Are Your Headlines Helping or Hurting Your Content?
Whether you’re writing headlines for your Web pages, your linkbuilding campaigns or your company’s blog posts, the tips below will help you attract more people to your content. However, as an SEO-savvy person, you know how important it is to keep your keywords and helpful search queries in mind and not get too caught up in creative headlines.
Before you even begin to think of possible headlines for your latest project, use Google’s suggested search feature to learn how people will find your content in search engines. For example, if you are trying to write a headline for content discussing the Ocoee River, go to Google and type Ocoee River into the search bar.
If the search term raft the Ocoee River appears in the list of automatically-generated queries below the search bar, make your content title similar to that. The headline “Important Facts to Know Before you Raft the Ocoee River” will not only accurately describe your content but also help more people land on your site.
With this all-important tip out of the way, here are a few ways you can really pique readers’ interest in your content:
Leave out ending punctuation
This tip is especially useful for email marketers and linkbuilders but it’s also valuable for bloggers and copywriters, too. If you include a final mark of punctuation at the end of your email’s subject line, your blog posts’ headline or the title of your latest Web page, you’re likely dissuading people from delving deeper into your content.
While many of us have a desire to be grammatically correct, including an exclamation point or a period at the end of a title tells readers to stop reading on a subconscious level. By leaving the final mark of punctuation out, you hint to readers that there is more to come and encourage them to keep reading, without being pushy about it.
Because readers are more engaged when you do this
Again, this may be a bit counterintuitive to what you learned in English class, but creating a headline that sounds like the second half of a complete thought can be a very effective strategy. Andy Maslen, author of The Copywriting Sourcebook, recommends this method as a way of getting your readers to think about your content before they even read it.
Headlines and email titles like “Because drug addiction hurts more than just drug addicts” or “Because animals can’t always protect themselves” immediately make the reader envision the kind of content that the title could potentially be relating to. Thus, you’ve actively engaged the reader in your content and so have increased the likelihood that the reader will continue reading to find out more.
Why don’t you ask a question?
This tactic is pretty well known, but it continues to be effective nonetheless. Asking a question in your headline or title is another great way to actively engage your potential readers in your content before they actually read it. Especially if the headline is something that includes the readers’ individual self-interests, you’ll significantly strengthen their desire to open your email or stay on your website longer.
For example, the blog post title “Could it really be this simple to rank well in Google?” is likely more effective than the title “How to Rank Well in Google.” Because you ask a question, people automatically read the title as the beginning of a conversation and naturally want to continue that conversation. However, it is important to note that there is a fine line between initiating a conversation with your reader and sounding like spam. Questioning email titles like “Do you want to make money from home?” and “Is your home’s mortgage too much?” just sound sleazy, and that’s exactly how your readers will view them. Instead, try using Tip #2 for topics dealing with finances.
“It’s amazing how good testimonials work”
Especially if you have a surprising or immediately engaging quote from one of your past customers or website users, a testimonial headline can be highly effective in drawing people into your content. Of course, you’ll want a quote that is relatively short and that conveys the subject of your content well. The key to making this kind of title work is getting quotes that use vernacular language. Very few people actually speak in proper English, so no one will believe your headline if it’s written with exact grammatical perfection.
My titles have gotten better because of this tip
Writing your titles in a narrative or story-like format is naturally engaging to people. We love to hear stories and we engage in them quickly, so appropriately implementing narrative structures into your headlines can be a great way to sell people on clicking your SERPs link or reading your next blog post.
Let’s take a look at this title: “How to Save Money on Your New Car.” It’s straightforward, yes. And it might do okay if you only care about ranking in search engines. But ranking won’t really be an option if you can’t even get people to click into your content. Using a narrative structure can help get people to read your content. “There once was a family that wanted a new car” is both engaging and descriptive of the content being discussed. You’ll also that it does not end with a period, due to Tip #1. Narrative headlines involve a bit of creativity to implement effectively, but they can work for many different kinds of content. Just be aware that there is a fine line between being effective and sounding cheesy.
Now that you know what you can do to write better headlines, get out there and get more click-throughs! If you have other strategies for writing great headlines, tell me in the comments section below!