In a world where information is just a Google search away, your content has to compete with everything else that's trying to target your specific audience. That means you need your headlines to stick out so that people choose your content over your competitors.
According to Copyblogger, "8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest."
Any old headline isn't going to cut it for a blog post, guest article, or any other type of content. People want useful, unique, ultra-specific, and urgent headlines, or at least some combination of those four important "u's" of headlines.
Of course, this can be a difficult task when you're trying to balance intrigue with the inclusion of keywords that can help your business. Fortunately, there are some tried and true types of headlines that can help you marry sizzle factor and search value. Here are four types of headlines that can help your business beat out the competition.
The Question Headline
As we've mentioned before, customer questions are a goldmine for generating blog topics and other content ideas. Your target audience has questions that relate to your business. You have answers. Use these questions as the basis for a thorough, well-written article that positions you as an expert.
Not only are these questions great for inspiring ideas for content, they can serve as an effective headline as well. First, a good question can attract an intrigued reader. People are inquisitive creatures, so a well-phrased question can drive a reader to read an article so that he or she can find out the answer. Second, the right query can be a quality keyword on its own. Some users will type out entire questions in search engines instead of short keyword phrases. This can turn that question into a valuable keyword of its own.
While a question may have some search volume, there can be issues with using them as a headline. Question headlines that end in a "yes" or "no" answer can lead users to ignoring them because they think they already know the answer to the question. However, if the question came from your organic keyword referrals, your target audience probably don't care about this problem. "Why" questions are good because they don't obviously answer a question and allow you to position yourself as an expert. Also, avoid using a question headline if you don't actually have an answer to the question. No reader want to feel like they got suckered in to a post with no real conclusion or insight.
Listicles are a sore subject in the writing community. Opponents of the trend argue that listicles are vapid, soulless ways to fill news feeds and garner cheap clicks. Proponents retort that listicles provide readers with an easy reading experience that doesn't have to skimp on quality content.
Either argument can be true depending on the quality of the listicle. As The New York Times wrote, a well-made listicle with good insights "spatially organizes the information; and it promises a story that’s finite, whose length has been quantified upfront."The headline serves as a promise for quality content, albeit one that uses our brain's natural preferences as a trigger for action.
When it comes to crafting a good listicle headline, our brains like numbers. An avid disciple of the AP Stylebook may cringe at the use of numerals under 10 in print, but a study by Conductor shows that people prefer headlines with numbers to those without. Not only do single digits take less space, they also attract attention in a news feed or search engine results page full of words.
It's important to note that while lists are useful, you can't—and shouldn't—convert every piece of content into a list. Some stories are best suited for an in-depth, long-form reading experience. There's no need to rework Moby Dick into "7 Reasons Why Ahab Just Had to Kill That Whale." The headline is a key way to entice readers, but the article itself needs to be worthwhile for readers to take any sort of action
The "How To" Headline
You don't always have to get cute with your headlines. A good "how to" headline is a great way to tell your audience exactly what your post is about and entice the readers who are looking to learn how to do something specific. In fact, you can assemble your very own "how to" headline with this handy, dandy formula:
Headline = "How to" + Verb + Thing + Benefit
To help break this down, let's use a very convenient example from Aztek's Vice President of Digital Marketing Ryan Morgan. About a month ago, Ryan wrote a blog post entitled "How to Plan a Month's Worth of Blog Topics in 15 Minutes." Whether he knew it or not, Ryan followed the formula like he aced Content Algebra 101 during his time at a fine university.
"How to Plan a Month's Worth of Blog Topics in 15 Minutes" = "How to" + Verb (Plan) + Thing (a Month's Worth of Blog Topics) + Benefit (in 15 Minutes)
If you've ever tried to put an editorial calendar or game plan together, you'll know that it can be a pain in the tucchus to come up with multiple blog post topics that not only make sense, but are effective. Now Ryan is promising that he can save your behind by teaching you how to churn out some top-tier ideas in the span of time it takes to try and find your cat when it's time to go to the vet. In short, "how to" headlines are simple, straight to the point, and effective. There's a reason that Copyblogger is using the headline "How to Write Magnetic Headlines" for their ebook on writing magnetic headlines.
The Two-Part Headline
Do you ever feel like you have two ideas for a headline, but you wish that you could combine into one mega headline? Let me introduce you to a lovely character called the colon. This nifty punctuation mark is a clever way to be both creative and practical with one super duper headline.
One of the struggles of creating headlines is to find a way to include specific keywords in a title and make it sound enticing. Let's be honest, certain subjects just aren't that exciting. However, a two-part headline might be just the tool you need to include helpful keywords and charm the pants off of potential readers. For example, people don't really look forward to going to see a proctologist. In fact, up to 40 percent of at-risk individuals haven't had a colonoscopy done because they don't like them, find them unnecessary, and other reasons. However, even a cynic might be intrigued to click on one of the following two-part headlines:
- The Bottom Line: Why You Need to Schedule a Colonoscopy Procedure
- Colonoscopy Procedures: 5 Reasons You'd be an Ass to Avoid Them
Whether it's used to introduce a keyword or create a clever setup, the colon plays a key role in these headlines. Also, you may have noticed that you can even combine different types of headlines in to make an even more intriguing title. Who needs one type of headline when you can have two?
The two-part headline: A real tag-team effort
The Keys to a Good Headline
Regardless of what type of headline you choose for your content, it's important to remember that you're making a promise to your readers with every title. Misleading or inaccurate headlines will just result in readers leaving your site as soon as they realize you won't address their needs.
In the end, you need your content to be as good as your headlines. If you can entice readers with a good headline and suck them in with some engaging content geared for their needs, you've got a good base for a strong online presence.
If you need help developing a strategic game plan or creating quality content for your site, we can help. Contact us today to to learn more about our digital marketing services and how we can help you grow your business online.