This post covers how to write an effective headline with tips you can apply to blog posts, articles, and social media with the intention of earning clicks and generating leads.
Writing a click-worthy title or headline is easier said than done. And generating a lead based off of that click is even more challenging. Read on to learn six things you can do to make your first impression count and keep visitors engaged by providing something worthy of trading their contact information.
Inbound Marketing: Where we are today
Several years ago, simply practicing inbound marketing was enough to earn your prospects attention. The idea that you could disrupt the old-fashioned sales-first buying process by creating content that helped your prospects was refreshing and doable.
It was so doable, that everyone started doing it. Which leads to today. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with content. And most of it is not the type of quality, helpful content that the inbound methodology was built on.
The result is that your buyers have become less trustworthy of businesses and more guarded with their contact information. They're not willing to trade an email address for access to an ebook that they suspect is not going to be valuable, and worse, is going to result in the flooding of their inbox.
All of this means that businesses and marketers have to adjust their strategies. While that is arguably a bigger problem than we can cover with one blog post, we'll focus on the first step towards winning a prospect's trust - your headline.
Headline basics - what is it and why does it matter?
A headline is anything that appears first to your audience. While most people think of a headline as a blog post title, these best practices could also extend to include title tags that displays on SERPs and social media posts. They all serve the same purpose. Your headline should be written to grab your audience's attention and entice them to take the next step, often clicking.
- Headline: Blog post title.
- Title Tag: The SEO data that appears as the linked item in a search results page (this could be the same as your blog post title).
- Social Media Post: The words you use within your post that links to your blog post (could still be the title of the blog post).
To attract visitors, headlines have to be awesome. This study by Moz displays the data about what kinds of headlines work best at enticing busy people into reading articles.
Keep reading for the six tips for crafting a click-worthy headline:
1) Spend time and research on your headlines
Your headline should not be the last thing you think about when you're writing a blog post. Readers quickly decide whether or not they're going to actually read your article based on the title, so it has to make them want to keep reading if you want someone to make it to your CTA or to submit their contact information and become a lead..
Headlines, specifically if you're using them as your title tag as well, should incorporate keywords that your audience is searching for. Regularly researching what keywords you're getting found for is an important step in generating a successful inbound marketing strategy. Tools like Google's keyword planner can help you discover related keywords and expand your reach.
2) Write clear and honest headlines
This is simple. Don't mislead your visitors. Tell the truth about what your article offers. I'm as much a fan of witty wordplay, marvelous metaphors, and awesome alliteration as the next English major, but don't tweak your title just to include them. A reader should know exactly what he or she is in for when he or she clicks on your article.
The less ambiguous your headline is, the more likely a reader is going to click on it.
Thinking in terms of the bigger picture, earning clicks and visits is not the end goal of your blog post. If you're seeing high traffic in conjunction with a high bounce rate and low time on page, you can be pretty confident that you've written a misleading headline.
3) Use numbers within your headline
This goes along with #2 above, in that it clarifies exactly what the reader will get out of reading the article. Numbers can also help readers figure out how much time they'll need to commit if they want to read your whole article.
Should you always include numbers in your blog post title? No. If the topic you've written about doesn't lend itself to using numbers in the title, then don't. This speaks to writing clear and honest headlines, which is vastly more important than including a numeral.
4) Use "you" or "your" in your headline to address your reader
Treating your prospects as individuals can go a long way in establishing their trust. Adopting a conversational tone, including the use of pronouns like "you" in your titles takes it one step further.
Addressing your reader indicates that you care about their problems and want to fix them by giving them information via your content.
Even though most readers are pretty marketing savvy and know when headlines are trying to influence them, there's no stopping their subconscious from creating an immediate relationship when they are directly addressed.
Should you always use "you" in your headlines? Not necessarily. Finding a balance between keywords and providing a simple and clear headline is more important than directly addressing your reader.
5) Combine and experiment
Feel free to mix and match all the previous suggestions to figure out what works best for your audience. It's going to be difficult getting the same article in front of the same audience with a different title, so keeping an eye on different blog posts with different types of headlines to see which gets more traffic might be worth it. Alternatively, you can take one of your old blog posts, spiff it up with a new headline, and see how it does.
In the end, what you have to remember is that your headline counts. It's your first (and sometimes your only) chance to grab a reader's very limited attention. Make it count!
6) Think beyond the headline and provide the content your visitor expects
Even if you're writing the best headlines in the world and getting the most clicks, it doesn't mean much if you don't back it up with quality content. While we recommend putting a significant amount of time into crafting a click-worthy headline, you've still got to provide your visitors with something useful.
What's more important - the title of body of a blog post? BOTH! The goal of your headline is to grab the reader's attention, but the body of your post is meant to keep their attention by providing relevant and quality information. If you've done both, your visitors are more likely to take the next step and convert into a lead.
Learning how to write your own content? Learn how to get found by search engines in our free guide to SEO.