If I could give you only one piece of advice on how to skyrocket your blog's readership, it would be this: stop writing crappy headlines!
According to Copyblogger, an average of 8 out of 10 people will read your headline but only 2 out of 10 will click-through to see the rest of your content. This little statistic is both terrifying and empowering. It confirms how insanely important headlines are and challenges us to use this knowledge to create the most irresistible headlines we are capable of creating.
Let's start with these two simple rules of thumb (You will want to follow these rules no matter what kind of headline you're creating):
- Your headline has to clearly communicate a promise. A promise of something educational, entertaining, or otherwise interesting. Figure out what your promise is and then be sure that the promise is stated so clearly in the headline that someone could glance at it and know what they would be in for if they kept reading.
- Your headline has to be relevant to your audience: Do a quick gut check. Will your audience actually care about what you are writing? Is what you are writing about helping to solve a problem that they face or contain something that they would find relatable? If so, go on with your bad self. If not, abandon ship and move on to some other topic.
Now that we've set out these ground rules, things get a lot easier. Why? Because good headlines generally fall into 6 categories and once you know which categories these are, you can start writing rockstar headlines in a fraction of the time.
1. How-To Headlines
How-To headlines are very common but there is a subtle difference between good and great "How-to" headlines. Here's the secret: a clear, and relevant benefit that has been written into the title. So for example, a blog post titled: "How to write irresistible headlines" is ok, but a blog post called "How to write irresistible headlines that will skyrocket your readership" is a lot more attractive. Stating a clear and relevant benefit statement will be the thing that entices the reader into clicking through to read the rest of your content.
Here are some more examples:
- How to make a turkey dinner that will impress even the most stubborn in-laws (benefit is impressing critical in-laws)
- How to make natural cleaning products that are kid friendly (benefit is that the products are kid safe)
2. List or Numbered Headlines
These are a clear favourite amongst readers because the promise is clear and tangible (our brains love tangible things). Let's look at an example. A stylist could post a headline that says: "How to dress for any occasion". We can probably agree that that headline is good but if we jazz it up with a numbered list like this: "The 10 outfits you need to dress for any occasion", we can see how there is now another level of curiosity. We're all thinking 10 outfits eh? Let's see this.
Here are some more examples:
- 6 ways to transform your house into a home (vs. "How to transform your house into a home")
- 30 things every woman should know by the age of 30 (vs. Things every woman should know by the age of 30)
3. Fear/Warning Headlines
While fear/warning headlines can get results, they can be a little tricky. Relying on these headlines can make your brand seem a little sensationalist, so use these at your discretion. An example of this kind of headline might be: "12 things your kids aren't telling you about their social lives". Note how this is playing on a parent's fear and instinct to protect their child. The likelihood that the headline will get clicked on by parents is probably quite high, but if you use this tactic too often, your brand starts to take on a bit of a shady tone.
Here are some more examples:
- Signs your partners is lying to you
- The shocking truth about the chemicals in your food
4. Life Hacking Headlines
These headlines are all about making your readers' lives easier by showing them shortcuts or tricks to achieving some sort of beneficial outcome. These are different than "how-to's" in that they are less focused on giving the reader instructions and more focused on revealing some sort of trick. An example would be: "How to get better grades in half the time". In this example, the promise of getting a better result in a small amount of time is what makes it a "life-hacking" headline.
Other examples include:
- How to increase sales with one easy tweak
- The secret to turning your iPhone into a swiss army knife
5. Piggyback Headlines
The term "piggyback" is borrowed from Jon Morrow, a well known copywriting guru and is described as "riding on the back of a famous brand". These headlines leverage the brand power and celebrity of an outside source to jazz up your content. An example of this would be: "How to own the stage like Steve Jobs". In this example we are borrowing from the late Steve Jobs' reputation as a dynamic speaker.
Other examples would include:
- How to rock your customer service like Disney
- How to build a successful blog like Seth Godin
6. Hero's Journey Headlines
These headlines position you as the hero and help you to share some sort of lesson with your audience. These are written from personal experience and can go a long way to building relationships with your audience. These are best executed when the content of the blog is heartfelt an gives readers a glimpse into your actual life (as a brand or as an individual). An example of this would be: "Three lessons I learnt the hard way when I was starting up". While this is example is also a numbered list, the power comes from the personal touch of writing from your perspective.
Other examples would be:
- Why I left my job to start my own business
- What it's really like to be the CEO of (insert company name)
There you have it. The 6 headlines that are guaranteed to grab your user's attention.