Very few people write headlines for search engines.
Very few people write headlines for digg.
Even FEWER people write headlines for people.
Many people think the purpose of writing better headlines is for search engines or sites like digg. It can be. There’s no denying the importance of search engines for long-term traffic growth, or the opportunity of social bookmarking sites like digg to drive thousands of visitors to your blog very quickly. But great headlines will work for search engines, digg and your audience.
And what bloggers are missing is that their audience wants better headlines.
- There’s an insane amount of content out there. And we’re putting more online by the second, not less. People need more and more ways to differentiate worthwhile content from stuff they’ll skip. A great headline is tops as a differentiator.
- People’s attention is precious. You should value a person’s attention much more than you do, because as quickly as they give you a bit of it, they can take that attention away. Headlines grab attention. Their the single most effective way of grabbing attention. Content matters. Design matters. Headlines rule when it comes to getting noticed.
These two issues affect your blog’s success with PEOPLE – no matter how they find your blog – be it through a search engine, link, randomly or digg.
It’s not about search engines, digg, or anything other than people and how best to reach them, grab their attention and give them what they want.
The Headline Isn’t Secondary to the Content
Too often, people write great content but don’t focus whatsoever on their headlines. The headline is an afterthought – a necessity to publish a blog post – but not critical to it’s success. Wrong.
And this is wrong regardless of how you measure success – be it traffic to an individual post, traffic to your blog, digg, search engine pick up, comments, etc.
A headline is the doorway to your blog post. If it’s a great headline, you’ve opened the door wide open – a reader will walk through happily, devour your content and move to the next step: read more, comment, email you, sign-up via RSS. You’ve hooked them. And it’s not about being cheesy or fake. It’s just good copywriting.
5 Tips for Writing Great Headlines
The most important tip is to spend a lot more time and thought on headline writing. Learn how to do it. Check out what others recommend about writing great headlines. Study blog posts for their content and their headlines. Look at the list of “most popular posts” in my sidebar…
Here are 5 additional tips:
- Be Descriptive. The biggest headline mistake is not being descriptive enough. If I don’t have an idea about the subject of your blog post from reading the headline, there’s a very good chance I won’t read it. Don’t worry if your post titles end up being longer. Many people seem to go for 2-3 word titles, which are very hard to make descriptive.
- Use Powerful Words. A headline is a sales pitch. Every blogger is a salesperson, and your headline is the best tool you’ve got. Engaging, powerful words draw readers in. Think: Top, Free, How, Secret, You. Think about action words that encourage people to do something.
- Be Personal. People need to feel like you’re speaking directly to them. Being more personal in a headline can help. An example: 5 Phrases You Never Want To Hear In A Presentation. Not 5 phrases someone else doesn’t want to hear, but 5 phrases YOU don’t want to hear. I’m talking to you.
- Be Bold. More than the use of powerful, engaging words, being bold is about taking a stand with your headline. The headline is the perfect place to state an opinion. It’s the perfect place to make it clear that you’ve just written the BEST post ever on your subject matter. Be brave and claim ownership of something great.
- Ask Questions. Question headlines work because they draw people in to get an answer. It’s a great format for a headline, but the same tips above still apply. Make the question as engaging, brazen, powerful and descriptive as possible. And answer it in your post…
Don’t Ignore Your Blog Post Headlines
Failing to write a great headline is tantamount to ignoring your audience. Even if your blog is extremely personal in nature, a journal only your friends read, and search engines or digg are not of real concern, it doesn’t matter. Great headlines are about people, whether you have an audience of 5 or 5,000,000.
Great headlines will help with search engines.
Great headlines will help with digg.
But those aren’t the reasons you should focus on great headline writing. Gaining advantages in search engines and digg are just benefits of writing great headlines for people.