Your Blog Headline Sucks

Power tribes are all the rage on Triberr. This blogger is in three, and the jury is still out whether that will be the norm in a few weeks or not.

What’s happened as a result, however, are the headline and first two sentences (like the lead of a news story) become the most critical aspect of a blog post.

When your headline sucks, and I don’t know you or your writing ability, then your blog is bypassed, deleted, muted, or blacklisted. Your headline needs to be a summary of what you write about inside. It has to provide a creative depiction and enticement for me, the reader, to click, read, share, and comment.

Here’s what I’m seeing that isn’t good in headline writing:

  • One-word headlines that mean nothing and say nothing.
  • Headlines chock full of @ signs and hashtags (I believe that’s because people are writing headlines for Twitter?)
  • A series of peoples’ names that take away from the content
  • Use of first-person pronouns, kinda like, “What I Ate For Lunch”
  • Headlines that go on and on like a paragraph
  • No imagery, innovation or creativity to conjure a visual

Get my drift?

Because I’m in the public relations profession with a media relations expertise, I learned to write a headline that summarized and introduced the entire news release. In fact, I always spend the most time on the headline and then the lead (first paragraph). Now that I’m in these power tribes, I’ve changed up my first paragraph to be less about my thoughts and more about the content in the post.

Two headlines I’ve written (one just this week) prompted more comments and traffic:

Does  Your Blog Have Spinach In Its Teeth?

Should Video Be Like a Nude Beach?

You can see why these are successful; each creates a great visual, and the image you select helps further pull the reader. The first headline  came from a comment I wrote on Clarity For The Boss; I actually was speaking with Sharon Gilmour about vulnerability and asked her whether she’d tell me if I had spinach in my teeth, and lo, there was the idea for the blog post.

Tips For Better Blog Headlines 

(I could’ve used this as the post headline, but, don’t you think the one I selected instead is more enticing?)

Here are my tips for writing better blog headlines so yours don’t suck.

1. Go to the list of observations and don’ts and reverse them, of course.

2. Review your content and select some catchy words that serve to describe what you’re writing about; use those words.

3. Sex sells. Ask TheJackB how many times he’s used some sexual connotation as headline bait…works, doesn’t it, JackB?

4. Use tips — 10 Tips — is always a great puller; people love those lists.

5. How can you make me visualize a picture enough that I want to read the post? Be creative.

6. Never use one-word headlines; please, I beg you.

7. Why waste valuable real estate with peoples’ names in a header? Is that supposed to impress me and make me want to read because three people I don’t know are in the headline?

8. Key words? OK, if you have to, and guess what? Key words work for search marketing and they also work for readers. If I am seeking content on social media (which is often what I look for), then use that in the headline.

I’m always impressed by Mark Babbit’s headlines; without ever reading his content, I know he writes for interns, job seekers and about resumes. He always puts these key words in his headlines, and I applaud that.

Want to try some?

Old: My Boat That Sunk Yesterday

Suggestion: How To Repair Holes in Wooden Boats

 

Old: Special Halloween Family Dinners

Suggestion: Four Healthy, 15-Minute Kids Dinners Before Trick-or-Treat

 

Old: Why My Business Failed

Suggestion: Rescuing A Failing Business With A Lifestyle Coach

 

If anyone wants a bit of headline help, let me know. I’m happy to offer some tips or whip up a new thought for you to consider that is enticing, creative, and exemplifies your content.

 

47 comments
AlaskaChickBlog
AlaskaChickBlog

(sigh.)

Old: What's in Your Winter Pack?

New: The "Must Have"s in Your Winter Pack

GROAN...

Tweet4OK
Tweet4OK

Thanks so much for this! As much as I love blogging headlines are the most challenging! I have a much easier time with Featured images :-) I think we should invent an image-google :-) 

TianaKaiMiami
TianaKaiMiami

Agree on all fronts. I have fallen victim to the Sex Sells tip, once:

 

'Italians like it under the armpit' referring to where Italians prefer to place a thermometer, as opposed to under the tongue for Americans. 

 

It's still great to keep all those other tips in mind for future posts. 

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

Great post and suggestions. Headlines are the life, or death, of everything we do as PR pros. They need to be great in pitches to journalists, news releases and our blogs. If we cannot grab the attentions of our audience with our headlines then we aren't going to be able to do our jobs very well.

geoffliving
geoffliving

Fantastic post, Jayme.  Couldn't agree more. Content marketing dies without great headlines.  My father won a a couple of local pulitzers in Philly for his headline writing.  I may have to use this post as an excuse to share some of his tips.

