How to Write Blog Headlines That Don't Suck

Written by  on Oct 17, 2019

Everyone knows that a business blog will help boost your search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your site. But you may not know that your headlines matter just as much as your content.

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A good blog headline can up your SEO game and get you more clicks from other blogs, email newsletters, and social media. And an enticing headline increases the likelihood that people will share your blog post on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

When your headlines are killing it, so is your blog. And it’s important to get it right — when BKMedia Group brought our A-game to our client Carefree Dental’s blog to improve their SEO with better content and link building, they saw website traffic increase by 384%.

A well-crafted blog can also boost sales by placing your site higher in search rankings, driving more traffic from social media and other sites, building credibility with readers, and increasing engagement. Carefree Dental’s blog revamp brought them an extra 47.5% of sales!

So how do you write blog headlines that don’t suck? Start here.

Below are 11 tips of what to do and what to avoid when writing blog headlines to get more clicks, more shares, and higher search rankings.

1. Use Lists with Odd Numbers

List-based blogs are one of the most popular types of blogs out there. Why do you think this post was written as a list? 

A list is easy for a reader to digest. They can quickly skim through your content and get what they’re looking for, without having to read every single word. 

Almost any blog can be formulated as a list. For example, instead of “How to Make Homemade Yogurt”, a headline could be “How to Make Homemade Yogurt in 5 Easy Steps”.

It’s important to include the number of list items in the headline, as headlines with numbers get twice as many clicks as other headlines. 

And if you really wanna knock it out of the park, construct your list to have an odd number of items. Odd-numbered lists get 20% more clicks than even-numbered ones.

2. Ask (or Answer) a Question

A good headline will ask or answer a question. For example: “Want to Make Homemade Yogurt? Here’s How in 5 Simple Steps.”

Questions can help generate a sense of curiosity in the reader’s mind, and get you the clicks you’re looking for.

The other option is to promise the answer to a question using the word “How.” Imagine when you want to know how to do something or how something works. You go to Google and you type in “how to do X”, like “how to zip line off your roof” (don’t do this, by the way).

If someone types in “how to make homemade yogurt”, your blog with the headline that very closely matches this search term (“How to Make Homemade Yogurt in 5 Easy Steps”) is more likely to show up in the search results. Plus, it clearly tells the user that your blog has what they’re looking for.

3. Write with the 5 W’s

The 5 W’s you should always include in your blog headlines are: Who, What, Where, Why, and When. 

Consider how you can use these W’s in your headlines, as they help clearly indicate what your blog post offers within its content.

For example, the headline “5 Beautiful Celebrities Who Eat Homemade Yogurt” promises a specific list of names of actors and musicians who love homemade yogurt, just like you. Congrats. 

4. Incorporate Parentheses, Hyphens, and Colons

Add some zest and intrigue to your headlines with parentheses, brackets, hyphens, and colons.

To take the example from the previous tip, you can generate a bit more interest with “5 Beautiful Celebrities Who Eat Homemade Yogurt (You Won’t Believe Who #5 Is)”. 

Use of parentheses in headlines is shown to increase performance by close to 40%!

Hyphens and colons can also provide traffic-boosting value of nearly 10%. Something like “Hollywood Diet Trends: You Won’t Believe What These Celebrities Are Eating” should do the trick. 

5. Stay Negative

Positive words are so overused that people tend to glaze over them. For example, “Homemade Yogurt: The Best Way to Lose Weight” can feel like a sales pitch to readers. 

Alternatively, “How to Avoid Putting on Pounds with Homemade Yogurt” turns the headline on its head, and puts it in a negative context. So-called negative words like “avoid”, “stop” and “never” do 30% better than their positive counterparts.

While you’re in a negative mindset, consider headlines that elicit a sense of controversy. “Store-Bought Yogurt Will Be the Death of Us All (But There’s Another Way)” is, yes, a bit hyperbolic, but you really want to click on it, don’t you?

