You may have written the world’s greatest blog post – but if it lacks a good, catchy headline, then you may as well have shouted your content into a sock and then hurled it off a bridge.
Simply put: Great content without a great headline doesn’t get highlighted by Google. It doesn’t get shared. It doesn’t get promoted. It doesn’t get read.
I mean, with all the content out there, how often do you click on articles with bland, pointless headlines?
I’ll go as far as to say that a headline is really the most important part of content writing – because if you don’t nail it, then everything else you write is pretty much a waste of time. You’re just talking to yourself.
But you’re probably wondering how to make your headlines punchier, and how to avoid some of the most common headline writing errors. There are four basics that every headline writer needs to know.
First, Keep It Short
How short? Short enough that the entire thing will fit onto a Google Search Results page without getting chopped off; short enough that it can be easily tweeted, too.
This is actually something of a moving target – Google is not entirely consistent here – but if you keep your headlines to 70 characters, including spaces, you should be all right. Really, the shorter the better, with the caveat that your headlines do need to have substance and value, which is tough to do with just two or three words.
Second, Make Sure It's Accurate
Nobody likes feeling tricked, least of all Google. Trying the old bait-and-switch may work for a day or two, but you’ll end up with unhappy readers and possible search engine penalizations.
So if you’re writing an article about SEO strategies, the headline needs to specify that it’s about SEO strategies. And if your headline mentions Kanye West, the post had better be about Kanye West.
Third, Make It Unique
Content writing can be a little bit of an echo chamber, and it’s probably not surprising that the same basic headlines get recycled over and over again.
I mean, you can’t honestly think you’re the first person to come up with “3 Simple SEO Tips,” can you?
My suggestion: When you compose your headline, Google it. If you see other articles with the exact same headline, it’s probably best to rethink your wording.
Fourth, Make It Valuable
As for the content of your headline, you’ll see a lot of people telling you to make it funny, make it specific, make it controversial, make it unexpected… and all of that can be helpful.
But the only real rule here is to make it valuable.
People want to click something that’s going to provide them with actionable, useful insight. They want to emerge from reading your content feeling like they’re actually better off because of it.
Want people to click your headlines? Let them know that you’re going to give them something, free of charge – a solution to their problem, an insight they can use.
Let us know about your best headline successes in the comments. What worked for you?