Warning: This will improve your blog traffic by 25%
Every time you publish a new blog post or article, it includes a title or headline. How much time do you spend thinking about that headline? If you're like most business owners, you probably only spend a couple of minutes. It's the content of your blog itself that's most important, right? Wrong! The fact is, most of your potential readers will decide whether or not to read your article based SOLELY on your headline! On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but just 2 out of 10 will read the rest. Just as magazines spend considerable effort making their covers compelling to readers, you too must devote sufficient time to making your headlines even better. Here are some things to keep in mind.
I used to think that it went without saying that any content you publish must be readable, but I'm afraid that's just not understood these days. Too often I see blogs and articles that have been published but are extremely difficult to read. The harder something is to read, the less likely people will be to want to read and share it. This is the first critical consideration when composing the headline for your latest post.
Everyone must be able to read your headline and understand what you're talking about.
Now, that doesn't mean they need to have a complete understanding of what your entire article is about - there's something to be said for headlines that are mysterious or make you stop and think, and we will get to those next. No, what we are talking about now is simply being able to understand what it is that you're saying to be able to quickly determine if I'm interested in reading more or not. If I don't even know what you're talking about in your heading, I'm certainly not going to waste my time reading your carefully written blog post.
Make sure that everything is spelled correctly and that your heading makes sense. Grammar is not as important with your heading as long as it can easily be read and understood. You're allowed to break some of the rules of grammar for blog titles.
The next consideration is whether or not your blog post heading is compelling. It MUST make me want to read more! There are no rules for how to make a heading compelling, and each blog post is different, but here are some guides to follow:
1. Present value to the reader. Tell them how they will benefit, personally or professionally, if they read this article.
2. Ask a question, particularly if you can ask a question that the reader will relate to, like, "Have you ever..."
3. Share insider knowledge and translate it into a benefit for the reader.
One point to make here is that whatever you promise in your heading, you must deliver! If you betray a reader's trust and entice them to read your blog with something that you don't actually provide, you will never be able to earn that trust back again.
Not only is it important to get your readers and followers interested in your article, but you also want them to share it with their own social networks and connections. Sometimes this means adjusting your title so that it will be easier to share.
For instance, a key component is the fact that on Twitter, Tweets are limited to a total of 140 characters. That includes your title, a shortened link to the article, any additional hashtags you might add, a "Please ReTweet" statement, and potentially a "RT" and "via @Mike_Allton" mention. That doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for your title!
Make sure that your blog headings will fit in a tweet and be interesting to the friends of your followers. Give careful consideration to how the heading will look on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well, where it will likely be paired with your blog image and a teaser.
Of course, part of your blogging and content marketing strategy should be the impact that your new content has on your website and business placement in search engines. In a nutshell, this means having a defined set of targeted keywords, and then writing blog posts that use those phrases. The more often you write about a particular keyword, the more relevant your blog will appear to search engines, and the higher your site will rank within results for that keyword.
Therefore, it makes sense to try to use those phrases in your headlines whenever possible. This consideration is listed last though because it really should be the least important of your considerations. A headline that is extremely compelling and shareable is far more valuable than a headline that is simply search engine optimized. Ideally you will utilize all of these considerations, but if one must be sacrificed for the benefit of the rest, drop this one.
That being said, by including your keywords in your heading, you're taking great steps toward indicating to search engines what that post is about, and that your chosen keywords are extremely important. Search engines look at where keywords are used, how often they're used, and how they're used. If your keyword shows up once, down at the bottom of your post, it obviously wasn't important or integral to that article. If, however, it appears at the top in bold, and several times throughout that post, it obviously is something important that you're talking at length about.
Your job as a blogger should be to get readers to read your first sentence, then continue on to the next, and then the next, until they finally get to the end of your article and your call to action statement. It all starts with a great headline. Try it out on your next few blog posts and see if you don't get a better response rate and more traffic.
What has been your most popular blog post title so far? Why is it challenging for you to come with great, creative blog titles for your own blog? Please use the comments below and we can brainstorm together.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."