Never underestimate the importance of your blog post headline. Headlines not only get the attention of potential readers, they also play a major part in SEO.
Now, you know that keywords have to be used carefully and sparingly to keep the search engines happy. Nowhere is it more important for SEO than in your headline.
Your headline should reflect long-tail search engine queries. That’s a sort of fancy way of saying that your headline should be or contain a phrase that real people will search.
At the same time, it should have some kind of emotional appeal to readers.
That can be a tricky balance. Focus too much on your keywords, and your headline could get lost in a sea of similar headlines.
Get too emotional, and you sound like an infomercial, a big turnoff for many people. Go too creative with your headline, and you might not wind up in the search engine results at all.
As with most SEO-type things, there are tools to help you with that. If you use WordPress plugins such as Yoast, it will rate your headline before you post.
Another option is the CoScheduler Headline Analyzer Tool, which looks for a balance of common and uncommon words, power words, and emotional words, as well as headline type and word length.
To get the most out of the CoScheduler Tool, you need to understand the 4 types of Headlines:
1. The “How-To” Headline
How-to articles are ubiquitous on the internet for a reason.
People consistently type in questions asking for help doing things, so your headline might literally match what people type into the search engine.
A simple (and highly-searched) example is “How to Boil an Egg.”
2. List-Type Headlines
People love lists, because they know that they won’t be faced with a wall of text. Lists are easy to read in a short amount of time, and can convey information in a straightforward way.
They can also be big attention grabbers, as in “10 Money-Saving Tips That Will Change Your Life.”
3. Question Headlines
Like the How-to headline, the Question headline is based on questions people ask search engines, but instead of anticipating the question, it asks a question similar to what searchers might type in.
So, if someone searches for “Marketing Strategy not working,” they might get a question headline such as “Is Your Marketing Strategy Working for You?” in the results.
4. Generic Headlines
These are headlines that do not fall into any of the other three categories. There is a time and a place for “generic” headlines, especially with more journalistic writing.
But if you’re writing to market, generic headlines are the least effective and should be avoided.
Does that mean you can’t be creative with you headlines? Well, kind of.
If you title your post on how to boil an egg “the ethereal transformation inside the shell,” it’s not going to get picked up by the search engine when someone asks, you know, how to boil and egg.
For example, let’s say you’ve done a blog post about someone who designs an item in your shop (we’ll call her Mary Jones, and she designs handbags). Here is how some possible headline rate:
- “Interview with Mary Jones” :(unless she is very famous already, are people going to search for her by name? How will people know which Mary Jones you mean?) — This headline scored only a 40.
- “Interview with New York Designer Mary Jones” (This is more specific, but still too vague) — This scored a 60
- “Love Handbags? 10 Questions with Designer Mary Jones” (We’re getting somewhere with list, but it’s still lacking power words) — This scored a 62
- “10 Amazing Things about Handbag Design that will Make You Think” — With its list format, punch, and emotional appeal, this scored an 87
An effective headline balances common words, uncommon words, emotional words, and power words. It has enough vital keywords to show up in a search, and will catch people’s eye if it’s seen as a related post or on social media.
You see power phrases many times a day without realizing it, but they have an impact on what you click.
Because these effective phrases are fairly ubiquitous, it can be tough to identify them when you’re the one coming up with a headline.
Power phrases include:
- will make you
- you see
- you need
- in the world
- ever seen
- what happened
Many words we might think of as “power” words are actually emotion words. Use these sparingly, but do try and use one in your headline.
Emotion words include:
These are the words that catch people’s attention — but use too many, and you’ll wind up sounding like a snake oil salesman.
Contrary to what you might think, uncommon words are not necessarily unusual words you don’t hear often.
They’re not those words you used to be quizzed on in Vocabulary like Obdurate or Lachrymose, they’re everyday words that add substance by not being dry common words like how, what, and this.
Examples of uncommon words include:
The balance of the words you use, which will make up 20-30% of your headline ideally, are the common words that make your headline cohesive and readable.
When used in conjunction with the four types of headlines, the right words can be the difference between a blog post that stagnates and one that draws traffic to your website.
Even if the content itself is strong, a weak headline can cost you hits, big time.
Do you have any tips or tricks on how to create highly effective headlines? Join the conversation in the comment section!
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