Create High-Performing Blog Post Headlines: 7 Tips to Smashing It

Feature image for Post. High-Performing Blog Post Headlines. Boston Copywriter Westebbe Marketing

Did you know that approximately 6 million blog posts are published every day? How will you get your article to stand out from the rest? You can start by writing a high-performing blog post headline—one that’s descriptive, meets your audience’s needs and, most importantly, makes people want to click on it. Your headline is the first impression people will see on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), so it needs to be different and more appealing than all the results around it. This article tells you how.

It’s a no brainer why it pays to get to the top:

Have You Mastered How to Write the Most Effective Blog Post Headlines?

It takes knowledge and experience to master the art of the headline. Ask yourself if you currently write your blog headline at the last minute, or do you carefully craft it? If you don’t currently spend much time writing your headlines, this article might change your mind—at least if you want to boost SEO to get a higher page rank, get more social shares, and improve click-through rate (CTR). But if you don’t want to take my word for it, here are some statistics:

  • Studies show a range of results, but in general, readers decide whether to click on your article in about five seconds or less—and that’s not much time to grab their attention.
  • According to Upworthy, just having the right headline can increase the traffic to your articles by as much as 500%.
  • On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest, but a good headline can encourage people to go deeper. 
  • On average, 6 out of 10 people only look at the headlines before sharing an article, and social sharing is one of the most effective SEO factors.  
  • 95% of searchers never go past the first page of Google’s search results (and writing a high-performing blog post title can help get you there).

Without further ado, let’s discuss how you can create high-performing blog post headlines.

1. Spend the Time Needed to Craft High-Performing Blog Headlines

So back to my original question…How long do you spend on crafting your blog post headline? If you’re wondering how that compares to your peers, Orbit Media  found that:

  • 91% of bloggers write only a few headline drafts (around six) before publishing.
  • 58% of bloggers write 2-3 headlines before deciding on one.
  • Only 1% of bloggers try out 11 to over 20 headlines for their blogs before making a decision.

According to OrbitMedia, the number of headlines a blogger writes is directly related to the success of blog posts. Given the importance of headlines, it’s worth taking the time and effort to ensure that your headline will be effective.  

2. Know Your Audience

As with anything in marketing, one of the first rules is understanding your audience. What are their demographics—where they live, their age range, their income, etc.? Equally important is the psychographic profile, including their values, interests, and opinions. This information can help guide you on the format, language, and content of your headline. One way to nail this down is to create a marketing persona that represents your ideal target subject, and then write to that one person.

Chart showing examples of demographics and psychographics. High-Performing Blog Post Headlines. Boston Copywriter Westebbe Marketing
Understand your Audience’s Demographics and Psychographics.

Read More: Leverage Your Buyer Persona Template for B2B Marketing

3. Address a Pain Point

People read blog posts not just for entertainment, but to find answers to problems and solutions to things that are painful or trigger emotions. According to research from Brain Juicer on emotional marketing, more decisions are based on emotion than on logic. Interestingly, this study also suggests that emotional appeals play an even stronger role in B2B decision-making. For example, consider the stress that these issues might cause.

  • I’m having a hard time meeting my deadlines.
  • My teams aren’t productive enough.
  • I don’t know what type of software I need.

Your headline should clearly indicate the pain point and what they will find in the article to provide relief. While your company might have great solutions, never get too sales-y. The point isn’t to promote yourself, but to provide value to your prospects and customers.

4. Optimize Your Headline for SEO

Let me reinforce that, as in all online content, target keywords help search engines understand what the page is about—and it’s critical to include the keyword in the title, preferably near the beginning of it. So who gets to the #1 organic spot of the SERP (search engine results page), below the ads? The top spot goes to the article that Google’s algorithm determines will provide the user with the most relevant, valuable information.

It follows that the higher you are on the SERP, the more likely users will see your headline compared to those around it. Having a more appealing headline than those around you, the more likely the user is to click on it.  

Get quick ideas directly from Google Search Engine Results Pages:

If you have some ideas for your article’s title, enter it into the browser’s search and see what gets to the top of the page, and don’t go past page one (because the great majority of users never go past page 1). You’ll get some ideas by which articles land at the top.

For other title ideas that come directly from Google, enter the title you’re testing into the search bar. Check out the “People Also Ask” section in the middle of the page, as well as the “searches related to…” area at the bottom of the page. One more idea is to plug in the headline you are testing and see if it’s different than anyone else’s, also making you stand out.

5. Write a Headline that’s Unique

Type in any topic and you’re likely to find at least several articles with the same title, all clustered together.  Users want to make an instant decision. If a reader sees identical titles, they’ll need to take a second or two to decide which one to click. This may cause them to skip over each of them in favor of a unique headline that stands out—and doesn’t require any decision-making.

It’s easy enough to check if your headline is unique. Simply type the entire headline—enclosed in parentheses to indicate that the article must contain the exact phrase. If Google returns “No results found,” bingo! It has its own personality and stands out. For example, I typed “High-Performing Blog Post Title” and Google returned this result:

When a one-of-a-kind headline is entered, Google returns a "No results found" message. Boston Copywriter Westebbe Marketing
A “No results found” response means your headline is unique.

6. There is No Single “Right” Length, but Follow Basic Guidelines

It’s not easy to know the best length for a headline because different sources provide various statistics from a host of studies. You’ll find results with different amounts of words and characters, some related to a particular purpose—such as increasing social shares.

In favor of longer headlines, Backlinko states that “very long” headlines (14–17 words) outperform short headlines by 76.7% for social sharing. HubSpot reinforces the longer-length headline, saying that 10 to 13-word headlines (fairly long) drive twice as much traffic and 1.5 times more shares than those with fewer than seven words. On the other hand, Optinmonster says that six to eight-word headlines (short) can increase your CTR by 21%.

