This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 an inbound marketing strategist, personal branding coach, Internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author. He is an Adj. Professor at NYU and Head of Search at Lowe Profero. His free personal branding e-book, Away with the Average, has been widely praised. A leading voice in the start-up community, Matthew founded SearchDecoder.com, a venue for SEO ideas for entrepreneurs. You can find him on Tiwtter at @SearchDecoder.