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5 Tips You Need To Know Before Writing Your Next Headline

14544852988_58ccef7748_zYour headline is the only contact your blog post has to the outside world. It’s the message in a bottle tossed into an endless ocean. Unfortunately, there are millions of other bottled messages floating in this ocean among it.

How are you going to ensure that someone finds it, reads it, and then heads over to your uninhabited island of content? You have to write a compelling message. In other words: You need a quality headline.

Before you write your next headline, you should check out these tips:

Let Your Headline Shape Your Post

In a moment of divine inspiration, your next blog post appears before you. All you need to do is write it. Stop right there! Once you have a pretty good idea of where your blog post is going, write the headline first. Deciding on a headline before writing out a full post will help focus your thinking, sharpen your writing, and make your article more useful to readers.

Let’s say you’re writing a post for your celebrity lawn gnome company’s blog. You decide you want to write about all the great reasons people should buy your Ryan Gosling lookalike gnome. Perfect, now narrow it down even more to something like:

“10 Perfect Occasions to Give a Ryan Gosling Lawn Gnome.”

A specific title like this will keep you from wasting your time writing about when to buy a Ryan Gosling gnome for yourself or when to buy non-Gosling celebrity gnomes as a gift. This focused article will be easier to read, more useful to read, and more likely to be shared.

Engage Readers Personally 

Call out to your potential readers directly. At it’s simplest, add “you” to your headline. Adding stakes to the headline gives more incentive to read as well. “You Have to…,” “You Should…,” and  “Are You…” can all be used in a headline to add urgency and importance.

You can specifically name who you want your blog post to reach as well. If you want beekeepers reading your post, include them in your headline. For instance:

“Honey Harvesting Basics Every Beekeeper Should Know”

This engages beekeepers who both want to learn honey harvesting basics as well as those who want to see if they already know them.

Give Specifics

Let’s say two different people are searching for articles about turtle breeding. One person is a grizzled veteran of the turtle breeding scene. She knows the ins and outs, but wants to learn about new techniques. The other is a newcomer to the world. He is looking to soak up as much information as he can. These two people, though interested in the same niche interest, would benefit from very different posts.

When writing a headline you want to be as specific as possible. If your article’s headline is “Turtle Breeding Info,” you risk losing both potential readers to clearer, more specific headlines. For example:

“The Beginner’s Guide to Turtle Breeding”

OR

“5 Groundbreaking New Turtle Breeding Techniques”

These headlines might not attract one of the turtle-breeding enthusiasts, but the other is much more likely to click on and read-through your article. Specific headlines that lead to specific, useful information are always more valuable than vague titles and posts.

Pose a Question You Can Answer

Betteridge’s Law of Headlines states, “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” Often times people write question headlines because they don’t have a useful or fact-based story but want to publish it anyway. It’s bad journalism. Of course business and personal blogs aren’t governed by journalistic principles, but considering Betteridge’s law can improve your headlines and your content.

Headlines that ask questions are a great way to get people to read your post. If you don’t answer that question, however, you’ve misled him or her. Writing a great headline will draw readers in, but quality and relevant content is what keeps them on the page.

Respect The Reader’s Intelligence 

Fly fisherman must create detailed and realistic lures by hand to snag a fish. Similarly, a content writer must write alluring and compelling posts to pull in readers. Whether by a trout skimming the surface of the water or a Facebook user scanning their newsfeed, obvious bait gets avoided.

People are suspicious of headlines that are sensationalized or promise too much. Words and phrases like “mind-blowing,” “tricks,” and “always works” come off as spam or click-bait. Words that evoke a strong emotional response are great for headlines, but they can just as easily make a potentially fantastic post lose credibility. Try adding words that tone down or ground those neon light adjectives. For instance:

“10 Turtle Breeding Techniques That Almost Always Work”

or

“You’ve Probably Never Seen a Lawn Gnome Like This”

Adding ‘always’ and ‘probably’ contextualize over-the-top phrases like “that always work” and “you’ve never seen.” You can still use eye-catching words and phrases while respecting the reader’s intelligence and experience.

More than anything else, the best method to write a great headline is having great content. If a headline reflects the nature of an insightful and original post, then that headline will also be insightful and original. Following all these suggestions, however, will help make sure your post doesn’t end up lost at sea.

Brian McGovern

Brian is a content writer and strategist at Chicago Style SEO.

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