Do you know that many blog headlines suck? No, seriously, they do, and here’s why… the headline is the single-most important aspect of a blog and writers often stop short by featuring a less-than-pizzazzy headline.
In this era of time constraints, a headline has to describe the gist of the story, draw readers in, and be creative. With that said, here are 12 tips to get you thinkin’ on better headlines to attract and keep readers coming back:
1. Summarize the story in the title. Give readers the low down of the story right on top. A headline provides the gist of the news, content, story angle, etc. Be descriptive in a concise way. Spend the most time writing the headline FIRST; trust me, this is the best way to get it right.
2. Be creative! Can’t stress enough how critical it is to let the creative juices flow like hot lava. It’s your job to draw a reader in and make them click on that title to see what else is being featured. When the headline is the only chance you get… well, spend more time on it!
3. Say no to hashtags. If you think you’re killing two birds with one stone writing a headline for Twitter with a hashtag, think again. A headline with a hash tag is unappealing. Besides, Twitter is not the only channel for sharing; other channels don’t use hashtags to capture topics, so why do it?
4. Reconsider name dropping. You may be in love with that book author, client or peer in your tribe or feed, but guess what? Your readers have no clue who that person is. When you name drop with the @ sign in a headline it diminishes the headline and becomes very promotional.
5. Use more than one or two words! Amazingly, bloggers think a headline with one or two words is acceptable; rather, it’s an immediate signal to run for the hills. While the content may be decent, there’s no way to tell because one-word headlines say and do nothing to entice a reader to open the door.
6. Be tastefully raucous. Some writers never use raucous words in a headline and that’s up to the discretion of the writer; however, if you’re going to use the “sex sells” mantra, do be tasteful about it. Do a test on occasion — add a racier word than you’re used to and see if traffic boosts.
7. K.I.S.S. — Keep it simple! When a headline carries on for three lines, readers’ eyes completely gloss over. It’s so critical to keep a headline short, sweet, simple and to the point! Not satisfied with yours? Ask someone for help; people do like to help others.
8. Keep key words for SEO to a minimum. Never overdo key word littering in a headline. That’s one thing every reader picks up on and every reader then expects the content to be oriented to SEO juicing, too. All bloggers want to boost SERP, but it needs to be done in a minimalistic way.
9. Use action voice. Write a headline that is a “How To” or includes an action verb. Here’s an example, “How To Refinish a Spindle Chair In Half The Time.” Not only does that title tell me I’m going to learn how to do something, it also tells me I can do it more efficiently. (Anyone who has refinished spindle legs knows how challenging it is!)
10. Ignore first-person pronouns. Use of the word, “I” is verboten… that’s German for “forbidden.” Who’s making that rule? Moi, the author of this post. There are no hard or fast rules to blog headline writing, but this one should be set in stone.
11. No selling! Cannot stress enough how horrific it is to read a headline in which the author is sharing coupons, deals on products or dentistry (yes, I saw a woman doing that on Google+ and kindly told her this is not how Google+ is used with a suggestion on how to do it and then deleted her from my stream). There’s no easier way to alienate readers by putting such things in a headline.
12. Know your audience! Who is in your community? Do you have “mommy bloggers” who might like to know which brand of children’s clothing stands up to 10 washings? Are you an author trying to showcase your latest book? Do you write professionally for small businesses? No matter… when you write a post with your community in mind, the headline needs to orient to them and their takeaways.
Overwhelmed with these tips on how to perfect a blog headline? Please don’t be! Review the patterns in your own writing and note a few areas you might consider improving. Then, take a few of the aforementioned tips and change up your style a bit.
What do you think? Is anything missing?
This post originally appeared on 12Most.com January 1, 2013 by Jayme Soulati.