Headlines. They may only be a few simple words but they’re the thing I find hardest to write.

Why?

Because there’s so much resting on them. If your headline doesn’t promise your reader that the content will be interesting/useful/relevant to them, that content isn’t going to be read.

And headlines are used everywhere – whether it’s on a blog post, article or editorial, a white paper, guide or report, a case study, an email subject line…even a social media update. Headlines matter, so we can’t afford to get them wrong.

Because headlines are something I find challenging, I’ve dedicated time to upskilling in this area. Reading various books and taking part in specialist training, I’ve taken the lessons learned and tried them within my own business to see what does/doesn’t work.

Here’s what I learned…

10 is the magic number: analysing my most popular posts, the average number of words in their headlines is 10, with a range from 6 to 13.

Questions attract the most views: answering the questions in your audience’s mind it the best way to encourage that click.

Use ‘How to…’ to educate: if you’re looking to demonstrate thought leadership, starting your headline with ‘How to…’ draws the audience in.

‘What’ is my power word: looking at my top 100 posts, about 40% start with the word ‘What’ – again, because it’s more educational content.

Keywords matter: usually we talk about using keywords to boost SEO, but ultimately that’s because people are actively interested in, and searching on, these words – so use them!

Play it straight and to the point: cryptic, fun or fluffy headlines don’t tend to get the same engagement as those that state exactly what the piece is about.

It doesn’t all have to be about business: one of my most popular posts is ‘Where do you get your shoes from?’, so think about using your content to show your personality too.

Test, test, TEST: with blogging you can test things quickly and learn from it. A lot of what I read advised using numbers in headlines, but after testing that I know it doesn’t work for my business.


Find out what works for your business

The above findings are based on my business but that doesn’t mean they’ll work for yours – you never know, fluffy number-based headlines may be just the thing to draw your audience in! The only way you’ll know is if you start trying and testing different ideas to see what works for your business.

This is one of the notes that sits on my inspiration board in front of my computer screen:

It’s a great place to start if you’re looking for some headline templates to test and tweak for your business…

And then you can take a look at the blogging cheat sheet, which is full of more ideas: