Reading blog posts and news pieces, among lots of other things, is a huge part of our agency’s daily routine. This is not only because we have to stay informed on the latest trends on our (and our clients’) industry.
We also like to keep an eye on what our competitors are doing 😉
The thing is, with thousands of new written content coming out every day from all angles, it’s impossible to keep up with each one of them. After all, we have to work. Thus, when faced with them, the headline plays a big part on the decision of whether we want to read this post now, or at least, save it on Pocket to read it on our break.
And, here’s a little secret: all readers (even you!) go through this process every day.
Because of this, the chase for the magic formula to create epic headlines has become part of the content marketer’s everyday life. The truth is that there’s not a simple, one-size-fits-all recipe for the perfect headline that will work for every type of content you create. What worked for one post may be terrible for another.
In today’s post, you won’t find complicated math formulas or mysterious alchemy recipes from our ancestors. You may already have your own headline secret sauce going on.
Instead, we want to give you four key reminders that you have to keep in mind while editing your list of 30 potential headlines for your next post. Sometimes, in the midst of following formulas and ULTIMATE PROVEN RECIPES, you may lose sight of them, and your readers may penalize your post for it.
Ready? Let’s cook some headlines!
1. Write human headlines for human readers
This first tip is something we see writers forget a lot in the chase for clicks. Desperate to claim some space in their keyword’s SEO rankings, they end up creating a headline that ends up written with the machine (and not the reader) in mind.
Granted, keywords are crucial, and you should sprinkle them with the finesse of Salt Bae throughout your post. But if you overdo it, your post will be as unappetizing and unhealthy as drinking salt water. And this also applies to your headline.
For example, if your keyword is “travel stress”, your first results will not be a bunch of hits with these two words alone. They will look more like this:
I really need to read these posts ASAP, by the way
All of these headlines contain both words, but integrated within coherent and clear sentences. I’m more inclined to click on them than on a headline that feels too robotic.
2. Watch what your competitors are doing
Stuck without ideas? Have you deleted more than 20 potential headlines from your post? Is your deadline minutes away?
Then, it’s time to get some inspo from the very people whose readers you want to steal: your competitors.
For the purpose of this post, your competitors are not only those who are in the same line of work as you. It also includes any person who’s writing about the same topic as yours, whether they offer a product or service similar to yours.
So, if you find yourself with a pretty post in your hands but no headline, make a beeline to Google or Buzzsumo and do the exercise I just did in the first point with the keyword “travel stress”.
Now, a word of warning: this doesn’t mean that you’ll copy the top result and paste it on your post. Using the same headline will not get you to the first page of Google. Instead, look at the words and sentences they use, and find ways to adapt them to your own content.
3. Don’t forget to check your grammar and spelling
I feel terrible for having to throw this as a reminder, but I have to.
Spelling and grammar errors in a blog post are terrible, but they’re mainly devastating when they’re in big bold letters at the top of your post.
When you’re rushing to publish the post ASAP, you may feel tempted to skip giving your post one last look before going live. But this is a gamble that can end up bringing the wrong type of attention to your content: the one with tons of comments correcting your mistake instead of contributing to the conversation.
So, do yourself a favor and don’t skip the spell check. Your readers’ eyes will thank you for that.
4. Keep it simple
The goal of having a content marketing strategy is to position yourself or your brand as an expert in your field. But that doesn’t mean that you have to fill your headline with complex words and industry-exclusive jargon that your readers might struggle to grasp.
Yes, I made my previous sentence obnoxious and complicated on purpose.
Remember that you have less than a couple of seconds to get your reader’s’ attention and get them to click on your post. So, with that in mind, remember to write short sentences with up to 12 words, use words related to your reader’s stage in the buyer’s journey and be careful with using too gimmicky formulas that sound more like clickbait and less like a reliable source of information.
5. Run it through a headline analyzer
Okay, friend. You have your human headline, made to smash your competitors, with impeccable grammar and the right choice of words.
There’s only one last thing I want you to do before hitting publish: run it through a headline analyzer.
This extra step can give you a good measure on the odds your headline has to catch your reader and make them read your post. If, despite “doing all the right things”, the analyzer finds areas of improvement, your headline may just need a little oomph to be more compelling and clickable.
We love to use Sharethrough’s Headline Analyzer, which is very easy to use and even gives you tips on what to add or remove to our headline to make it just right. CoSchedule also has an excellent analyzer.
The most important tip to follow is to put your stunning headline at the top of a great post. Your perfect headline will bring you clicks and possible readers, but what will make them stay on your page is the content you offer. That first sentence is a promise you make to the reader, so remember to keep up with it in the following paragraphs.