See How To Write Engaging Blog Headlines That Converts
Writing engaging blog headlines can be challenging, you might not have much experience in marketing or a master copywriter . However, it shouldn’t stop you from writing attention driven headlines that your audience can’t pass by but click on it. Without a click-through, there’s really no other means to get your audience attention on the words that matter.
Writing long-form articles isn’t going to be enough to get you the traffic you deserve.
It all starts with writing headlines that people will actually click. After all, more people will see your headline than your article. You’ve got to make them count.
Here’s the truth about content marketing:
If you’re not writing eye-catching headlines, you are shooting yourself in the foot. At best, your progress will be slow. At worst, your efforts will be a complete waste of time.
But, when you get it right: Traffic increases, more people subscribe, people link out to your content naturally, and you get more followers. The result? Your business grows faster.
In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about writing headlines that drive engagement and clicks.
This includes important do’s and don’ts, effective headline formulas, how to split-test headlines, headline idea generators, and more.
Lets get started…
Why do headlines matter?
You walk past 4 shops; each of them has boarded up windows and a sign saying ‘Sweets’.
Would you go inside any of these shops?
Probably not. I definitely wouldn’t.
Instead of a few store owners vying for attention, there are thousands of content creators all competing for the attention of the same group of people.
Your headline is what gets people through the door. It’s the sign post that grabs people’s attention.
It creates intrigue, offers value and makes a promise that your content has to deliver on.
Just give a thought to this quote by Copyblogger…
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
Long before the Internet took over our lives, copywriters and journalists of the print industry would spend hours crafting the most compelling headlines for newspapers because they knew of their importance.
What does this statistic tell us? People aren’t utilizing headlines effectively.
How else would they attract readers and sell their newspapers?
On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.
Today, this headline would be a little long winded, but back in the 1950s it was all about compelling statements.
So this begs the question, are you spending long enough working on your headlines?
5 things you need to know to enable you write better headlines
What you SHOULDN’T do with your headline
You’ve invested a lot of time in content creation, hoping it will be read and loved by many. The first thing potential readers will see is your headline, and if it’s ‘wrong’ your content will gather dust in some far off corner of the internet.
But, your content deserves better.
Improve your headlines by avoiding the following:
1. Exaggerated to the point of annoyance
Exaggerations can work in conversation. For example, a metaphor such as:
‘ she was so mad I thought she was going to explode…’
But in a headline it can be irritating.
I’m sure you’ve been a victim of these types of ‘suggested content’ at the bottom of some websites.
I have fallen prey to these types of content, and I am always disappointed.
You would not believe what she did when he came home…
A boyfriend proposes to his girlfriend, she cries and says yes, that’s it. Literally. No catch. No drama. The problem is I would believe this, therefore the headline doesn’t deliver.
Plus the fact that I had to go through 20 pages to complete the story was annoying.
Your headline has to deliver.
Don’t say ‘Shocking Tips…’ or ‘Tips Marketers Aren’t Telling You’ if they’re just the most basic blog standard tips everyone is sharing and talking about.
2. Clickbaity to the point of irrelevance
We are all familiar with clickbait headlines, and although this type of headline can get you your clicks, it doesn’t get you loyal readers or earn trust.
However, for those of you who are oblivious here are some example headlines:
I just couldn’t do it today…
I made a HUGE mistake and I’m sorry…
It broke and I don’t know why…
These are random statements that explain nothing about the content and leave you completely confused yet slightly curious. Which is great if someone is familiar with you and your brand, or a loyal fan of your content because they’ll want to know what you couldn’t do, or a mistake you made, etc.
But let’s say you’re writing an article on easy, simple recipes that involve avocados. Having the headline: ‘I didn’t know this could be so easy’ would be clickbait.
Why? Because the person clicking on that headline has no idea that you’re referring to the fact that it is easy to add avocados into meals.
So what do you get in return? 100% bounce rate. Ouch!
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it killed your readers average view time on your site.
3. Over promising to the point of disappointment
If you order a 12” pepperoni pizza, you expect a 12” pepperoni pizza. You expect it as described on the menu, which is completely understandable, right?
So, if you’re given a 12” pepperoni pizza with ham, pineapple and mushrooms instead; would you be disappointed?
Yes, that’s not how the pizza was advertised.
Your headline is a promise that you’re advertising, and you have to deliver.
If your headline says: The Ultimate Guide To Knitting Like A Professional In Less Than A Week, but it’s only 500 words with no depth, no explanations and lacking anything that would enable you to learn how to knit; then this headline hasn’t delivered on it’s promise of being an Ultimate Guide, turns out it’s an ultimate guide to nothing.
