benefit they might receive by clicking on the full article. “What I did today” becomes “A day in the life of …” and that’s interesting - we get an insight into your life that’s focused on the reader experience.
Uniqueness is critical in blog titles. Yes, the irony that my title is so generic is not lost on me, but here you are reading so I must have done something right. In most industries, topics have been written about again and again, and people are just tired of the same old, same old. You should think so far out of the box that your headlines are an art form. Sometimes an expletive will grab the eye, sometimes it’ll just alienate people.
Even if you’re writing about a topic that others have written about in the past, make sure you imply that you have a unique spin. In fact, if you can make your blog title sound controversial or counterintuitive, you’re sure to get readership and comments just to tell you how wrong, naff or stupid you are. Of course, if you really want some negative attention, spell something important incorrectly.
Let’s be honest, you’re just not going to get readers if people think they already know what you’re saying. Your blog title needs to convey that whatever you’re writing about, it’s nothing they’ve ever heard about from anyone else. Ever. Yes, another little irony there too.
Echo Your Readers Inner Thoughts
The average online audience tends to have a very similar conversation with their inner critic. It goes along the lines of ”I want to make money online, but I don’t really know how to start and I may not be good enough and so and so has done it already.” and the critic agrees, that you are not good enough, and why waste time when you could be sitting here talking to him instead of creating something meaningful and earning money.
Other inner critic favourites include “I know there’s something wrong with my game, I just don’t know what.”
“My skills are pretty decent, but I just don’t think I’ll be able to make money with my them.”
“ooo a shiny plugin that will cure all my woes with headlines” <— I wish…
And so on and so forth. You’ve probably had very similar conversations with your internal critics too.
A very, very powerful technique in headline writing is to simply address your reader’s internal conversation. If you can show them that you understand what their fears and frustrations are and that you can help, you will go a long, long way towards winning their trust.
Writing attention-catching headlines isn’t always easy. Sometimes you might even find yourself stuck on just the headline for hours or in my case days. That’s okay – it’s just part of the creative process. I find ready the tabloids helps with process. I read somewhere that headlines are not copyrighted, so you could actually steal a headline or too and use to your advantage. Of course that only works if you have the same audience as the tabloid and are happy to throw your brilliant brain in the gutter instead of using it creatively
Some people (like me) find that they write the best headlines after they’ve written the actual post. They way the post shapes up means the headline changes at least 20 times. For example this post was going to be called “What other bloggers won’t tell you about headlines” and then I thought traffic stopping headlines sounded better, of course then I realised that traffic stopping online meant something different to traffic stopping offline…
Others find that writing the headline first helps them focus on the content and see that it delivers what is promised in the headline.
Some people find they write the best headlines in the morning, while others write the best headlines after a couple beers. My darling husband writes his best headlines after watching trashy TV. I have yet to see him use “When giraffes go mental”, maybe he’s saving it for a post about delivering Giraffes? Either way, a good headline can jump out at you from the strangest of places.
Remember your own habits and rituals. It might take a while to really figure out what works best for you, but once you’ve figured out your own best techniques for writing headlines (and also learn to get into your reader’s head), you’ll have an incredibly valuable skill for life. It goes beyond grabbing attention for your blog post, it means your tweets become more powerful and your sharing strategy more attractive.
I am tempted to add it’ll cure male pattern baldness, but I suspect that’s an attention grabbing headline too far.