Have you ever published an excellent article or blog post, only to realize people are scrolling past it, or can’t find it to begin with? You’ve put so much effort into writing the piece, yet the title alone can make it or break it. We’ve outlined techniques for constructing headlines that will send people to your blog and even get you more readers.
Use knowledge-related keywords
People always need to know how to do something, and how to do that something better. How-tos, guides, tutorials, hacks, and tips & tricks -- you name it -- educational posts can become the backbone of your blog, driving consistent traffic to your site.
Break it down
The how-to post or tutorial offers step-by-step instructions for a task or process. “How to” is such a common keyword search phrase in Google, it’s worth it to have an archive of how-to articles. This example from How-to Geek is a tech tutorial. (Imagine how many times this gets googled:
The guide post is more like a short primer that has everything you need to know, yet covers more than a simple how-to. It’s something people want to “stick in their back pocket.”
Prove you possess exhaustive knowledge on the topic of interest, like this guide to moving from Marie Kondo:
Ask a question in your headline
What’s one simple way to stand out in a sea of messaging? A question mark. How does a question mark achieve that? It prompts the reader to pursue your message by piquing curiosity.
See what I did there?
Define a term or concept
In this basic headline, you have a question that warrants a definition. Take a moment and try to imagine a question one of your reader’s might have, like this straightforward example from the Grammarly blog:
Solve a problem
Tap into the human tendency toward problem-solving by starting off with a question that presents an issue. Follow it up with a statement that suggests you have the resolution.
Check out this killer example from The Motley Fool:
Write a value-driven headline
We’ve talked about curiosity as a strategy -- now let’s discuss motivation. People are motivated by efficiency, saving money, living better, and learning. Promising to provide value in your article is one way to get more clicks and reads.
Spell it out
A potential reader doesn’t know what they’re going to get out of your content unless you flat out tell them in the headline. Here’s an example:
- How to Fold a Fitted Sheet (good)
- Fold a Fitted Sheet Perfectly in 3 Easy Steps (better)
The second headline conveys to the reader that your technique is simple and time-saving.
Promise a payoff
What is the reader going to do as a result of reading your article--create, save, learn, make, invest? Action verbs imply productivity (more on verbs in #6).
Here is a perfect example of a value-driven article from Podcast Blastoff. It promises the reader will walk away from the article not only knowing how to build a podcast, but how to do it without breaking the bank. The key motivations here are: learning and saving money.
Punctuation communicates more in less characters
If you have a handful of keywords that need to make it into the title, consider using a colon, parenthesis, or em dash.
A parenthetical offers bonus information that otherwise wouldn’t be found in the headline:
- 5 Ways to Live Happier Now (free ebook offer inside)
- Must-Have Software for Running a Business in 2021 (#4 saved me an hour a day)
Those two little dots go a long way, allowing you to string two strong and separate --- yet related --- phrases together in a logical way.
Check out Slack’s use of a colon in their blog:
Personalize your headline
Try adjusting your tone so that you speak more directly to the reader, using the personal pronouns I, you, and we (if it is appropriate for your brand voice).
This blog post from YouTube uses a collective personal pronoun to exhibit accountability and cooperation among members of the company:
Addressing your audience in the second person makes the brand sound friendly. Do you see how this headline is more personal than “Top 100 puppies and kittens on TikTok?”
Play with words
Use vocabulary to your advantage: Verbs, adjectives, adverbs, slang, and acronyms are a few ways you can tweak your headline to make it unique.
Verbify your headline
Do you remember when Google became a verb? Anything is a verb if you need it to be, especially when it comes to technology or communication (e.g. Zooming, Venmoing, Friending, Instagramming, etc.)
Demystify is a playful alternative to learn, as demonstrated by MailChimp’s blog:
One of the most underrated parts of speech, adverbs take everything up a notch. They actually, literally, and totally make verbs and adjectives stronger. In headlines, adverbs invite exaggeration or sarcasm, which appeals to a younger audience. (Note: in writing circles, it is generally considered a good idea to reduce the number of adverbs in your writing, as they can be over-used. But we're talking headlines and marketing here.)
Eater gets a high five for the double adverb, (literally never):
Make your headline current and relevant
Show people that your brand is up-to-date and aware of trends, pop culture, and current events.
Schedule time-sensitive posts
Reference the year, season, or month in your headline, or the day of the week for social captions. Couple time with trends to imply you have the inside scoop.
This headline from Adobe is a double-hitter:
Another way to grab attention is to make a pop culture reference in our headline. It not only shows you have your eye on what’s new, but it increases the chances of it popping up in a search.
Here, Rosetta Stone cleverly ties in a current Netflix series. Anyone who has watched or heard of Emily in Paris, is more likely to click on this blog post.
Speaking to current events is another proven technique to demonstrating that your brand is aware, rather than tone-deaf. Current events include news and discussions on social media. This one from Facebook Business, an attention-grabber because the whole world is tuned into COVID-19:
Be specific with industry terms
Prove to your readers that you are an authority on a topic by using industry jargon. Don’t be afraid of seeming esoteric. Casting a wide net is useful at times, but not if the headline isn’t strong enough to get the right people to click on it.
Look at this title from Outbrain. It isn’t vague. People specifically searching "conversational AI and B2B Marketing Strategy" will likely stumble upon this post:
Here’s an intentional lack of industry terms. The investing firm Robinhood uses financial jargon sparingly in their headlines in exchange for emojis, which works for their brand voice and audience. (And they get bonus points for the pop culture reference in the image.)
Your audience will appreciate a time-saving post when they are trying to make a decision about something. Present both sides of an argument and provide information for readers to make their own decisions with keywords like cost-benefit analysis, pros and cons, or statistics.
When you mention stats in your headline, it shows that you have conducted research, or at least cited a study. And since (most) people trust science, they trust your article is going to provide facts and figures. This headline from one of our recent blog post on live video stats does just that:
This tried and true keyword phrase appeals to the logical decision-making reader and can be used for any industry.
Check out this coconut oil CBA headline from Equinox:
Pros and cons
Share your opinions with your followers. Why should they? Why shouldn’t they? Connect it to your product or service or show an awareness of industry trends.
Indeed.com weighs the pros and cons of working from home which indirectly relates to their product:
Mix it up
It may become boring for your audience if all you publish are listicles. Be sure to vary your content to keep it fresh. When someone actually arrives at your blog they should see a few key categories and a mix of headlines.
Slack has an exemplary blog, replete with how-tos, lists, lessons, problem-solving and more:
Now that you are armed with options for writing headlines, the next step is to take a look at your published blog posts.
Do you have general listicles that could have easily included a research keyword in the title, like statistics? Or how-to headlines that could have included industry terms? Are most of the titles about your brand and neglect to address current events?
These are just a few of the areas of improvement when it comes to creatively writing headlines. Only you know what kinds of headlines are appropriate to your brand voice and messaging.
And while you’re at it, why not pair your perfectly titled blog with a visually identifiable social post planned in UNUM, to drive the most amount of traffic from all your communication points.