Posted by Murray Sye
on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 @ 08:56 AM
Are you looking for ways to improve your blog readership, increase engagement and click-throughs?
Since your headline is usually the first impression you make on a prospective reader, I think it's safe to say that crafting an alluring headline would be a great place to start.
You're competing with a ton of content out there, so it's important that your headline has the ability to cut through the 'content clutter' and capture the attention of your reader.
In today's post I'm going to share with you what some of the Internet's leading content marketers have to say. I've done the research for you, so all you have to do is implement their techniques and start writing.
1) Always give more in a headline
If you want to tap into some expert copywriting advice, then I'd highly recommend Copyblogger. Brian Clark, Copybloggers chief honcho, is a master at using very few words to both promise a benefit and pique curiosity with a headline. Clark believes in headlines that offer "no fluff, no flab, no dead weight." Every word in your headline had better contribute to promising a benefit or provoking curiosity (or both).
And, write your headline first.
Why? Clark explains that your headline is a promise to readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you'll deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time. With this in mind, you have the benefit of expressly fulfilling the compelling promise you made with the headline, which ultimately helps to keep your content well structured.
2) Use your customers' questions
Marcus Sheridan recommends that you simply give readers the information they're actively seeking. In other words, "They ask, you answer." It’s less of a pitch and more about being helpful and educating people. Marcus claims that in his business, the pool and spa industry, and in a lot of industries, you don't get a lot of great search results because most business don't want to give answers; they want to talk about their company.
Blog articles like, "How Much Does A Fiberglass Pool Cost?" resonated with his audience because it answered the question that most people were asking. According to Sheridan, (and he has the analytics to support it) he's been able to track a minimum of $1.7 million in sales to that one article.
3) Make it unique
Every headline should do one thing; get your viewer to read the next line. Since today's audience has an attention span of about 8.25 seconds, you have to be quick at convincing your customers and prospects to keep reading. The uniqueness of your headline can build that momentum for you.
This is exactly the headline's true purpose. If you accomplish that goal, the introduction, the subtitles, the bullet points and storytelling will take care of the rest and convert the reader into a customer, says Neil Patel.
Patel has four rules to follow for writing headlines that will call for attention. He calls them the "4 U's" of writing attention-driven headlines:
- Make the headline unique
- Be ultra-specific
- It should convey a sense of urgency
- Your headline has to be useful
"Unique" means "one of a kind." Which means your headline needs to stand out and be different from others. So just how do you do that? Patel suggests using Google. Plug your headline into Google and enclose in double quotation marks, as per the example below. Double quotation marks are necessary in order for you to get the exact result that you want. Google found "no results found" in the example below.
On the other hand, Social Media Examiner suggests you use Twitter. Twitter can actually help you to choose the best titles for your blog articles. Narrow your headline ideas (preferably two options at a time) down to two choices. Test both headlines at the same time during the day, as you want to compare apples to apples.
Leave it for 24 hours before you compare the response. You need to get beyond the basic Twitter engagement metrics to find helpful insight that show you which headline is more likely to generate the attention or conversion you're after. HubSpot and Bufferapp offer useful tools to help you with this. The retweets, favors, mentions, clicks and potential results will help you to determine which headline to use.
4) Demonstrate value with numbers
According to Social Media Examiner, the top two types of headlines that perform the best were headlines that include a number (Top 10 Ways To Make Your Time At The Gym More Productive) and address readers (Ways You Can Make Your Time At The Gym More Productive).
Copyblogger's Brian Clark says that any headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types, or ways will work because, it makes a very specific promise of what's in store for the reader. A nice quantifiable return on attention invested goes a long way toward prompting action, and as long as you deliver with quality content, you'll have a satisfied reader.
In a 2013 Conductor study published on Moz found that "number" headlines resonated most by far – a full 15% more than the second place "reader-addressing."
And the same study found that headline preferences across gender groups, shows that females were even more predisposed to "number" headlines than males.
Numbers are used all the time in headlines on such mega sites like BuzzFeed (above image) and ViralNova. Often you find viral blog posts with odd numbers in the headlines and you may have wondered why the authors didn't use even numbers. According to Content Marketing Institute, the brain seems to believe odd numbers more than even numbers. Odd numbers also seem to help people digest and recall information more easily. Who would have known!
5) I want them all, especially #5
Here's a strategy that I picked up from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. Admittedly, this is not a technique you want to use too often, because your audience will start to tune it out, but it can be very effective when sprinkled in from time to time. I've used this technique in the headline of today's post, so if you've read this far then I guess it works. Flynn found that posts on popular sites like BuzzFeed and ViraNova were using this technique in their blog posts.
In the sample above, "I want them all, especially #5" is the something extra. I used a slightly shortened version for today's post, but you have to admit, you just have to find out what that #5 is. This is a slight contradiction to our tip #1, where sometimes less is more. As Flynn suggests, it's not a strategy that works with all types of blog posts and it also depends on your audience – but it's definitely worth experimenting.
Okay, now it's your turn
Remember that 80% of your visitors will read your headline – but only 20% will go on to finish the article. Spending time, first on the headline and then the context of your post will ensure better results. Keep looking for new ways to engage your audience. Be experimental and playful toward what you are writing and literally ruthless about testing. And if you need help, don't be shy, we're here.
Written by Murray SyeMurray is the CEO and Creative Director with the award-winning
Toronto HubSpot agency partner, WhiteSpace. You can
connect with Murray on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.