6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com

Abraham Lincoln Axe Quote 1

Many newbie (and sometimes even veteran) bloggers erroneously spend 95% of their time creating blog content and only 5% pondering titles. Unfortunately for these bloggers, most readers’ attention spans expire in seconds.

Unless you reel in your readers instantly, your well-crafted content goes largely unnoticed and going viral becomes impossible.

Set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes for choosing a magnetic title after crafting your post.

List three to five intriguing titles guaranteed to increase your CTR and page views. After carefully thinking through each option, select the one that inspires you like no other.  Ask your friends or followers for feedback.

Most importantly, test and learn from data you collect looking at engagement metrics, such as social sharing and page views.  Double down on best-performing headlines and keep testing new ways to engage your audience.

Garret Moon proposes re-writing your blog headlines at least three times to A/B test your headlines using Twitter and email marketing. If you are serious about blogging, invest as much resources and time as you can to headline testing and optimization.

6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

At SearchDecoder blog we did an in depth headline analysis looking at the most popular posts of 2013. The data included over 30K visits and 6K social shares.

Most of the content featured in the study that made the top 10 lists was generated by NYU students participated in the Inbound Marketing Clinic and couple recent grads who work with me at Lowe Profero. The objective of this post is not to brag but rather share data insights with the blogging community to get feedback.

SearchDecoder Top 10 2

Top 10 Most Popular Posts on SearchDecoder Blog in 2013

Use Power Verbs

Use power verbs to goad readers into clicking on and sharing your content. Imagine yourself as a blogging commander, enticing to swift action with assertiveness. Start titles with actionable verbs like “Read,” “Download” or “Learn”.  Actionable verbs can be visualized and acted upon easily.

Keep things simple and never use a power verb in any spot other than the beginning of your title. Maximize the effectiveness of these action words.

The third most shared blog post on SearchDecoder, Optimize Your Click Through Rate on Google (Infographic) is a good example of using a power verb to drive action.

SearchDecoder Take Action 3

Employ Colorful Adjectives

Colorful adjectives effectively magnetize eager readers to your titles. Consider using colorful words to appeal to the imagination. If readers can see what you wish to convey, you will generate high CTR.

Pull out a thesaurus. Scour the manual to find descriptive, entertaining adjectives to lasso readers’ eyeballs. Test words like “awesome,” “unstoppable” and “unconventional” for engaging your reader’s visualizing faculty.

The number-one most shared, read and commented on blog post on SearchDecoder, 10 Unconventional Keyword Research Tools to Include in Your SEO Toolbox, generated over 7K views, nearly 700 social shares and over 30 comments. Moreover, it got picked up by the editors of Moz Top 10.

Interestingly, the two blog posts I’ve published using the word ‘unconventional’ in the title made it to the top 10 most shared blog posts on SearchDecoder.com.

10 unconventional keyword research tips 4

Arouse Curiosity

Reading questions piques your interest. Interested web visitors set the foundation for viral blog posts.  Readers rarely scan question-themed titles without clicking through because inquiring minds need to know.

Brian Clark notes on Copyblogger that sharing benefits via insider knowledge is a timeless approach to crafting magnetic titles.

Asking questions or exposing industry ‘secrets’ compels clickthroughs because few can resist mystery. Observe the masterful novelist. Supreme writers craft cliffhangers filled with mystery and intrigue. How could you put down these page turners when each chapter ends with either a question or some other secret yet to be revealed?

One of the top shared blog posts on my blog, The 10 Secrets of Effective Bootstrap Digital Marketing for Startups, leverages this tactic. If you want to successfully run a startup, getting enough credible information is critical.

Crafting this title for the accompanying deck on SlideShare goaded readers to click through and share it on Twitter at a stunning rate, appearing on SlideShare’s homepage as ‘Hot on Twitter’ and boosting its views to over 7K.

Build Lists (Always)

Building list-themed headers is a surefire approach to crafting magnetic titles. In fact, 9 out of the 10 best performing posts on my blog included a list in the headline.

Testing various numbers in list headlines (I tested between 7 and 30) on my blog didn’t indicate a clear winner (statistically), however the number 10 performed best.

Readers need gobs of information to satiate their curiosity. The average web cruiser craves thorough content. Sharing 11 tips or 8 steps to solve a particular problem draws readers in because they expect to find a practical answer to their specific questions.

Jeff Goins notes how using obscure numbers in titles like 19 or 37 can appeal to readers. Experiment with different single and double-digit numbers to see which titles result in the most clicks.

The highest number in the list headline I used was 30 and it performed surprisingly well (contrary to the less is more approach). The 30 Awesome Free SEO Tools for Small Businesses headline was the 8th most popular blog post on Searchdecoder in 2013.