6. Include Keywords

Keywords are the search-relevant words or phrases that you can include in your blog’s content to improve SEO ranking. You should also include these in your meta title, meta description, and yes, your headlines.

Identifying the best keywords for your blog is a whole topic on its own (we actually wrote a guide for that too), but once you’ve come up with keywords for your blog, be sure to include at least one of them in your headline.

7. Research the Competition

If you’ve been wracking your brains trying to come up with a good headline and keep coming up short, why not check out what your competition is doing?

Do a Google search for exactly what you’re writing about, like say “how to make homemade yogurt”, and see what the top search results are. If they’re at the top, they’re doing something right. Use the formulas you see present there to write your own (somewhat) original headline.

8. Make a Long Headline Short

Studies show that shorter headlines win the day. Anything over 70 characters is going to get cut off in search engine results, and it could hurt you if the most compelling part of your headline comes in after the cut-off point.

And when it comes to social sharing, long headlines don’t do as well, because they either aren’t fully displayed or they’re just overwhelming to people scrolling through Twitter and Facebook.

HubSpot analyzed optimal headline word counts for social media, and found that headlines with 8 to 12 words do best on Twitter, while slightly longer headlines of 12 to 14 words do best on Facebook. 

You can always create different headlines for different channels, or just shoot for the best of both worlds and aim for about 12 words (but under 70 characters).

9. Use a Headline Analyzer

Whether you spend 10 seconds or 10 days coming up with what you think is the perfect headline, double-check that it’s as amazing as you think with a headline analyzer.

CoSchedule’s free Headline Analyzer will deliver a score on your headline by looking at all of the factors we’ve discussed so far in this blog, as well as things like how many “common” and “uncommon” words you have.

Common words are things like the 5 W’s and “how”, but also prepositions and articles.

Uncommon words are usually adjectives, adverbs, or slightly unusual nouns. Words such as “ultimate”, “mind-blowing”, and “beautiful” are all considered uncommon.

A headline analyzer will look for a headline consisting of 20-30% uncommon words and 10-20% common words, and ideally you’re looking for at least a score of 60 (out of 100) for a good headline.

So if the headline analyzer scores your headline as, say, 52%, try tweaking it with more or fewer common and uncommon words, and variations using the tips here to get the score higher.

10. Try Out Multiple Headlines

Here at BKMedia Group, we always come up with at least 2 or more high-scoring headlines that we can choose from for each blog.

One of the best ways to choose between your options is with A/B testing, which is a way of trying out both headlines on a sample audience before pushing out the best performing one to a larger audience.

You can do A/B testing in SEM (search engine marketing) or social media advertising campaigns, as well as in email newsletters.

The idea is to run a small campaign with two similar subsets of your target audience, showing Headline A to one and Headline B to the other. After the campaign, you can see which headline got more clicks, and then use that one for your larger ad spend.

11. Reuse Successful Headline Structures

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Once you’ve found headline formulas that work well for you, keep using them.

For example “5 Beautiful Celebrities Who Eat Homemade Yogurt (You Won’t Believe Who #5 Is)” could become “7 Amazing Places Where You Can Eat Homemade Yogurt (#3 Will Blow Your Mind)”.

P.S. We hope you know we’re joking with the homemade yogurt obsession. But seriously, it’s really easy to make.

Keep Winning at the Internet with World-Class Copy

Unfortunately, only 20% of people who read your headline will read your blog. 

That means three things: 

  1. It’s important to have a great headline, as it’s the main impression you’ll leave on most viewers.
  2. Your blog’s content needs to not suck if you want to make the most of that 20% of readers who do check out the rest of your content.
  3. You yourself are in the lucky minority of people who read this entire blog and learned about the magic that is homemade yogurt.

Great copy can increase your organic traffic and search rankings and generate brand trust with readers. Ultimately, it’s part of a sales funnel that should lead visitors to an eventual purchase.

Read more about how a professional copywriter can help you step up your content game and get more traffic and more sales »

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