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

I'm glad you included #8, especially as your headline for this post is a sterling example. :)

wonderoftech
wonderoftech

Hi Jayme, You are so right! I could list so many blog titles in my Triberr stream that have absolutely no meaning to them. They often have the day of the week in them, which makes them obsolete by the time they get through my Twitter stream. It seems as if those authors have never thought of how search engines might find their posts.

 

On the other hand, you also mention the titles filled with hashtags and @TwitterID's that look like they're already primed for Twitter, not the reader.

 

Great suggestions of how we can improve titles. If a title is too risque, I won't tweet it, but you're right, suggestive titles might be enticing! 

rdopping
rdopping

Great tips except for number 4.

 

I think if you need to revert to sex sells then you have lost. Can you not do better to think of a headline that fits the other suggestions especially number 5? I am, of course, no authority and I need to dig in here because my last post got exactly 0 comments. This is a first in the last 6 months. Maybe it's not the headline. Ha!

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

I have a love/hate relationship with headlines. A good headline doesn't always mean that people will take the time to read your content. Sometimes all you get is a 30 second glance at your post. Jack's use of sexual innuendo is done because he likes tweaking people and because he is irritated by the instant gratification society that doesn't want to take a moment to read and see what a post is about. He is unfiltered, that dude.

KDillabough
KDillabough

Really good info here (except for the multi-tasking of course, winkwink). Especially with triberr, I find that headlines have become even more important, as I sift through the multitude of posts. I always read, or at least scan fully a post before sharing, so it's important that the headline grab me and compel me to head over and read. Headlines have always been important, but even more so now, when I'm sifting through so many in my triberr stream. Can't say as I've mastered the art and science of an excellent title, but I'm working on it...not trying, but doing. Cheers! Kaarina

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hey Jayme, I'm actually starting to pay closer attention to the headlines I write and images I use... Never gave it much thought before :o

 

Happy Friday, miss!

JackDurish
JackDurish

Book titles, chapter titles, headline writing. It's an art, one that I find harder than writing a personal resume. Good posting on a timely subject, with an excellent blog posting title.

New England Multimedia
New England Multimedia

Jayme, when you wrote "I learned to write a headline that summarized and introduced the entire news release," I immediately thought of Suzanne MacDonald - @sue_desigeditor on Twitter - a journalist who writes web site content for businesses. Sue also founded and runs Newport Interactive Marketers, a very popular (and free) monthly networking event in Newport, RI. When Sue tweets from #NIMRI during the speakers' presentations, she's able to - in real time - clearly and succinctly present a TON of info in less than 140 characters. She seems to have an intuitive feel for the written language. I'm going to get her over here to your blog post to share some tips, because I'll bet she's awesome at writing great blog post and article titles! 

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Name dropping in headlines is very link baity, unless it's very topical and relevant to the post. One word, don't get that. Mixed on lists; I read and sometimes share but.. still want 'more' than just that. It's a challenge something short, smart, clickable and tweetable. I've been doing a little A/B testing PR pro that I am; use one headline, then use another as title via SEO plugin. Mix it up a little on clever, SEO, subject.. then see which tweets get more play. Work in progress, will let ya know. FWIW.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

Great suggestions on those title-redo's Jayme. I dig 'em.

PegFitzpatrick
PegFitzpatrick

Great piece, Jayme!

 

I am curious about why you are connecting power tribes with bad headlines. Aren't the power tribes sending out content automatically now for the chief of the tribe? That being said, Triberr usage warrants strong titles so that people will see them to share and that they will make an impact upon arrival, where ever that may be.

 

Sometimes I start my writing with the title and go from there.

Love your tips! Let me know if you'd ever like to write a list of 12. :D

 

Peggy

 

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @barrettrossie I have never used key words in my headlines as a purposeful way of writing. There are several schools of thought on that, for sure. Just read someone's piece who said, just forget about gaming search and put out amazing content...! I like that!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @wonderoftech I just completely emptied my Triberr stream and went to comment on a few blogs today (and saw you ahead of me!). I'm so excited that my stream is culled for ONCE. 

 

That said, I looked closer at the headlines and also realized the really long ones I ignored; couldn't read them as it took more time than just scanning. 

 

Something in the Wall Street Journal Friday magazine gave me pause. I'll get the exact quote, but, the guy alluded to "nothing in this world is innovative any more." I'm getting a bit discouraged about blog content after being in these power tribes. What about you? Echo chamber is very alive. 

