Readers typically rely on first impressions to determine where they’ll spend their time. That means your title, or headline, has a big job to do as it has the power to make or break your post.
On average, only 2 out of 10 people actually click through and read content. But a strong, compelling headline can beat those averages, drawing in more readers and boosting the visibility of your content. Some studies have found traffic can vary as much as 500% based on headlines alone.
Here are a few quick tips:
- Headlines with numbers in them tend to do better. Think 6 Ways to Upgrade Your Skincare Routine, or Why 36% of Writers Use Blue Erasers.
- Length matters, but it’s not an exact science. Some studies recommend 6 words. Others say you should stretch your title to 14-17 words. You want enough words so that your title can be descriptive and specific, but not so many that readers can’t quickly scan and understand.
- Adding a sense of urgency can improve traffic. FOMO is real, so phrases like “Right Now,” “Immediately,” and “Before It’s Too Late” tend to spark readers’ curiosity.
But, while these tips can have an impact, you can’t optimize or hack your way into a great title. It’s a more complex art than that. Let’s dig a little deeper into the specific considerations that will allow you to write a title that truly connects with your readers.
#1. Remember your reader
Your headline might be cute, or even compelling, but if it isn’t right for your target audience, it won’t make an impact. Investigate the type of content your reader normally consumes, the websites they visit, and the types of titles that exist in those spaces. Keep in mind their level of education and the expectations they typically have.
Does your reader prefer posts that speak directly to them? For example: How You Can Inspire Your Team to Embrace Casual Fridays, as opposed to How Bosses Across The Country Are Inspiring Teams to Embrace Casual Friday. A personal and chatty tone might be exactly what your readers are looking for, or they could find it off-putting.
#2. Be specific and clear
Don’t be ambiguous or tease your readers too much. Instead, be clear about what they stand to gain by reading your content. Use keywords for greater accuracy. Avoid acronyms or terms that aren’t universally understood.
There are a number of benefits to making your titles as specific and clear as possible.
It helps with search engine optimization (SEO)
A headline that describes exactly what your post is about is far easier for Google to read, increasing the likelihood that the people looking for your content will find it. Think about switching How to Improve Your SEO to something like How Ecommerce Stores Can Improve the SEO of Their Product Pages.
It makes the value obvious from the beginning
Typically, readers engage with articles because they think there’s a chance they’ll find the specific information they’re looking for. Rather than casting a wide net and potentially disappointing a lot of readers, cast a specific net that brings in the exact people who can benefit from your content.
#3. Don’t have a one-and-done mindset
Odds are, your first pass at writing a title isn’t going to be your best. Keep going. Generate a list of options, because doing so will spur you to think more creatively. Odds are, your best idea won’t emerge until after you’ve already come up with 8-10 other titles.
Some writers suggest working on your title immediately, while others say to wait until your article or post is done. Personally, I like to do a bit of both. I start out with a few different options, then revisit them after I’m done. You should do whatever works best for you.
Keep in mind that you also don’t have to stick with the same title forever. If an article or blog post isn’t living up to expectations, sometimes you can improve your conversion rate by trying out a few tweaks later on down the road.
#4. Consider trying out a formula
If you’re stuck, or feeling unenthused with what you’ve come up with, think about giving a headline formula a try. A formula might look like: Why You Need to [Blank] Right Now.
The drawback of relying too heavily on formulas is that your vibe can start to seem clickbaity, which isn’t the right tone for all brands, industries, and scenarios. But, while formulas aren’t foolproof, they can be helpful. I recommend using them as a starting point to stir up inspiration, rather than strict recipes. Here’s a helpful list of formulas from copyblogger to explore.
#5. Keep it relevant
Don’t disappear so deeply into optimization that you lose sight of what your content is actually about. The world’s greatest title won’t get the job done if it doesn’t correspond well to your post. Instead, you’ll lose the trust of readers who clicked into your post hoping to find a certain kind of information and were instead presented with something entirely different.
Thanks for reading, good luck, and go forth and write some amazing titles!