The best idea is to do some testing and, if possible, perform some A/B testing with two very similar but different length headlines. There are, however, some common-sense concepts. For example, if a headline is too short, it may not be descriptive enough for users (or Google) to know whether the content is a good match for the search. Plus, Google will truncate a headline that’s too long (over 70 characters), showing the first part of the title followed by ellipses (…).   

Chart: Long Headlines are Correlated with Increased Social Sharing. High-Performing Blog Post Headlines. Boston Copywriter Westebbe Marketing
Long headlines are correlated with increased social sharing.

7. Formatting Makes a Big Difference for High-Performing Blog Post Headlines

There are some well-proven formatting tips and techniques that can help you write high-performing blog post headlines. While you can’t use all of these at once, it’s helpful to at least use one of these techniques per headline. Note that the statistics below come from a variety of studies so they may not directly match up. However, they all come from reliable sources and can give a good indication of popular and effective formats.

Here are some formatting facts to consider:

Question Marks:

Headlines with a question mark get 23.3% more social shares than non-question headlines (Backlinko). Questions are thought-provoking, relatable, and can create curiosity.  Many people want answers to all types of questions. If you provide interesting and relevant answers, the article will be shared with like-minded friends, colleagues, and social groups (even if they have not read the articles—just the headlines). List-based:

36% of readers prefer list-based headlines (Optinmonster). So-called listicles are great for busy people who don’t have a lot of time or don’t tend to read text-heavy articles. All they have to do is scan through the content to find items that pique their interest.  

How-To:  

How-To is the third most popular headline among survey choices at 17%. (Optinmonster). It’s easy to see why. Many people go online to know how to do things (and how not to do things). If using a how-to format, be sure to follow through with information that follows through on its promises.

Numbers and Specificity:

30% of blog readers prefer blog headlines that include a number (BloggingWizard), and that headlines with numbers generate more social shares and engagement (OrbitMedia). These would include numbers list items, percentages, dates, dollar amounts, time spent or saved, and more.

Hyphen, Colons, and Parentheses:

A study by HubSpot and Outbrain found that using hyphens and colons can increase CTR by 9% on average. The same study of over 3.3 million paid links found that headlines with brackets performed 38% better than headlines without them. These special characters catch the eye, engage readers, and can make it easier to write interesting headlines. Generally, the first part will include your SEO keyword phrase, followed by an interesting piece of information about the article.

Negative Headlines:

Outbrain’s study of 65,000 ad headlines found that headlines containing negative words like “never” or “stop” performed 30% better than ad headlines without them. You might think otherwise but headlines with superlatives, such as best, performed 29% worse than ad headlines without them. Note that the study did not include headlines from organic search results, which may be different.

Some Other Important Items When Writing Effective Blog Article Headlines:

Question Marks:

Headlines with a question mark get 23.3% more social shares than non-question headlines (Backlinko). Questions are thought-provoking, relatable, and can create curiosity.  Many people want answers to all types of questions. If you provide interesting and relevant answers, the article will be shared with like-minded friends, colleagues, and social groups (even if they have not read the articles—just the headlines).     

List-based:

36% of readers prefer list-based headlines (Optinmonster). So-called listicles are great for busy people who don’t have a lot of time or don’t tend to read text-heavy articles. All they have to do is scan through the content to find items that pique their interest.  

How-To:  

How-To is the third most popular headline among survey choices at 17%. (Optinmonster). It’s easy to see why. Many people go online to know how to do things (and how not to do things). If using a how-to format, be sure to follow through with information that follows through on its promises.

Numbers and Specificity:

30% of blog readers prefer blog headlines that include a number (BloggingWizard), and that headlines with numbers generate more social shares and engagement (OrbitMedia). These would include numbers list items, percentages, dates, dollar amounts, time spent or saved, and more.

Hyphen, Colons, and Parentheses:

A study by HubSpot and Outbrain found that using hyphens and colons can increase CTR by 9% on average. The same study of over 3.3 million paid links found that headlines with brackets performed 38% better than headlines without them. These special characters catch the eye, engage readers, and can make it easier to write interesting headlines. Generally, the first part will include your SEO keyword phrase, followed by an interesting piece of information about the article.

Negative Headlines:

Outbrain’s study of 65,000 ad headlines found that headlines containing negative words like “never” or “stop” performed 30% better than ad headlines without them. You might think otherwise but headlines with superlatives, such as best, performed 29% worse than ad headlines without them. Note that the study did not include headlines from organic search results, which may be different.

Here are a few other helpful tips for writing effective blog post headlines:

Your Headline Should Be Direct

No matter what format you use, be direct. You’ll attract more readers with a headline that shows exactly what your article is about, who it’s for, and what benefit will they get from reading it. Again, readers decide quickly about what to click on, so there must be instant understanding based on your title.

Never Use Clickbait in a Headline

According to CoSchedule, clickbait is “the practice of writing sensationalized or misleading headlines in order to attract clicks on a piece of content.” It’s never good to be dishonest, under-deliver, exaggerate, or misrepresent what your article is about. Instead of attracting your audience, it will encourage bounces, reduce trust, and possibly hurt your reputation.

Conclusion:

Headlines are important, so give them the thought and time they deserve. Make good use of these suggestions and test out different types of headlines to see what your audience responds to the most. Over time, you’ll be able to identify patterns to guide you in the future. If you need help writing blog articles with effective headlines, contact Boston-based Westebbe Marketing.

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