You Probably Won’t Click Here: This is a Terrible Headline

You Clicked. It Worked!

You know you have great blog content, but how do you create intrigue and increase clickability? It’s all in the headline; it is the first and maybe only impression you can make on your potential readers. If you think your headline doesn’t hold that much weight, think again; traffic can vary by up to 500% based on the headline alone. Even if your blog post is the beginning of the next great American novel, readers will simply scan it if your headline doesn’t make them think a full read through will reap a reward. Studies show that 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. Tough crowd. Your headline can’t be a too basic, not a spoiler, but also not cryptic. Where do you find the balance? Read below for a few tips on attention-grabbing one-liners.

  1. Understand Your Audience    From Day 1, you had an idea of your audience – but do you really know what gets them clicking? Whether your selling a product, service, or a lifestyle, your blog has been catering to a certain demographic. By now, you know who they are and what they want. Now its time to get down to the very verbs that make them go, what? Finding their triggers won’t be easy, but a few goes at experimentation with word choice will make a world of difference. Maybe your audience is younger; you can reference something in pop culture or a currently popular song. “How to Snag Attention Like Miley” or “Lose With The Grace of Leo.” Knowing your audience’s wants and needs, but also how they like their attention to be grabbed, will help you pick words and references that draw them in to what you have to say.
  2. Find a Formula   Writers are the best thieves; Shakespeare borrowed from Plutarch. Author A took a story line from Author B who adopted the writing style of Author C. This is a well-known fact of the writing world, and headlines are no exception. There are several formulas to get familiar with that work every time, such as The How-To’s (How to ____ Even if ____) or the list of superlatives (10 Best ____). The standards go on and on and they’ve been used time and time again; everyone has read them and they’re not going anywhere. This is because headline formulas are simple and useful, and forever adaptable to what you would like to talk about. They also allow for some play, so put your own spin on the classics. There are books, e-books, and articles dedicated to listing the formulas, so do a quick search and take note.
  3. Know the Power of the Subhead    Many blog posts don’t utilize how effective a well-crafted subhead can be; they seem to be mostly reserved for college term papers. However, subheads provide an extension from your headline that spurs more intrigue. It adds value by conveying something that creates anticipation for a reward by reading what follows. Note that subheads aren’t to spruce up a boring headline, but to make a good one all the more exciting. This is where you can also reveal too much, however. Subheads should spur curiosity, not spoil the surprise. A common approach is to use one of the formulas (The 10 Healthiest Foods) then adding a subhead with a semi-vague emotional weight (:They’re Not What You Think). More on emotion below.
  4. Evoke Emotion   Curiosity, surprise, personality, and even fear. Like any type of marketing, triggering these emotions with a headline will intrigue your audience to the core and make them feel they need to read on. A headline is like a good tagline or the last line of a commercial -– it stirs something inside the viewer so they reach for more. How do you evoke emotion exactly? Think strong verbs (attack, steal, launch, etc.), a direct address (using ‘you’), bold promises, going against the norm, and referencing pop culture and well-known sayings. It sounds like a lot to fit into a less than 10 word line, but it’s best to only go with one or two approaches per headline. Headlines like “Are You Committing ___?” or “Don’t Try ____ At Home” both directly speak to the audience and suggest there’s something to fear. Even if you fill the blank with something less serious, (Are You Committing These Google Search Crimes?), it still has the same effect. You can aim to evoke any of the emotions, but also think of your audience. If your blog is of a more serious matter and your identity as a blogger is formal, maybe focus on triggering curiosity and fear. Or if you’re an easygoing blogger with superfluous language, creating wacky ones with personality might be more appropriate. Tailor headline emotions to how you see fit for your audience.
  5. Compile a List and Experiment   Now that you’re familiar with the classics and are in the heads of your readers, it’s time to experiment. Making a list ahead of time is a smart move – create at least 30 (depending on how often you post), coordinate them with your blog post plans, test the waters, and add and remove headlines accordingly. This strategy will allow you to compile your go-tos (maybe your readers love funny spins on your How To guides for your lifestyle blog) and project off of those as platforms for new ones (the laughs at your How Tos will wear off eventually). Having a variety of emotion-evoking and classic headlines will also help you streamline your content and mix it up when necessary.

2 million blog posts are created everyday, so your headlines have to stand out in the crowded blogosphere – every single word counts. Consider your audience when forming your one-of-a- kinds, or go-to classics, but also go for the unexpected. Make time to research strong verbs and marketing approaches to emotion; headlines are that important. Now make a list and turn those hovering mice into clicking machines.


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