If it’s a guide for beginners, make sure the content is beginner friendly.
Don’t over promise value in your headline if your content can’t deliver on that promise.
What you SHOULD do with your headline
Well I suppose the answer would be the opposite to those above; don’t exaggerate, don’t be clickbaity and don’t over promise; but that’s not all.
What you should do with your headline, or how you should present your headline depends on your target audience and the best way to attract their attention.
But the goal should always be to deliver on the promise of the headline, that is non-negotiable.
So what exactly are we promising?
1. Something of value
So your headline needs to offer something of value to the reader. But, what exactly does value look like?
Well it depends on what your target audience wants.
Hopefully, before you’ve written your content you’ve done your research into your target audience in terms of their demographics and their pain points, etc.
This information will show you what your target audience wants or needs, and you cater your content around fulfilling those wants and needs.
We understand that coming up with content on a continuous basis can be exhausting especially when your time is spread thinly and you don’t have the budget to outsource the writing process.
When constructing your headline, make it clear what sort of value you’re offering in your content. Whether it is a bunch of tips to solve a problem, or a cheatsheet to improve productivity, your headline needs to reflect this so the reader can auto-select themselves as a perfect reader. Or de-select themselves if they aren’t a good fit.
2. Something that is persona-driven
Labelling your target audience in your headline is a great way to cut through the noise and reach the right people.
And it gets better:
Adding a timestamp in the headline has a greater impact on the relevance of the content. A year shows that the information is up to date, and a time-related word such as ‘now’ or ‘today’ could represent ease, simplicity or urgency.
By crafting headlines around your target audience, your content will stand out to the right people.
It’s about crafting your headline to the point where your reader will auto-select themselves as the perfect candidate to read your content. And those that aren’t a good fit will de-select themselves.
This is achieved through:
- Something of value in the headline that your content will deliver upon
- Something that is persona-driven to show that your content has been written especially for them
- A date to show reliability and that the information is up to date (optional)
And if your headline succeeds in these actions, you will reap the rewards.
So, the next step, how can we combine these elements to generate a variety of headlines?
Let’s take a look at different headline formulas you can use to craft your headline.
The building blocks of headlines and 15 copy and paste headline formulas
You don’t need a special degree in copywriting to write high-converting headlines. All you need is a headline formula that is designed to get people’s attention (without going down the clickbait route).
These formulas are used on the basis of ‘filling in the blanks’ with words that fit with your content and target audience.
How you structure your headline will depend on the overall goal of your content, whether it is to spark curiosity, or answer a question.
Let’s go through the most common components used in headlines:
This is usually the subject matter of the post such as: email marketing, social media, fishing etc.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say our target audience is aspiring guitarists. They haven’t picked up the instrument before and want to learn how to get started.
We’ll start with a broad headline: How To Learn To Play Guitar.
How can we improve this boring and generic headline? We add a hook for the reader.
Your hook is essentially an adverb which adds descriptive value to the topic which prompts a particular outcome. Examples of these are:
This could either be used to agitate the reader or provide a solution, depending on the goal of your post. For example:
How To Learn To Play Guitar [keyword] Easily [hook]
You can also reverse your keyword to match a negative hook, such as:
How Not [hook] To Learn To Play The Guitar [keyword]
Because no one wants to spend huge amounts of time learning an instrument the wrong way, right?
Great, our headline is looking better. Can we take this further?
Problems, solutions and comparisons
Our headline so far is still basic, and it is not engaging because it doesn’t address any of the readers’ pain points. So what we can do is make a comparison or reference the problem/solution.
So we could have:
How To Learn To Play Guitar (No Matter How Old You Are) [comparison + problem/solution]
You can change the comparison phrase for other variations such as:
- While You Are – How To Learn To Play Guitar While You Are Travelling
- Even If You – How To Learn To Play Guitar Even If You’re Not Musical
- Without Having To – How To Learn To Play Guitar Without Learning Music Theory
Numbers are ideal if you’re writing a post that can be framed as a list.
Here’s our original headline:
How To Learn To Play Guitar
Now let’s alter it so a number will fit in:
10 Steps To Learning To Play Guitar
Adding a number can help people understand what they’re going to get out of the post. And in general, the higher the number, the more likely people are to click and read your article.
But, can we make this even more specific?
There’s a lot of generic content on the web and that’s fine – headlines with mass appeal do have their place. But if you find your content is getting lost in the noise – persona-driven headlines can help your content stand out.
While you will limit the appeal of your content by focusing on one audience persona, you’ll end up reaching more people because your headlines will be more relatable.
