The first consideration in this journey is what type of roles do keywords play in your post headlines.
The blogosphere always seems to be in a state of war with the various schools of thought on this topic. You should consider their merits as you start to write your headline or title. I will discuss a couple of them to start the ball rolling.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts claim that the keywords are the most important aspect of any blog post title.
This will enable anyone searching for any specific keywords to match with the same keyword in the blog title. Hence, the obvious question is that “how else would anyone find your blog post from any search results?”
Further, the selection of keywords to include in your title determines how well you rank in the search results as well.
In the opposing spectrum, you’ve got the purists “write for humans”, who has always collectively scoffed at the notion of keyword research for the purpose of composing headlines.
Their view is that what would be the point of search-optimized post titles if no one bothers to read or share in the first place? Successful bloggers often claim that search engine traffic isn’t really all that important to them anyway, which they passionately maintain, especially compared to high-quality referral traffic from links.
I have always thought that there is a middle ground to this.
Let’s start by saying that keywords actually do matter, but not necessarily for the reasons the SEO gurus may think.
Doing keyword research is an essential process. It’s a free or at least a low-cost window into the minds of your target audiences.
You could easily understand this if you think back to the times before the modern and refined search engines.
It was truly difficult to know and quantify the exact words or phrases that anyone would use when thinking about exploring any certain topics online. Many have tried to work with small focus groups to identify their thought on specific topics. But such an approach most often met with criticism that what people say in front of others is not the same as what they may actually do.
So if you’re writing any type of titles/headlines, online or not, you should be doing keyword research. Because any great headline should speak in the style that the audience will resonate with while incorporating the proven structures that catch attention and offers a promise of value.
Another aspect of keyword research also packs quite the punch.
Many SEO gurus agree that you shouldn’t go after the most popular keywords. Rather, you should target the niche phrases. While they may result in less traffic individually, but there’s a lot more of such phrases and definitely less competition.
This ties into the fact that such a way of working is also perfect for writing ‘headlines for humans’. The niche phrases are much more specific, and as such makes for a much better headline. Further, better headlines lead to better content, when you write out the headline first, it sets a more definite direction for the entire post.
All search engines such as Google, Bing, etc. truly want to match perfect results for what’s important to the users. That is precisely why the search engines use links and anchor texts as one of the primary determining factors of relevancy.
Keywords truly do matter, because when you can resonate with the audience from the start, you will always tend to attract more readers, more links, more retweets, more social bookmarks, and surely… more relevant search traffic.
Hence, both the schools of thought are correct, albeit for different reasons.
Now with our better understanding of this subject, let’s explore one of the most effective headline types in the world — the “how-to” headline.
Imagine that your blog post being retweeted thousands of times on Twitter, and shared all over Facebook. It wouldn’t be too spectacular to think that by the time you finish reading this post, you’ll be in a better position to make that scenario into reality.
Let’s explore a few of the ALL-STARS of composing headlines.
The “How To” headlines
It’s always been a fact since the dawn of the Internet that how-to articles and blog posts are some of the most sought after, linked, and bookmarked content online. People are always searching high and low for useful information, and they are always happy to promoting it to others when they come across any.
The biggest battle is getting enough people to find it than to read it in the first place. Once found, the battle is most definitely either won or lost at the headline. What’s more, writing an awesome “how to” headline will help you to write even better how-to content when you fulfill the headline promise you made to get people to read in the first place.
Writing the “how-to” content is rather easy.
Think about this… the crazy busy lives that we lead prompts us to seek out tips, tricks, and methods to make things better, easier, and ultimately happier for ourselves. Focusing on the “better, easier, and happier” is the greatest key to fantastic “how to…” headlines and content.
It’s important to always remember that it’s not that people aren’t smart enough to understand the implied benefits of learning how to do something. It’s rather the complete opposite. Expressing the benefit points early and upfront will yield far better results than implied benefits.
When searching, people always will employ aggressive attention filters when scanning headlines, and you’ll get through the filters of a lot more people if you spell out the benefits rather than relying on any implications.
I had read somewhere that it’s almost impossible to write a bad “how to…” headline.
While that may be true, always seriously consider what comes after those two magical words can make all the difference in the amount of attention and readership you will engage with.
More than often you may find it harder to extract the true benefits of learning how to do something. Often, you can simply take a normal “how to…” title and make it better simply by using the transition word “that” immediately following the subject matter of the post.
Once you add “that,” just ask yourself what the top benefit of your post is for the reader.
Then figure out the best way to say it. This usually means being as specific as possible.
An example of this can be: How to Lease a Car That Will Save You Money
Another smart way to go about this is to increase the curiosity factor of your headline, while just about guaranteeing that you’ll nail the primary benefit of your post. Start with “How” but leave out the “to.”
You’ll still need to make the beneficial promise to your reader that will be fulfilled in the content, but the intrigue factor will be higher and your results perhaps even better.
An example of this can be: How I Shed All My Belly Fat in 30 days
The “List” Headlines
My next favorite but no way less effective is the List headlines due to the attention-grabbing power of such headlines. This type of headline has always been popular and showing no sign of slowing down.
Any headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types, or ways will work because, once again, it makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader. A nice quantifiable return on their attention invested goes a long way toward promoting any specific actions.
These types of posts will also elevate your authority level on the subject many folds by demonstrating your expertise by summing up the promised benefits into a neat and easy to absorb list.
An example of this can be:
- 3 Early Signs of Diabetic Stroke
- 10 Effective Ways To Plug a Leaky Roof
- Five Types of Best Affiliate Marketing Methods in 2018
- Free Book Gives You 10 Best Kept Secrets of Online Business Profits
- 96 Ways to Improve Your Health Just by Eating Organic Foods
The above examples could be serious attention grabbers if seen by the right people searching for such topics. Presenting small or large numbers can have inherent benefits to the readers.
A large number, however absurd it may seem, can be mentioned to create the feeling of an abundance of benefits. While smaller numbers tend to invoke a sense of urgency where the content can be absorbed by the readers rather quickly. This is ideal if you wish the readers to take any immediate actions such as subscribing, grabbing discount codes, etc.
The “Why” headlines
Lastly, let’s touch on this before we move on.
The “Why” headlines always tend to be an attention grabber because it starts by declaring a benefit to the reader as if the headline is answering a specific question, instead of asking a question.
An example of this can be: Why Some Homes in Vermont Will Almost Always Go Up in Value
The use of the word “some,” and having “almost” modify “always,” make the headline much more believable. Not even the highest-paid copywriters in the world always nail a headline that works, and some people never write great post titles, because they don’t take the time to learn how.
It’s also easy to lead the “Why” with other words to drive home the message in a stronger way, such as “Here’s Why”.
Can anyone write great post titles or headlines?
The simple answer to this is an obvious yes.
If anyone considers the information throughout this post every time they formulate a title or headline for their posts, it should work out very well. That being said, there is no end to learning in becoming truly the best that you can be.
Always strive to understand your audience. Their mindset, age, affinities, preferences that affect their buying decisions, etc. are key considerations to explore. Doing this will enable you to make your headlines to be appealing to your specific audience rather than a watered-down version trying to appeal to the masses.
Studying the pros and cons of the headlines of your direct competitors can also sharpen your skills. Also, I have always found that magazines always use headlines that have been very well researched. Try to look at some of the top magazines that may match your subject. I am sure that by doing this, you will gain some key insights you might not have considered earlier.
Some of the above may seem common sense to you. But let me remind you of the old adage ‘Common Sense is Not For Common People’.
To find proof of this is to simply look at the massive amount of marketing being done on the various social media platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, etc. There you will see that the headline alone drives the campaigns.
Most of such campaign headlines are simply not up to the mark. Hence, the good ones simply jump out at you right away. Even then, most of the ones which you may consider good enough can surely be a lot better.
In summary, the more you focus on the benefits to the readers in your post headlines along with trying to understand your reader demands better, the more readership you’ll develop over time. And by touching on the beneficial aspects while presenting your content, you’ll have more happy readers at the conclusion of any of your posts.
Contributed by Mashuk R.