Welcome back to my Blogger Series, where I post new articles every Thursday with tips and tricks to help you start or build on your blog.
Today’s topic is all about blog post headlines, the titles of your articles and how to make sure they grab your readers attention.
For those of you who kindly read my last Blogger Series post, How to make your blog posts super reader-friendly, you know I discussed the detail and layout of a blog post but said I’d touch on the headline (title) later.
Well, that later is today!
The importance of a good headline
The headline or title of your blog post is the first thing that will grab a reader. So, that makes it pretty damn important.
Good headlines are usually clear at identifying what the blog post will be about. Avoid clickbait headlines that draw readers in under false pretences.
No one likes clickbait. Seriously, no one. So don’t do it.
Keep to the right length
There are some suggested guidelines for this. Titles should be a decent length. It is recommended that they be between 30 and 70 characters. 55 characters is considered an optimal length.
Don’t go over 70 characters. Google will trim off any characters beyond this so say what you need to say in 70 order less.
Avoid repeating Keywords
Your headline should be a complete sentence and not a set of tags. Don’t just list words broken up by commas and don’t repeat keywords just with slight variations.
The Importance of the right words
The choice of words is also important when coming up with your headlines.
Words that build an emotional response within your reader can have a great effect on whether they click your post.
Both positive and negative emotional words work, the positive ones do win out so try and keep your posts positive, where possible.
Power words are those that can demand attention or action from a reader.
Some example of power words: irresistible, remarkable, ultimate, painless.
Types of Headlines
There are certain types of headlines that do better than others.
Ask a question
A headline that asks a question of the reader (especially a question that refers to a specific problem) suggests that by reading the post, an answer to that problem will be given.
A headline that starts with How To is another good catch headline as it is instantly clear that the post will be giving you specific information to assist. Often people will search on Google with “How to…” so How To’s are good for SEO.
Headlines that give you a listed post, such as Top 10 writing resources or 12 words every writer should know. We like lists, they are organised and break information into manageable chunks and so we’re drawn to them.
How to create great headlines
You can spend a good long while working on your headlines, making sure they are clear, have the right length, include important word-types… or you can make it easy on yourself and use the Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule.com.
This Analyzer is just awesome. Takes away all the faff of figuring out if your headline is good or not.
How it works
Simply open the page and in the text box, type your headline. Press analyze and the program will run the data.
It then gives the headline a score. You are aiming for a score of over 70, the higher the better (without losing the message of your headline). The scores are colour-coded and once you hit over 70, the score turns green.
Repeat this until your headline has been amended to reach a good green score. It keeps a list of all your headline histories for that session.
See below the headline history for today’s blog post
The Headline Analyzer also gives you extra data to help you develop your headlines more and breaks down information about the score.
Here is the data from my headline score. It breaks the headline down into Common, Uncommon, Emotional and Powerful words.
The percentage is shown on the pie chart while the text shows you which category your words fall into. This can help you make any changes needed to increase readability and impact.
Beneath the Word Balance pie chart is the headline type where your headline is categorised. Mine is a How-To. The green tick shows it’s a good type of headline to use.
There is also List, again the green tick shows it as a positive headline type to go for.
If your headline is generic, you will see this message and a suggestion to reword the headline to increase its reach.
The next data gives is length analysis. This information is shown in two pie charts that state the number of characters and words in your headline.
Again, you want both of these to be green.
For character length, the chart will be green from 30 up to 70 characters. Anything above or below will show in yellow or red with a suggestion to amend.
For words, the chart will be green from 5 up to 9 words. Again, anything above or below will be in yellow or red stating too many or too few words have been used.
As you can see, the chart states that 55 characters and 6 words tend to earn the highest click-throughs. But as long as you are within the word/character ranges, that will be good for your blog headline
First & Last
The next piece of data given is an analysis of the first and last three words of your headline as these tend to capture the reader’s attention most often. This is why How To and List headline types do well because the first few words state these instantly.
Keywords & Sentiment
The final data is the keywords and sentiment. Keywords are searchable words within the headline, these will be listed.
The sentiment can be positive, negative or neutral. As you can see, my headline is a positive sentiment due to the use of the word “attract”.
Positive headlines are believed to perform the best so should be the type of headlines you aim for.
However, negative headlines also connect strongly with readers, so if you can’t make it positive, make it negative. Simple use of negative words like fear, hate, loss etc will create a negative headline.
What you want to avoid is a neutral sentiment that invokes no emotions within the reader.
To use the Headline Analyzer
So, if you are starting a blog or maybe you’ve been blogging for a while and want to give your blog headlines a boost, try using the Headline Analyzer.
Test out some of your existing headlines to see how well you’re doing and get pointers for how to make them better.
Finally, a quick thought on URL slugs
Now, despite all the work I’ve put into making this blog better over the last year, I still make mistakes and miss things.
For example, I have spent months updating my old blog posts to create an overall consistency as well as update the posts and recheck them. Months!
Only to find out, that I completely missed checking and updating the URL slugs. *heavy sigh* so I’ve got to go back through AGAIN.
What is a URL slug
For those who don’t know, the URL slug is the exact address of a specific post on your website.
Here’s the URL slug for this post:
This is how a slug should look. Name of website, (date*), the headline of blog separated by dashes. Most of the time, this will be created automatically from the headline you input.
*It is preferable not to have random, unnecessary numbers in your slug such as the date but on WordPress.com you can’t remove this. If you are hosting your own site and have the option, make sure to not to include dates or other random numbers.
However, if you change the headline (such as when renaming posts) the URL slug will often not update automatically.
This means the URL slug will not match the headline. This can affect SEO.
I recently noticed this with one of my older posts.
From the above screenshot, you can see my original (bad) blog post headline was “Tutorial Fight Scenes”. This was changed to the better “How to write a strong fight scene” but I failed to change the URL slug.
Sometimes, if you didn’t put a headline in at the start when creating a post, you will just get a random set of numbers assigned as the URL slug.
How to check your URL slug
When you are writing a blog post, you just need to click the link image that sits to the left of your headline. This will open up the slug. The part in a darker grey is editable.
Don’t forget, if you change your URL slug as I have been doing, any links you created to the original URL slug will now be broken and need to be recreated.
This is why it’s best to get this done right first time and save yourself the hassle of having to go back through and amend them. Trust me on this!
Do you find it easy to write reader-grabbing headlines or do you think the Headline Analyzer will be of help?
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I really hope you are enjoying this series, I can’t believe how much information I have learnt through some (painful) trial and error. If you are new to blogging, I really hope these posts are helping you to bypass some of the errors I’ve made along the way.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a regular post and I’ll see you all then!