But, if you were doing that, you probably wouldn’t be here asking me how to write the best blog post headlines ever, right?
So let’s hop in.
These are the tried and true techniques for writing the best blog headlines that will have your audience interested and clicking every time.
1. Reflect the actual value of the content
The quickest way to lose trust with your audience is to promise one thing in the headline but deliver something different in the content.
An example I often think of (and grumble under my breath about) is using titles like “The Ultimate Guide to blah blah blah.”
When I read that headline, I’m expecting an all-inclusive, instructive manual for success and understanding of that topic. So, why am I instead reading a 700-word, high-level overview about blah blah blah?
Make sure your headline and content actually align.
The headline will mold itself from the content that is being produced, not the other way around.
Trying to force content into a headline can lead to confusion from the audience that will not only disqualify you as a resource but could cost you future traffic and future business.
The best way to ensure your headline matches the content of your article is to identify the “one thing” you want your article to achieve.
The one thing doesn’t have to be this deep, thought-provoking idea either.
Think, for example, that you sell kitchen sinks. The goal of your piece of content could be that you want to help the consumer find the perfect sink for their home. Your one thing is to educate the reader on what factors they need to consider when buying a sink.
The article headline should reflect that one thing, resulting in a headline such as 8 mistakes homeowners make when purchasing a kitchen sink or How to buy the best kitchen sink for your home.
By having a clear one thing, you are setting yourself up for success in creating a great headline that matches your content while still enticing your reader to click in and learn more.
2. Use words and phrases that resonate with your audience
Too often I hear, “I know what my buyer needs to hear.”
Or even worse, “Well, that is what I would search.”
Shivers shot through my fingertips even typing those phrases.
No, you don’t get to choose what your buyers are thinking or wanting to search.
Instead, you need to take your marketing or sales hat off your head and look purely at how your audience is expressing their needs.
A great place to start is to look at the reviews and testimonials that customers leave on your products or services as well as your competitors.
Whether the reviews are good or bad, you will get a clear picture of not only how your audience talks about what you offer, but what their pain points, satisfactions, and overall experiences are with what you offer.
Take note of compelling phrases and words and use them in your headlines.
For example, let’s say you are a running shoe manufacturer and you get a review online that says, “These shoes are very comfortable to wear, but the arch support during long runs was lacking.”
Your article headline can directly address the (literal) pain point of arch support. If you were creating a “Best of” listicle, your headline would be X best men’s running shoes with arch support.
Or you might get even more general and write Why arch support is important for long-distance runners.
This activity ensures that your audience is being heard through your headlines because you are using their tone and phrasing.
And while I go into it deeper later (see point 7), you should perform additional keyword research from a traffic and performance perspective too in order to confirm you are on the right track with your headline.
The headline needs to make the audience feel heard and understood. The last thing you want your headline to feel like is a sales pitch for how great you are. Your audience won’t want to listen click in and your article will suffer.
3. Ask questions
The structure of your headline makes a huge difference in the appeal of your article.
Building on point two, consumers want to be heard and you can do that through the structure of your headline. They want to feel understood. Speaking their language is one way of accomplishing that.
If a consumer is going to Google and searching “How to…” or “What is…” those are headline goldmines.
Numbers in your headlines help quantify the content, allowing the reader to process how long it may take to consume, what might be involved, and scale the information before they even click into the article.
Time wasn’t even mentioned, yet you determined how long something could take based on the number of steps you saw in the article headline.
Numbers in your headlines also visually stand out from the standard text, in turn, drawing the audience’s attention even more.
So, how should you use numbers in your headlines?
Get specific with a step-by-step guide by inserting a number helps the reader understand just how many steps they’ll need to take.
Your initial reaction when you read that headline probably felt something like this:
17?! I can barely come up with five, much less 17 unique topics!
Next thing you know, you have clicked into the article all because of the number used in the headline.
This is what makes numbers in headlines so powerful. They set the stage, add context, and drive interest.
5. Play around with the visual structure
Using two-part headlines with a colon, parentheses, or brackets can add a dynamic feel to your content, tease the contents of the article, and provide further context to the value of your blog content.
These two-parters will also act as eye-catchers because they not only provide additional context about what the reader can expect in the article, but look unique compared to most headlines.