Here’s an example:
The Metalheads Guide To Learning To Play Guitar: 5 Simple Steps
Let’s break it down:
The Metalheads (persona) Guide To Learning To Play Guitar (topic): 5 Simple (hook) Steps
Note: While this type of headline is hyper specific, you also need to ensure that your content is written specifically for the persona you’re targeting.
A time-stamp let’s people know that your content is relevant right now.
However, there is a downside to this technique. Once people read your article the following year, they’re going to have less confidence in the advice or immediately leave your site.
So, be sure to keep these time-sensitive posts updated in the future. It’s true that in some cases, the content won’t need to change but it’s worth setting some time aside each January to go through and update this type of content.
How do you know which is your best headline?
Don’t just create one headline and leave it at that.
Crafting high-converting headlines takes time and practice. It’s rare to get it perfect on your first attempt.
Upworthy gets their writers to create at least 25 headlines for every piece of content, and the team at Buffer creates a similar amount of headlines.
More often than not, the first 10 headlines will be scrapped. Why? Because the headline is the most important part of your content.
Here’s the problem:
Once you’ve got a bunch of eye-catching headlines, which should you choose?
You can guess what will convert best, or use a headline analyzer but there’s only one way to know for sure…
A/B test your headlines.
Remember, your target audience is not you. So let your audience make the decision.
So, how exactly can you test your headlines?
You’ll need a tool to test different headline versions against each other.
There aren’t a lot of options on the market but there is one we’ve had success with:
Thrive Headline Optimizer – a fairly affordable WordPress plugin that’s well supported and offers the best testing methodology we’ve found so far.
It’s $67 for a license and 12 months support. You get unlimited updates, so, providing you have no issues – you won’t have to pay anything more at all.
Headline testing vs headline analyzer
In a moment I’ll show you a useful headline analyzer tool you can be used to gauge the effectiveness of your headlines. However, it’s important to note the difference between headline analyzers and headline testing tools like Thrive Headline Optimizer.
Headline analyzers consider a number of variables such as length, word types (e.g. power words), sentiment, etc. when grading your headline on how effective it will be at converting your visitors. They can be genuinely helpful but they’re ultimately an educated guess, so don’t rely on them 100%.
Headline testing tools tell us which headline actually converts the best in a real-world test. You’re getting actual data rather than an educated guess.
You can however, benefit from using both these tools when crafting your headlines.
A headline analyzer would give you suggestions on how to improve your headline, whether it needs to be more specific, or use more alert words, etc.
Then you can test these suggestions with a headline testing tool to see which one converts the best.
Let’s take a look at a headline analyzer tool..
Sharethrough’s headline analyzer offers an easy way to gauge the possible effectiveness of your headlines.
4 tools that will suggest headlines for you
The following four tools operate by entering a word or phrase (usually your keyword) and then the tool will generate a few headline examples to help inspire you.
Portent Content Idea Generator
This tool can make headlines which are nonsensical, however it can help you find unique ways to phrase a headline.
Kickass Headline Generator
The Kickass Headline Generator from SumoMe takes a more refined approach to headline suggestions.
At the top you have 6 different headline categories to choose from. The tool asks you to complete a few questions to help make the headline more specific and useful.
Then it gives you over 6 headlines – each with a specific purpose.
Blog Post Ideas Generator
Our third headline suggestion tool, Blog Post Ideas Generator focuses more on useful and intriguing phrases which can be applicable to everyone, regardless of their niche.
All you need to do is click the button ‘Generate Blog Post Idea’ and a phrase appears in the bar above.
Similar to Portent Content Idea Generator, this tool works best if you are also struggling to come up with an idea for a blog post.
Answer The Public
Our last tool, Answer The Public is more of a content generator than a headline suggestion tool. However, it has the unique ability to gather information from search engines that relate to your keyword.
Here we entered the keyword ‘making music’ and it generated:
- 50 questions that are commonly searched for, separated into sections such as what, where, why, how, etc.
- 83 questions involving prepositions in them
- 42 making music comparison questions
- Then over 500 phrases involving the phrase ‘making music’ arranged alphabetically
- Lastly, we have a related section which inserts words related to specific objects or someones demographics
Thanks for sticking around till the end!
Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve covered on creating better headlines:
Your headline is what gets people through the door. It’s the sign post that grabs people’s attention.
But your headline is also a promise. A promise that your content needs to deliver on. You only get one chance at a first impression, so it’s critical to make that first impression positive.
Writing great headlines isn’t rocket science and you don’t have to be a professional copywriter.
Regardless of your experience, you are capable of writing great headlines.
You now have everything you need to get started. Take what you’ve learned from this post and start practicing your headline writing skills.
The result? Your blog traffic will increase, you’ll get more subscribers and your blog will flourish.