When writing a blog post, the first hurdle many writers struggle with is coming up with a headline.
Writing is a process, and others (like this writer here) see it as an act of discovery—articulating ideas and letting words flow organically as they draft their work.
The difficulty with headlines though is that they must serve multiple considerations. For one, as marketers, your headlines must draw in audiences. You are asking them to devote time and attention to your work. According to Copyblogger, only 2 out of 10 will go beyond your headline and read your article. The rest will just read your headline and be done with it.
Secondly, headlines serve as good summaries of your whole article, and this is where the writer’s struggle usually comes in. Your headline must say enough to encapsulate your 700-or-more-word piece but do so in just a few words. Many follow a linear path, coming up with a headline first before figuring out the entirety of what they’ll write.
Reconciling how to mix the right amount of attention-grabbing words and seeing that they set the correct expectations about an article is not that easy. But we have some tips here to ease the process.
Here’s how you can craft better headlines, not just once, but consistently throughout your work.
This is the cheat sheet to the challenge of writing a “summary” headline when you haven’t worked out the details of your whole article yet.
Don’t focus on making the title perfect. Think of it as the “badly put” version of what you are trying to say. Just let it all out, even if it's a long or compounded sentence.
For example, the working title of this article was “How to create headlines that draw people to your content.”
The trick here is you have to be specific enough to form at least a semi-road map of what you will be writing. If you discover new paths along the way, take note of them when you revise later.
With this article, while doing research, we stumbled upon data on how only 2 out of 10 go beyond headlines. That information carries the problem at the center of the working title, so we decided to use it, and also tell readers via the headline that we have a solution for them if they read the article (which is probably why you’re here).
Everything is done for a reason. We click articles that compel us, that spark interest in us because they provide the information we are looking for – whether deliberately or just out of curiosity.
Simply put: the audience asks, and you answer. The headline should be clear here on what it is providing. Use words like “how.” If you are listing solutions, use words like “tips,” “lessons,” “secrets.”
Try to imagine what keywords a person will type when searching for something aligned with your article.
As an example, check this article on the Crafters with the title, How To Pursue A Passion Project Outside Of Work. It used “how” to show that the article has a solution, and words like “passion project” and “work” as they are specific but still common to its audience.
If a simple question won’t cut it for you and you want to add some more creative wordplay, you can use a colon or a hyphen, like what we did for this Crafters piece, Get that Gig: How to Nail an Interview with a Potential Client.
The Content Marketing Institute even says that colon and hyphen in a headline can increase a click-through rate by 9%!
If you want your article not to get cut off in search engine results, you have to make your titles short. Keep your headlines below 70 characters.
Also, be wary of making sentences too long. According to Hubspot, 8 to 12-word headlines get the most shares on Twitter, and headlines between 12 and 14 words are liked most often on Facebook.
Keeping your sentences short does not only help in search engine optimization (SEO) it also gives you the right amount of restraint—the kind that could help boost your creativity.
By forcing you to think in short sentences, you are unconsciously challenging your brain to say what you want to say in quicker, more powerful terms.
For example, “Here are some guidelines so your brand does not fail on Twitter,” in short form, becomes Yes, Your Brand if Failing on Twitter. Here’s Why. Or “Virality is not always the solution for your videos” can be shortened to Please Stop Asking for Viral Videos.
Shorter sentences make you more urgent, more direct, and more compelling.
In marketing, we all know that there are no exact one-size-fits-all approaches. At the end of the day, it is not just adapting the best practices of other agencies or organizations, it’s about truly understanding your target audience.
So use all the tips we presented above and test them out on your audience. See what appeals to them the most.
Would adding numbers to headlines work the best for your target market? A study on Moz says data in a headline can resonate better with audiences.
But this doesn’t mean you should go with numbers all the time. You can also go visual. According to Hubspot, using the word “photos” makes articles perform 37% better than those without.
You can also experiment on the tone. You can pose questions, you can also be declarative. (e.g., The Tech World Isn’t Just For “Techies,” It’s For Creatives).
Be creative by using descriptive adjectives like “proven” or “outstanding” (e.g., GetCraft shares proven strategies for creating outstanding content). But also be careful to use them in moderation, you do not want to exaggerate. Again, audiences look for clarity so that what your article provides meets the expectations set by your headline.
Just like the act of writing your article, crafting a headline is an act of discovery. Learn from tips but also create your own brand’s path. Go on and see what works!