Use the Magic Words

“Quick,” “Easy,” and “Simple” are the magic headline words guaranteed to boost clicks pronto. Do you want to know the quick, easy or simple way to solve a problem you have been trying to address? Of course you do.

Appeal to the Internet culture of today by using these magic words frequently. However, make sure that the solution is quick, easy or simple to keep your credibility intact. Promising a simple solution to a problem but following up with complex instructions can damage your online reputation.

Add “lessons” to your ‘magic word’ list. People read blogs to learn, and no matter how ‘easy’ your advice seems, it is always a good idea to anchor your findings in data, interviews or case studies. The #5 best performer on SearchDecoder, 7 Lessons for Effective B2B Content Marketing via the Maersk Line Case Study, drew in eager students quickly.

Pick Up the Paper

Always learn from the pros. Read a newspaper or scour online news sites to find appealing blog post title ideas and become a trusted curator of information for your community.

Follow the example of the 8 Internet Books You Should Read in 2014 post that performed exceptionally well for me during the slow Holiday period in December. Whatever you are blogging about; there are tons of relevant books and blogs you can curate.

Vintage Books 5

Mine the web or your local newsstand for creative, proven titles guaranteed to increase blog readership. Taking a cue from some of the best title writers on earth is a simple way to create a viral post.

Curating content proved to be the most low-effort, high-return activity on my blog. The 8 Content Marketing Statistics You Need to Know title was the second best performer on SearchDecoder.

Headlines are visual

It’s a social media world. If you want to increase the sharibility and CTR of your blog posts, include eye-catching images and visuals which get populated on your homepage and social media feed. Spend time choosing the best ‘featured image’ for every headline.

SearchDecoder blog posts 6

What didn’t work?

Using names of influencers in blog titles didn’t perform well for me. While the Q&As and interviews represent some of the best content on my blog, they underperformed in terms of traffic and engagement. Using Twitter handles and hashtags in the headlines didn’t perform well for me either.

What worked for your blog last year? I’d love to hear your best-performing blog post headline in the comments section.

Matthew Capala is a growth-focused Internet marketer and entrepreneur, who understands both the user and algorithm. He built SearchDecoder.com, a place for bootstrap marketing ideas for entrepreneurs. Matthew currently teaches a graduate class on search marketing at NYU, works as a growth consultant, while making the final touches to his upcoming book: SEO Like I’m 5. He is a dynamic speaker, trainer and blogger. 

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Comments

  1. Danny says:

    Thank you for the nice article Matthew. It’s very rare to hear about the selection of the title that can capture the reader’s attention. Most of the time, the title are used for the machine’s attention for the sake of SEO.

    • Thanks Danny. User first, algorithm second. Google is trying to figure out what users like, so if you cater to the user needs so that it share-worthy (and thus link-worthy) you will do very well in SEO. What blog headlines have performed well for you?

      • David says:

        Mathew, I agree completely with your user first, algorithm second theory. But I would like to add that these two are not mutually exclusive. If the title is magnetic, it would automatically attract the person to click on your link even if it is say at the bottom of the SERP page.

    • Alex Hanson says:

      Thanks for another excellent post. The place else could anyone get that kind of info in such an ideal method of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.

  2. Ravi Chahar says:

    When any blogger enters in the field of blogging then the main point to improve the quality of the which is done by provided good content. Bloggers should use magic words as you have described. The words which can click readers mind. Bloggers should try to make their readers curious by putting questions in front them. Make them to think about the niche a blogger is providing. For a blogger the major motive is to drive traffic at his/her blog. Quality content writing can fulfill it up to greater extent. Thanks for sharing your views.

    • Thanks Ravi, as you said the secret to successful blog title is to stimulate emotions: interest, curiosity, laughter, and etc.

  3. Great stuff, Matthew. And I appreciate you sharing what didn’t work; there’s a lot of value to gain from that. Your headlines can literally make you or make you. One thing I like to go is study the magazine racks whenever I’m waiting to check out from the pharmacy or grocery store. Magazines like Men’s Health and Cosmo are masters at applying the principles you talking about in the post.

  4. Kalen says:

    Hi Matthew,

    I like your tips. I did a study recently on this very topic with research from Rippen, which definitely supported your point about list posts. However, I would say that I would disagree with using them ALL the time. I think it is good to have some diversity and structure your headlines a little differently each time. Maybe a couple list posts, a question and then some general thought provoking headlines.

    Thanks for the post!

    Kalen

    • Hey Kalen,

      Very good point, a blogger needs to offer the right content (and headline) diversity, and mingle different formats looking at data and performance. Lists are good, but also ‘how tos’ and ‘Q&As with experts’ perform very well. Then there are graphics, visualizations, and videos. Bloggers can, and should, play with a bunch of different headlines to maximize results.