 

The headline is the thing that is going to draw me in, like today's "Why do bloggers write about blogging" I went over right away to disagree with the author. Good title. 

 

Thanks, Lady!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @rdopping Morning, Ralph. I think you mean tip 3. in the world of journalism, sex sells. Period. I already shared the traffic I got (more unique visitors than on any other post) when I used the title, "Should Video Be Like A Nude Beach?" 

 

You can do whatever you want with your headlines and blog post content. Do you ever see sex-oriented content here? Perhaps there's an innuendo or two and flirtations, but that's chemistry. 

 

Let your hair down; experiment a little!

 

(There, which way did you take that -- on the straight and narrow or in the gutter? Connotation is up to the reader, and that's exactly what you want to do with a creative headline.)

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @KDillabough You for one have never unimpressed me with your headlines. I always want to read your schtuff. Maybe I'm partial? Yeah, I am. 

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @Mark_Harai Cool! Did you do that since we joined that first power tribe together? That's when it hit me...how critical the headers are to lure folks in. I always knew that from media relations, but seeing 100 blog headlines in a row really points out which need more help.

 

Next time you pop up on Skype and have a minute, give me a shout, eh? Time to catch up again! I'm finally feeling like I can breathe after Wednesday night. 

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @JackDurish Hi, Jack! I liked your post yesterday too on links? However I was on the iPad in a gym and couldn't get the darn thing to load so couldn't comment. Sorry about that! Thanks for coming over, and need to say, while i don't comment on your historical works relating to Cuba, I'm very impressed with the topic you're writing about. Just wanted to acknowledge that and you!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @New England Multimedia   @sue_desigeditor Hey, Michelle. Is that Sue's real handle? Should it be DesignEditor or like you have it? 

 

Any journalist is going to be #RockHot on social media with posts. Typically, I sit on webinars and in conferences and tweet live and summarize content as it flows. It helps my need to multitask and at least I'm focused on what's being said, right?  Don't tell @Kaarina Dillabough !

 

Looking forward to meeting Suzanne, too; thanks for the intro!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @3HatsComm You're so smart to have the time and tracking mechanisms to follow titles for posts in 2 places. I'm impressed!! Do report back; inquiring minds want to know!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @PegFitzpatrick Hey, Peggy! Thanks for coming over! Indeed, I would love, love to GP for you on 12 most! Want me to do 12 blog writing headline tips? I can convert some of the don'ts into the list and perhaps others will give me some inspiration in comments, too. I'll swing over to see your style over there, too. Thanks!

 

Secondly, the power tribes I'm in (the very first one) is a mashup of many different levels of bloggers globally in a variety of verticals. I never noticed the importance of headlines before I joined this power tribe and saw the different ways people are writing them (and thus the inspiration for this piece).

 

I don't know if the second sentence is true at all? When I've joined tribes (I'm in 15, I think), each of us manually sends shares under our own Twitter handle and the tribe chief isn't engaged in that process. 

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing I know, I know. I have been so busy with my new role at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption that I've been behind on this end of things. And yes, I'm blogging. In fact, I have a new post - prexplorer.wordpress.com

PegFitzpatrick
PegFitzpatrick

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing 

I'll go research the power tribes, I think I may be confusing them with prime members? Maybe? Mixing it up with new tribes is something that Dino advised me about awhile ago, tribe mates seem to stop sharing and engaging with their tribes but continue to pump in a lot of content. Tribes ebb and flow. Sounds like the power tribe is rocking for you and inspiring you which is great!

 

I'd love a 12 Most on headline! Yeah! Even one on rocking Triberr we haven't had one of those! Email me at peggy@12Most.com and I'll send you some details. {excited}

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @Anthony_Rodriguez I had no idea you moved to a new gig! Congrats! Just tried to invite you to my We Are PR tribe on  Triberr, but you're not there yet, right? You should connect with @jennwhinnem who works at the CT Health Foundation. Bet you guys could exchange some stories. You may have met her IRL at Social Slam? 

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @PegFitzpatrick I'm doing a Google HangOut with Dino Dogan today at 2:30 p.m. on Triberr Prime...maybe that's a new feature then? But, I think it's $40/monthly, so I need to see what else we can do with paid membership.

 

Oh, boy, I can give you 24 tips how to rock Triberr...indeed; I've become a defacto near-expert (nope not gonna say I'm a real expert, heh!). Watch for email! 

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