Bad headlines. Bad headlines.
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
In the fast-paced world of marketing, writing a bad headline is one of the more devastating crimes you can commit. Your blog article’s headline is responsible for creating that all-important first impression, and in many cases, it’s going to be the primary (if not only) factor influencing a reader’s decision to share, click on, or continue reading your post. And since today’s internet users are bombarded by so much content at every waking moment of the day, the chances of them clicking through to your article are already rather low.
In fact, Copyblogger reports that only 2 out of 10 people will read headline copy and then continue reading the rest of the post.
Perhaps it’s a result of the whole content shock theory. With nearly 3 million blog posts being published every day, not to mention the millions of emails, tweets, videos and other pieces of content that are created and released into the world on a daily basis, your headlines—particularly those related to more competitive topics—are constantly battling to gain or maintain their ground on the digital landscape.
Or maybe it’s simply because the majority of headlines kind of suck.
Either way, this dilemma raises a clear-cut question for any content writer. What actually makes for a great blog headline? And moreover, what constitutes a bad headline?
So listen up, marketers! Here’s what you’ll want to watch out for when it’s time to name your next written piece. There’s a good chance you’re going to end up in the blogging big-house if your headline is…
1. Too long.
Keep it short and sweet. Ideally, your title should contain 55 characters or less. Definitely do not exceed the 70-character mark, or the last couple of words are going to be sliced off and replaced with a disenchanting ellipsis in Google search results.
2. Not share-worthy.
Interestingly, a study examining 2.7 million tweets conducted by HubSpot social media analyst Dan Zarrella revealed that 14.6% of retweeted tweets had ZERO clicks – and 16.1% had more retweets than clicks. Though these numbers aren’t overwhelmingly high, they certainly attest to a blog article’s title truly having a significant impact on social share potential. In light of this information, take a look at the types of social posts that generate the most engagement across your industry, and style a few of your own headlines in a similar fashion.
3. An EXAGGERATION!
How many times have you read a blog title that reads along the lines of “20 Video Marketing Stats THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND”? Just type “mind-blowing statistics” into Google and you’ll see the phrasing is just a tad overused. This class of headlines might work for BuzzFeed and the like, but frankly, unless those statistics to which you’re eluding are that shocking, you’re going to look pretty lame when the reader digs into the meat of your post. Obviously, this is just one example, and you’re unlikely to be writing a series of posts listing random industry statistics. But if you’re feeling the urge to “hook the audience” with hyperbole, you might want to reign it in and consider another tactic.
To a point, every headline inherently sets the reader’s expectation of what can be found in the post’s content. And this perceived value of the post often makes or breaks the click. But what’s worse than no click at all is a click immediately followed by the reader bouncing. If said reader is disappointed in the content delivered after the headline, they’re not going to stick around. And unfortunately, a higher bounce rate contributes to a lower authority score in the eyes of Google, and consequently, a lower ranking in the search engine results.
5. Not written for your target audience.
Every piece of content you create for your business should be developed with your target audience in mind. That’s why it’s important to do your keyword research homework and optimize your headline with a key search term or phrase that resonates with your ideal buyers.
6. Riddled with spelling and grammar errors.
If you’re publishing content online that represents your brand, there is no excuse for spelling and grammar mistakes. And in the headline?! You might as well be driving the last nail in the marketing coffin. Yet I’ve seen this time and time again in posts written by supposedly reputable bloggers. I realize I’ve taken a little artistic license with “whatcha gonna” in this post myself, but the point is, if you’re unsure about a spelling, hyphenation, a singular vs. plural scenario, etc., check yourself before you wreck yourself.
7. Overly promotional.
A continuous stream of product-centric headlines on your blog is a great way to turn off your readers. Concentrate on writing educational content relevant to your industry – and help your readers solve problems that they regularly encounter. If it’s a how-to style post, emphasize the benefit in the headline! And when you're working on describing that benefit, a strong action verb will yield better traffic results relative to multiple nouns.
Always keep in mind that your blog post’s title should do two things: capture a reader’s attention and succinctly explain what they can expect to learn if they continue reading. If you can successfully deliver that enticing combination, you’ll surely see those click-through rates start improving.