  5. Prateek says:

    Well I have been blogging from around a year but I didn’t think about sparing 15-30 mins for a blog titile I generally do that in 5-7 minutes and I surely do agree with your point that actionable verbs like Download certainly help to boost the hits.

  6. Jacob says:

    Hello Matthew, I am newbie in field of blogging and I always wonder how people write such catchy titles, but after reading your article I have got enough confidence to write catchy titles and attract more number of visitors on my blog.

    Thanks for such an awesome post.

    Cheers

  7. Debarpan says:

    Headlines are indeed one of the major factors for any blog. Having a catchy headline will definitely any post to get attention.This is such a great post from you,thanks for this.

  8. Debarpan says:

    Headlines are indeed one of the major factors for any blog. Having a catchy headline will definitely help any post to get attention.This is such a great post from you,thanks for this

  9. Karan Rawat says:

    Do you know what is the difference between an online hit, and an article that gets only ten readers a month? If your title is intriguing, but the content of your article is bland, or even worse doesn’t actually fulfill the promise of the title, then people won’t spend long at all reading the article itself. We can learn a lot from Magazines and newspapers, since their existence depends on capturing people’s attention long enough.

  10. Brian Dean says:

    Headlines have never been my strong suit. Mostly because there’s so much information out there!

    What I liked about this post was that there are little “bite size” techniques that I can use to make my headlines more powerful. Will definitely have this post open in another tab the next time I sit down to write a headline. Great stuff Matthew!

  11. Jayashree says:

    Thanks for these tips to create a title which will have an impact to attract more visitors.As in a post that gets one first attention is the title and only if it is inviting users will deep dive inside the article. The tips you have shared will surely help on how to write attractive title.Thanks for sharing

  12. Hi Matthew, these are great tips on writing a catchy headline. I agree that for a title to get attention, it should be visual and use power verbs to encourage readers to click and share your content. I have tried this a lot of times and it really worked.

  13. Hamza Sheikh says:

    Personally, I use paper and pencil to write these headlines, and brainstorm for hours to get a catchy and useful headline that will allow me to convert my readers into customers.

    • Hamza – same here, I never go anywhere without my note pad and I write down blog post / headline ideas as they come to my head, when I read a book, find something online, speak with people. Idea is a like muscle – you need to exercise it every day. Cheers!

  14. Thanks for posting this. Loved the deck! A nice “end of the day” activity.

  15. Michael says:

    Top list articles are the ones which drives most traffic to my blog. The addition of images in headlines is a new thing for me. Would appreciate if you can put more light on it.

    • Hello Michael,

      I am very strategic when I map images with headlines. When content is shared on social media, it will be the image and headline, that will determine whether you will get users’ attention (and a click, RT, or share). Simply put, in WordPress, or any other blogging platform, like Medium, make sure you set the ‘featured image’ for your content, and don’t leave it to chance. Same on Youtube. Make sure that the image is tells the story you are trying to convey with your headline – be creative.

      Hope it helps?

  16. Hi Matthew,

    I like your tips. It’s very rare to hear about the selection of the title that can capture the reader’s attention. Most of the time, the title are used for the machine’s attention for the sake of SEO.

  17. MBlog says:

    Thank you for wonderful tips, Matthew. You didn’t mention about the character length of the head line. There are 70 chars max, and if you go ove that it will be trimmed out by google.

    • Very good point. There are couple things bloggers should keep in mind:

      Blog Title – ideally can be under 7 characters, but it can be longer, I use longer sometimes

      Title Tag – Google will use the title tag as opposed to blog title (so make sure it’s under 70 characters, and includes keywords and calls-to-actions)

      Social Meta Data – it’s what social media feed says when user share your content – you can set it up either to be the blog title or title tag

      Def be aware of the character limits when you write headlines, good point

  18. Craig Murphy says:

    Headlines & headings/sub-headers are the best way to grab the readers attention, to make them keen to read the whole post instead of just skimming through it. I’ve found that images/photos can be another great way to grab the readers attention and make them want to read the post

  19. Michelle says:

    Thank you for such an amazing post.I just learned something new from your blog today.Great help

  20. Emmanuel says:

    Hi Matthew,

    Welcome to Darren’s blog and it is really interesting for sharing with us this insightful post. The first point of attraction for any post is the post’s header. It is the commitment point and that can’t be under rated at all.

  21. Ann07 says:

    Awesome!

    I must say that this study is noteworthy.

    These valuable lessons on writing a magnetic blog post headline are indeed helpful, and I found all of them effective and unique.

    Start titles with actionable words, use colorful adjectives to excite readers, arouse their curiosity by asking questions or by revealing something that is secret and use the magic words.

    These are the points that I love the most in this article.

    Thanks for sharing this content! :)

    Best,
    Ann07

    By the way, I found this post shared on kingged.com

  22. Hi Matthew,

    First of all, let me tell you that the quote and image of Abraham Lincoln inspired me a lot! So nice of you to put it up there. I must admit that writing a killer headline can make all the difference! It can drive tons of traffic. And as you said, investing some 15-30 minutes crafting irresistible headlines is a very good investment indeed! It makes good sense. But sadly, my case has been different. I usually rush with this process. Call it plain old laziness!

    I think this article has managed to inspire me with that quote and image. That’s why I thanked you in the beginning for using it.

    Using some magic words and power words is a strategy that I’ve been using. I guess that if I use those words more creatively and along with the other strategies you mentioned here, I’ll be able to get better headlines! Will sure give it a try! :)

    Thanks to Kingged, where I found the link to this post. I’ll also be Kingging it there! :)

    Arun

    • Hello Arun,

      I am glad you got inspired, I think everyone has so much to learn from people like Abraham Lincoln. I constantly read biographies and books written by successful people. It’s motivational and inspirational as we try to write better and be more effective.

      I understand what you are saying, I find myself rushing through every piece of content I put up as well. You have to find the right balance between quality and scale. I think if you are a beginner blogger, focus on scale and learning, if you already developed an audience and community, focus on quality.

      Cheers!
      Matt

  23. To be true Matthew, I’ve experienced that writing a great headline increases CTR amazingly.

    Some of my articles which I know are massive and in-depth didn’t get that much traffic it demanded. But a simple and small blog post about 3 Facebook Tricks keeps bringing me consistent traffic.

    The title I wrote for the article was.

    ’3 Facebook Tricks No One Tells You’

    And even great bloggers like Jon Morrow spend 2 hours on coming up with a headline. I think all us should work on it more.

    Thanks for the article. Its very amazing.

    Have a great day!

  24. THANK YOU!!! this is very helpful. I’ve been trying to find ways to make my title interesting to increase traffic. this article really helps me.

  25. I. C. Daniel says:

    Experts interviews, especially those with 2000+ words, well detailed goes viral and drive a lot of traffic. I’m shocked didn’t worked for you!

  26. Hey Matthew thanks for the great post! As you said, titles having ‘magical’ words go viral. I written an article titled, “How to hide any files in android without any third app”, which has gone wild in the search rankings. I didn’t expect these much traffic from it. But I think a title having “to-solve-an-issue-without-some-conventional-way” kinda stuff rocks reader’s mind.

  27. Content is most important but good headline will undoutably generate page views
    .

  28. Toby says:

    Very good explanations with proofs and details. Also, I have to agree that Content is King :) Going to implement it and share this article to all my followers.
    Thank you very much!
    Regards!

  29. Amal Tlaige says:

    I also find myself putting so much work and effort into my main content that I’m drained by the end of my post. This leaves little imagination for my title.

    Titles should be catchy and simple. And you’re right, it may take up to 15-30 minutes to actually create the headline. Often times, the headline needs to be simple but also a call to action, especially in the field of PR.

    Nothing makes me read a post more than a good dose of curiosity. I can’t help it. For instance, I saw an article titled “The Scoop on Bird Poop” and I just had to read it. This article was actually really informing, but I wouldn’t have read it if the title wasn’t so cutesy.

    The thesaurus is our friend. We hear the same, every day words over and over again. A great way to go outside of the box is by using different words. The post doesn’t have to be written in a way that people can’t understand, just use words to keep people on their toes.

  30. U18 India says:

    I am an addicted magazine and novel reader. I found amazing stories and information through them, and an idea about the most compelling titles too.
    Also, some times I manage to make an outline too for the upcoming articles through the magazine stories. And titles for posts, generated this way really play well in content marketing.
    Titles with prefixes Top, Free, Best, How, What and Why etc. are attention grabber, so I prefer to use them every now and then.

    • I truly believe that everyone who wants to be a pro blogger needs to read at least 2-3 hours a day. Books, novels, blogs, magazines, etc. It’s a way to exercise your idea muscle (I learnt it from James Altucher) and better your writing.

  31. mehndi says:

    Headings and head lines are best source to get visitors attraction.
    so this is very helpful article for me and now i have learnt hot to attract visitors with headlines
    thanks for sharing:

  32. Kayla Seah says:

    Really helpful insight! Combining catchy phrases with SEO fundamentals really is an art form.

    xx Kayla
    http://notyourstandard.com

  33. I’ve featured this article on my monthly round-up of the best things on the web, which you can see here: http://spikesandstardust.com/2014/04/25/april-delights/.