Welcome! You successfully made it past the headline! That means it intrigued you so much that you wanted to learn more. Why is that such an accomplishment? On average, only 20 percent of readers make it past the headline. Because of this, writers need to make sure they are writing captivating headlines that draw attention and pique the interest of the audience it was meant to attract. Read on to find out why certain headlines work and others flop.
What Makes a Good Headline?
Headlines that succeed in search rankings, bring ample amounts of traffic, and impact readers, all have certain critical elements that have been proven to get results.
A single word can have a huge impact on whether or not an article is read. Therefore, a good balance of word types in the headline is important. This ensures the article gets a lot of reach and is interesting enough to read, even past the headline. Ideal word types include:
Common words make up the basic structure of headlines.
Examples: there, your, and, but, from, get
Uncommon words give the title substance.
Examples: actually, something, really, better
Emotional words are proven to drive clicks and shares because they generally stir an emotional response in the reader.
Examples: painful, delightful, breathtaking, unusual, ultimate
Powerful words really grab the reader’s attention and trigger an action.
Examples: unlimited, remarkable, controversial, guaranteed
A great (free) tool that allows you to do a quick check of your headline’s success potential is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. Not only does it analyze your word balance, but it also makes sure your headline is the perfect length for higher click-throughs, as well as shows you a preview of how your headline would appear on a Google search results page and an email headline.
Are You Writing the Right Type of Headline?
The type of headline you write also makes a big difference in the amount of clicks it receives. While there are many different headline types out there, some appeal to audiences more than others and therefore, are clicked on more frequently. Conductor’s survey on headline preferences reveals what resonates the most with readers.
When headlines include a number, they tend to stand out. A numbers headline also provides the reader with a better idea of what to expect in the article. But most of all, readers are inherent scanners. In fact, as a writer, you have less than 15 seconds to hook your reader before they lose focus. Numbered lists make it easy for readers to scan the information you have provided.
Address Your Readers
When you speak to your audience directly, especially in the headline, they feel as though they are invested in your content. As human beings, we tend to be concerned with our self-interest and this type of headline tells the reader what’s in it for them.
As readers, we tend to have a natural curiosity about a multitude of things. We want our questions answered and our problems solved. How To headlines entice readers to continue reading so they can find out how to accomplish whatever the headline is hinting at.
Is Your Headline Search Engine Optimized?
People use certain words or phrases to search for information. That’s obvious. But what isn’t obvious is what those words are. This is where keyword research comes into play. Once you have a general idea of what you want to write about, it’s vital that you include a keyword in the headline, the body of the article, and subheadings. A headline that is keyword optimized will rank better on Google, allowing your audience to find your content easily. Placing your keyword close to the beginning of the headline will help your article even more in the search results.
Another key component of SEO is making sure your headline is the proper length. It’s a good idea to keep the headline under 70 characters. By limiting the amount of characters, you are ensuring that the entire headline shows up on the Google search results page. If it’s too long, Google will cut it off and place an ellipsis at the end. When the headline is cut off, the reader doesn’t get a full understanding of what the article is about and might skip over it.
As an example, take a look at the headlines on the Google search results page screenshot below. The first search result has a headline that is an ideal length, but the second headline is too long and is cut off.
The best way to develop headlines that produce results is to constantly experiment and test what you produce. Try checking your analytics monthly to see if there is a common bond between articles that are viewed more often versus articles that are not being clicked on.
Your ultimate goal is to engage your audience, so if they appear to be attracted to How To articles more than anything else, incorporate those more often in your content plan.