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8 Smart Techniques for Improving Headlines

8 Smart Techniques for Improving Headlines

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: June 13, 2013

Even the most well-written article or blog post, or the best video, is worthless if it isn’t topped by an appealing headline. The headline is what piques the reader’s attention.

The headline has become uber-important in today’s world of social media sites. For most people, the headline is all they see on a site like Twitter. And on other sites like Google+ and Facebook, it’s a key element of what they see. If the headline isn’t good, chances are the reader won’t bother to click over to read it or view it.

In fact, Copyblogger says 75% of the readers who read the headline don’t bother reading the actual blog post.

Headlines are also important for email marketing. Here again, the subject line (i.e., the “headline” for an email marketing message) has a lot to do with whether people will open the message.

With a little effort and a lot of inspiration, you can improve your headlines and increase the number of people who want to read your articles and view your video or other content.

Read Other Headlines.

The best places for inspiration are popular sites that have many readers. Alltop, BusinessInsider.com, BuzzFeed.com and BizSugar are good places to go to find headlines that get lots of clicks, so take notes.

If you pay attention, you’ll see that the headlines aren’t stuffy, and that they entice you to learn more in the actual post.

Create Mystery and Curiosity.

A good headline leaves the reader wanting more. Take this example from social content site, BuzzFeed: 

“Let’s Hope This Trend Does Not Catch On”

You’re probably at least a little curious about that, aren’t you? It’s hard to resist finding out just which trend they are talking about.

Play on Emotions.

Humans are emotional beings, and we want to feel something. Evoke emotions in the headline, and you can get more clicks. Here’s an example from TheChive.com:

“Homeless Man Tells Heartbreaking Story”

We’re ready for an emotional response to that story.

Use Numbers.

When you use a number in your headline, you’re letting readers know exactly what to expect. When you read the headline to this post, you knew there would be eight tips on improving headlines. No more, no less. Today’s readers are impatient and want to quickly skim content, and numbers let them do so.

Here’s a related point: generally speaking, the bigger the number, the more likely people are to bookmark and save an article. Two tips might not be bookmarkable. But 8, 10 or 12 tips – well, that’s a different story.

Ask a Question.

Consider Chris Brogan’s post, “Do Local Businesses Deserve Your Money?”  It’s a good question.

The reader is forced to ask himself the question, and if he doesn’t have the answer, he’ll be inclined to click. Whether the article answers the question to his satisfaction is a different matter – but the headline at least gets him to click.

Stand Out by Sounding a Bit Over the Top.

Tabloid magazines have mastered the art of the outrageous, but that doesn’t mean your business blog can’t apply the same technique – in moderation. Use words like:

●     Secrets

●     Revealed

●     Superlatives like biggest, the ultimate, best

Just be careful because you don’t want to lose credibility by creating headlines like this all the time or by being too outrageous.

Also, make sure the article delivers on what the headline promises. Don’t claim to bring the reader the “ultimate” guide to whatever or the “best advice” on some topic, only to offer up a mere 150 words stating the obvious. If you’re going to deliver the ultimate guide, then it had better live up to it.

Write for Humans, Not Search Engines.

Your headline shouldn’t sound like a robot wrote it. It should appeal to people first and foremost. That being said, whenever possible you should naturally work in a keyword or keyphrase into your headline. That way people searching for a topic can find your content in search engines. 

However, there’s a difference between working in a keyword in a natural way in an interesting headline, and headlines that read like keyword searches (“Video for small business”). Headlines that read like keyword searches you’d plug into Google are boring. Today’s reader expects more and is not likely to click on a dull title like that. Make it more interesting than that.  

Use the Right Tools and Resources.

If you’re not feeling creative, use tools to come up with a strong headline. Give the tool a noun or verb, and the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator provides dozens of headline possibilities. They will at least get your creative juices flowing, even if you don’t use any of the suggested headlines.

Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines is an 11-part series that will give you headline formulas and templates for your content.

To see if these eight tips work for you, be sure to experiment. Every industry and every audience is different. Not everything may appeal. Once you see which headlines YOUR readers are responding to, you can apply the same techniques to develop new headlines and increase traffic to your blog.

About the Author:

Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.