In a digital world with billions of different pages, how do you make sure that your intended audience reads your content? Even if you do a good enough job to ensure that your posts, pages, and other pieces of content rank well for relevant keywords, you still need to convince users that your content is right for them.
Headlines can make or break how well a piece of content performs. According to Copyblogger, eight out of 10 people will read a headline, but only two out of 10 will read what follows. Simply put, your headlines need to stick out so that people choose to go to your website over your competitors.
Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into whether your page and post titles “stick out” successfully or not. That’s why you’re here, after all. Let’s break down what it takes to craft tantalizing titles and provide some examples of what works in the digital world.
How to Write a Good Headline
Any old headline isn't going to cut it for a blog post, site page, or any other type of content. Titles should be carefully crafted to marry information sharing, search intent, and some old-fashioned sex appeal – people better be excited to click your links after all. Here are some top tips to help you turn your initial titles into great headlines.
Be clear about your purpose
No matter whether you’ve written a post, a page, a case study, a guide, or some other collection of words, titles play a key role in setting expectations. People don’t want to waste their time, and your title should make it very clear what your content is all about.
Every headline should accurately summarize your content and be easy to read and understand. If people think your titles are a touch too mysterious or unclear, they’ll simply skip them for other links in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
A good title should also make it clear why your content matters. Between the title and meta description, readers should quickly recognize why they want to click on your content. If they can’t tell how it will impact them or what they’ll stand to gain, you’ll want to rethink what you write.
Use impactful language
Being clear and concise is cool, but sometimes your titles need a little pizzazz to capture attention. Don’t be afraid to review your headlines to see if you can add words that are more interesting or expressive. You don’t want to get too cute – titles need to be clear after all – but some words will attract more attention than others.
So which words can instantly improve your title copy? Your ideal digital marketing lexicon can vary depending on what you want to achieve. Fortunately, Buffer has compiled different power words that can help encourage, inspire, and intrigue users in various ways. Try them out for yourselves to see what words can help your content convert.
Use relevant keywords
Let’s face it – your audience isn’t going to find your content organically without the right keywords. You’ll need to include keywords in your title to get your post, landing pages, and anything else to perform well in Google.
Of course, you can’t stick any keyword into a title and call it a day. Make sure that these keywords are specific and relevant to your topic and intended audience. Google ultimately wants to give searchers the best user experience possible, so opt for high-intent keywords instead of broad terms.
It’s also important to note that you can play around with display and SEO headlines. Display headlines appear on your site, social media, and other platforms, whereas SEO headlines are what appear in Google products and browser tabs. Oftentimes, display and SEO titles are the same, but your CMS may allow you to opt for a more keyword-centric or shorter SEO headline if you want to use a more creative display title.
Count your characters
Speaking of needing shorter titles, the number of words in your headlines can also impact how people perceive your content. Google measures out title tags in pixels, and anything they deem to be too long can get cut off in the SERPs. If losing the last few words of your headline will ruin the user experience, it’s time to shorten your title.
While Google uses pixels, your best bet is to base your title length on character counts. The good news is that Google has widened its SERP pages in recent years, giving marketers a bit more wiggle room. SEOPressor recommends keeping headlines at 60 or fewer characters to help keep your titles intact.
We’d also like to mention that the length of your title tag does not count as a Google ranking factor. While some people have theorized that character counts may impact SEO, Google has gone on record to say that length recommendations are not for ranking purposes. Instead, use your character counts to make sure users can see your full title every time they conduct a Google search.
5 Types of Headlines that Work
It’s easy to take titles for granted – they’re practically the length of a short sentence after all! The problem is that with body copy is a lot more forgiving. That brevity makes putting together top-tier titles a tough task, especially when you're trying to balance clarity, intrigue, and keywords. Fortunately, there are different types of headlines that can help you marry sizzle factor and search value.
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 FAQs as the basis for thorough, well-written articles that position you as an expert.
Not only are these questions great for inspiring ideas for content, they can also serve as an effective headline. First, a good question can attract an intrigued reader. People are inquisitive creatures, so a well-phrased question directly addressing your ideal reader. Second, the right query can be a quality keyword. Users will frequently type out entire questions in search engines instead of short keyword phrases, turning 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, typically those starting with “Do” that end in a "yes" or "no" answer can lead users to ignore them because they think they already know the answer to the question. "Why,” “how,” and “what” 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 wants to feel like they got suckered into a clickbait post with no real conclusion or insight.
Example: What are the Best Types of Headlines for Driving Traffic?
People love content they can easily understand. A wall of text of vague terms can be overwhelming and misleading, whereas lists provide readers with an easy reading experience. 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 number headline, then, serves as a promise for quality content, albeit one that uses our brain's natural preferences as a trigger for action. A Conductor study even found that people prefer headlines with numbers to those without – a good number does set expectations after all.
What number should you use in your title? Yes, it’s been proven that readers prefer certain numbers over others. However, ideal numbers can change depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Instruction specialist Abreena Tompkins found that grouping information in three or five sections can help people absorb information better.
- BuzzsSumo found that multiples of five are great for listicles (although seven also appears to be a lucky number).
- Different numbers can be used to add emphasis. Small numbers can suggest simple or direct information (“3 Steps to Solving Payroll Tax Headaches”) while large numbers can indicate a treasure trove of information (“97 Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know”).
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.
Example: 5 Types of Headlines that Demand Attention and Drive Clicks
How To Headlines
Sometimes people just want to learn how to do something. The appropriately named “how to” title gives this information-hungry target audience the exact instructions they crave.
As you probably expect, a good "how to" headline starts with those very two words and offers the steps people need to do… something. The exact thing all depends on what your audience craves, whether it’s as simple as “How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails” or some very technical, detailed process. Either way, the following formula is a great way to attract attention: Headline = "How to" + Verb + Thing + Benefit
Example: How to Write Headlines That Matter to Readers
We’re not saying this is the best type of headline, but it is a good tactic to attract visitors. Your customers and readers want the best. Do they want to know the different types of headlines to attract leads or the best types of headlines to attract leads? When faced with a decision on which headline to click on, the “best” is simply more compelling.
Not only is this type of headline more compelling, it’s also how people naturally search. People often begin searches with “best way to…” or “best type of…” This type of headline is a great way to plug in keywords and improve SEO.
Example: Best Types of Headlines for Digital Marketing Success
Do you ever feel like you have two different headline ideas, but wish you could combine into one mega headline? The two-part, or double whammy headline marries two titles that could stand alone but are more powerful together. It’s like milk and cookies, as long as you enjoy both cookies and milk.
To construct a two-part headline, you can use a colon, question mark, parentheses, em dash, or other types of punctuation to bridge the headlines together. This type of headline is great for plugging in keywords and making dull topics sound more exciting.
Example: Writing Headlines: Top Tips for Creating Tremendous Titles
Good Headlines Need Great Content
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 you write. 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 keep them engaged from beginning to end, you’ll increase your chances of generating and converting leads.
Need help developing a strategic game plan or creating quality content for your site? Aztek’s content marketing team can help. Our content strategists, writers, and editors have the experience to leverage copy to attract visitors and generate leads. Contact us today to learn more about our digital marketing services and how we can help you grow your business online.