How to write better blog titles
You didn’t set out to be a blog copywriter. You don’t want to be an SEO specialist or even an online marketer.
You just want to run your tourism business, make people happy by providing enjoyable holiday experiences that bring them back year after year.
But you’re competing online with national travel companies that employ teams of marketing people to write content full-time, so you need some knowledge of what helps your website get found online and what your audience want to read.
Blogging and SEO
This is where blogging can help. Writing and publishing blog posts on your website can help to optimise your website as you regularly create interesting, topical and relevant content that help your readers out.
But creating content isn’t enough. Most bloggers spend 95% of the time carefully crafting a perfect blog post and the headline is a hasty after-thought, added once the post is complete and ready to publish.
This is a big mistake.
The headline is like the finishing touches in a hotel room – the welcome hamper or the pristine bedding. Not critical for the enjoyment of someone’s holiday but essential to making the right first impression and drawing the reader in.
The best copywriters of all time recommend spending 50% of your time writing your blog post and the other 50% on crafting the perfect headline.
If the headline is not well written, no-one is going to read that wonderful blog you slaved over for four hours.
The importance of a good headline
One of my favourite bloggers, Neil Patel, did some research into blog post titles and found that 8 out of 10 people will read the title of your blog, but only 2 out of 10 people will read the whole post.
This means your blog post title is the number one most important part of the post.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to learn the nine hacks that will turn your headlines from invisible to irresistible.
How to write better blog titles
1. Include a number in your blog post
The title of your blog post shows up in the search engines, so it plays a huge role in delivering web traffic.
Numbered blog post titles have been shown to achieve a much higher click-through rate than those that don’t contain a number.
Why? We have short attention spans, particularly when reading online, and list posts are easy to scan. We know what to expect and can easily skim an article to get all 21 promised apps (or whatever) without having to read every single word.
(I bet you’re scanning this now… if you read this sentence, leave a comment and prove me wrong).
So if you’re looking to drive click-throughs to your posts, try and include a number in your blog post titles and test out how it affects the traffic.
2. Make that number an odd number
There doesn’t seem to be much understanding of why this works, but using an odd number in your blog post title increases the number of clicks it receives in the search results.
The Content Marketing Institute researched their most successful blog posts and found that titles with an odd number in them led to 20% more clicks than the even numbered headlines.
So if your post is a top ten list, remove one before publishing. Or add one.
Up to you.
3. Use power words to emphasise key benefits
You know your content needs to be interesting – it needs to solve a problem for your reader, inspire, entertain or amuse them.
But you can enhance your finished headline by adding power words that ramp up the interest.
Compare this to a headline which reads: “17 things to do during the May Bank holidays”.
Hmm, not so tempting.
Add “brilliant” and you’re already promising your reader some fantastic ideas.
Legendary copywriter and advertiser Karl Stepp regularly used power words in his copywriting and Coschedule have pulled them all together in a handy list – download it here or by clicking the image below.
4. Keep it below 45 characters
Google can only show 65 characters in its search results – and on mobile it’s even less – so if your blog post title is too long, it won’t show up properly in search results and all the hard work you put into writing an eye-catching headline will be wasted.
Research by Hubspot revealed that headlines shared on Twitter were shared the most if they had between 8 and 12 words, while on Facebook the length was 12 to 14 words.
If you absolutely can’t keep your title below 45 characters, put the most important key words at the front, so if it is cut off, the first few words make it obvious what the post is about, enticing readers to click through to read the rest.
5. Learn from the masters
Buzzfeed is the king of headlines – they have spent millions of dollars researching, writing and testing which ones work and why, so if you’re ever short of inspiration, take a quick look at their home page and your creative juices will soon be flowing with unmissable titles.
Or you can take a more scientific approach, and learn from software engineer Max Woolf, who studied the most successful Buzzfeed blog titles to identify common phrases.
Read them all here or here are some of my favourites:
[X] signs you’re….
[X] things that….
[X] reasons you should….
….of all time.
….blow your mind.
How could you incorporate those into blog posts that your readers would love?
6. Be useful
How many marketing messages are you exposed to every day?
Research suggests anything from 5,000 to 20,000, so it’s no surprise that marketing blindness is a growing problem as we become blind to the benefits and products being pitched at every turn.
As bloggers we have a job to break through the clutter with valuable content that our audiences want to read.
This means your blog headlines need to instantly communicate a benefit to your audience.
Bad headline: Walk the coast
Good headline: 7 breath-taking walks around the Cornish coast (for all fitness levels)
Immediately it’s clear to the reader what is being offered, and the addition of a power word (“breath-taking”) sells the benefits perfectly. Check that every blog title you create is clearly articulating the benefits of reading it in full.
7. Start your title with ‘How’
List posts containing an odd number (eg. The 7 best rooftop rooms) are most clicked in search results, e-marketing tests and on social media.
However, there is another type of post which comes a close second…
Posts which offer a how-to guide or step-by-step instructions to achieve a desired result are also incredibly popular and successful at generating clicks and readers.
The secret is knowing what problems your audience has and trying to solve those problems with a blog post.
Once you have the basic outline, you can make it more tempting by addressing a perceived barrier to achieving the promised outcome.
Eg. How to write and create content for your blog (even if you’re new to blogging)
Do you see how the second one acknowledges a potential worry of the reader, and totally smashes it out the water?
This technique is fool-proof, baby. Even you can’t mess it up.
To create these types of headlines, start with the worry or problem or your reader, then offer a solution. Add a cherry on top by adding in brackets “even if…..“.
It works a charm.
8. Share your opinion
There are millions of generic blog posts out there – but the ones that really get people fired up are the ones that give an opinion, particularly one that’s a bit controversial.
People who agree will share it on their social networks, people who want to taunt their friends will tag them on Facebook below the post, and people who disagree may write an alternative piece and link back to yours.
Many of these are tongue-in-cheek, but be prepared for the responses from people who take them completely seriously…
9. Test it out
Think you’ve got the best headline ever?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just run it past someone before publishing, just to get their feedback. When you spend a long time working on something it’s sometimes hard to take a step back and review it objectively.
You’re in luck. The free headline analyser tool over at CoSchedule is designed to help you check just how effective your finished headline really is.
Simply enter your headline and the analyser tool will scan it and show how it scores in terms of relatability and emotion.
So there are 9 (I started with ten but cut one…) of the best headline hacks that can help your posts can web traffic from search results.
Which is your favourite? Share in the comments below.