IMPACT client Yale Appliance has mastered dynamic blog headlines.
Is The LG Smart Front Load Washer WM3900HBA Any Good? (Reviews/Ratings/Prices)
BlueStar RNB Series Vs. Wolf 36-Inch All Gas Pro Ranges (Reviews/Ratings/Prices)
Best Appliance Maintenance Tips (Pro Appliance Tips)
Other examples could be providing context to the format of the article, such as interviews.
When you read the title Who is not a fit for IMPACT’s Digital Sales and Marketing Coaching program? [Interview], you understand the style of the article just by adding that one word in a couple of brackets.
Whichever way you choose to experiment with the structure of your blog headlines, make sure it is driving value for your readers, not just for dramatic effect.
6. Be concise and to the point
A great headline is specific and concise.
Your article headline should fall in the “character sweet spot.” This typically falls between 50-70 characters but can vary depending on the platform.
From a search performance perspective, while it won’t always punish your search performance if your title is longer than 70 characters, your title will get cut off by the Google search engine results page (SERP) — especially on mobile.
That means the reader can’t witness the glory of your whole blog headline.
Here is an example I made just for you that shows how the article headline could be cut off by Google:
Our team uses Spotibo as it helps us test meta descriptions as well.
If your headline is super-duper long, even if it sounds great, imagine what the user is experiencing.
They want to find the quickest answer to their question, problem, or curiosity, meaning you don’t have that much time to catch their eye and convince them you have the answer.
I always think of the resume timeline, which went something like:
Your resume will be in front of someone for about sixty seconds before they make a decision. How will you stand out in those sixty seconds?
How long do you have the attention of someone reading an article headline? Five seconds?
Keep it concise. Keep it to the point.
That will make your headline great.
7. Optimize for keywords and search performance
Remember when the best practice for writing headlines was to cram in all the keywords you could so Google would rank you higher?
A great example I use for intention-based keyword research is purchasing dog beds. When you need to purchase a dog bed for your favorite pup, you might start by searching “Best dog beds”.
Your results, however, will be so vast that it will likely be impossible to find what you are looking for.
Instead, intention-based keyword research takes it one step further. Instead of just searching for the best dog beds, you get really specific and search “Best blue dog beds for smaller dogs”.
Now you have identified not only a color but the size of your dog and those keywords will play a big difference in the results you get.
By focusing on intention, you will have the specific keywords or phrases your audience is using, but don’t stop there.
You need data to back it up.
Once you know what you are going after, tools such as SEMRush, Moz, Answer The Public, or even the Google search bar will help fill in the gaps on which variations get the most search volume.
While there are a lot of factors that feed into your keyword research, the two most important I always make sure to look at are competition and search volume.
Competition (or difficulty) refers to how challenging it is to rank for a particular keyword based on how many other websites are also looking to rank for that keyword. When a keyword is more competitive, it means it will be harder (and likely take much longer) to rank for.
Search volume, on the other hand, is the number of people searching for that keyword. But don’t be fooled, super high search volume isn’t the answer because that likely means they are extremely competitive.
Finding that magical combination of low competition and high search volume can take your headlines from good to great and so would your results.
Time to write your best headlines ever
Your blog headline is the first call-to-action (CTA) your audience will see when they come across your article. That first click on your article headline needs to feel as valuable as the content that is within it.
But a great blog headline is only part of creating an effective blog article.
Not to bore you with math formulas (I know, I write content to avoid numbers too) but:
Effective blog article = Great headline + great content
Writing an effective blog headline is something that will need to be practiced over and over until you find the right process for you.
Even then, while your headline could be the most mind-blowing, drool-inducing set of words, the content still has to live up to the hype.
Make sure you are still dedicating time to the content being just as good as the headline is.
By focusing on your audience and structuring your headlines to be both intriguing and effective, your headlines will drive traffic to your website and the results will follow.
Want to learn more about digital sales and marketing?
Master digital sales and marketing when you join IMPACT+ for FREE. Gain instant access to exclusive courses and keynotes taught by Marcus Sheridan, Brian Halligan, Liz Moorehead, Ann Handley, David Cancel, Carina Duffy, Zach Basner, and more.