10 Tips for Creating Great Blog Titles
You probably spend a lot of time creating the content you publish on your blog. Obviously, creating great content is important if you’re going to get the most out of having a business blog, but people won’t bother reading the content you create unless you also nail the title.
Blog titles are the first part of your blog post that your readers will see and the part that’s responsible for getting them to click through and read the rest. They’re frequently what people use when they share your blog post, meaning that any time a reader likes your content enough to share it with their social network, it’s the part of the blog their followers will see.
In other words, the success of your post absolutely depends on coming up with a good blog title. To strengthen your title-writing game, here are a few tips that will help you create great blog titles.
1. Learn the Popular Headline Formulas.
Over the years, a lot of bloggers and marketers have done research to see how different types of headlines perform in comparison to others and they’ve found some clear trends in what people choose to click on. You can benefit from the work others have done by studying up on the formulas that are proven to work.
A few types of headlines that routinely perform well include:
- Number headlines – Any headline that starts with a number, introducing a list post (like this one does – and it worked in this case if you’re reading this post).
- How to headlines – This is a simple option, but a good one. If someone’s trying to figure out how to do something, a headline that lets them know the blog post will deliver on that need gets the most important point across (but your post better deliver on the headline’s promise).
- Famous comparison – These headlines borrow on the popularity of a person or piece of entertainment to get people to click. Depending on the famous thing or person you choose, they can add an element of fun to your blog, e.g. # Business Lessons I Learned from Watching Beyoncé.
- Scarcity headline – This headline promises that the reader will be getting something few people have. Headlines that start with “The Secret of…” or “Little Known Tips for…” are playing on this principle.
- Big promises headline – These headlines are assuring the reader that they’ll be getting a lot of information if they click, this category includes headlines that start with “The Ultimate Guide to…” or list posts that have a particularly high number at the beginning.
Buzzsumo has also done extensive research into the words and phrases that perform best in headlines (at least on Facebook). Obviously, you can’t just insert these words into your blog titles thoughtlessly, but if you keep them top of mind and look for opportunities to use them effectively, they could help you build better titles.
This is a good starter list, but you can find a lot more if you do a little digging into headline research and formulas. It’s worth devoting some real time to studying the research that’s out there and learning from other people’s experience on this.
2. Pay Attention to Headlines You Like.
Every day you encounter titles – not just blog titles, but also the titles of newspaper and magazine articles, the titles of YouTube videos, the titles of emails you receive, etc. You always have a response to those titles, even when your response is to ignore one and keep scrolling.
In the same way that starting to read more can make you a better writer, starting to more actively pay attention to the titles you encounter in your life and the way you respond to them will get you thinking regularly throughout the day about what works and why. And that thinking will lead to you getting better at crafting good headlines.
So as you scroll through a blog, flip through your favorite magazine, or wade through the links people share on social media, start analyzing your response to every headline you see. Think about which ones made you click, which ones annoyed or offended you, and which ones just didn’t make much of an impression. When possible, jot down notes on how you responded and why. While you’re only a sample set of one, even just by starting with your own responses, you’ll begin to gain some insights into what makes headlines work.
3. Practice Writing Blog Titles.
Ah yes, the familiar tip that goes on most lists of how to do anything well: practice. The more you do it, the easier it will be to do it well, so give yourself the assignment of writing blog titles regularly. Not only for the blog posts you write, but just for the practice of writing titles (although you may come up with some good blog post ideas this way).
Justin Blackman challenged himself to write over 10,000 headlines over 100 days and found that there was a tangible difference in the quality of his headlines and how quickly he could produce good headlines by the end of his project – which should surprise no one, of course that’s what happens when you commit to practicing something at that level.
Luckily, you don’t have to go that far to get better at writing blog titles. You could commit to doing it for 30 minutes each week or 10 minutes a day and still see a difference. Figure out what level of practice you can fit into your life and start doing it.
4. Use Your Keyword Research.
If you have a blog, you’re probably already doing keyword research to help you figure out what your audience is thinking about, looking for, and the terminology they use when doing so. Put that information to work in your blog titles.
You want to be using the language your customers use. It’s good both for the SEO of your blog posts (which help people find them) and for getting them to click on the post once they see it. You do want to be careful that you don’t try to force a target keyword into a blog title awkwardly, but if your blog post is on the subject you’re targeting, you should be able to include the keyword naturally.
5. Write Multiple Blog Titles for Every Post.
I get it. You just did all that hard work of writing the post. You’re ready to be done and get it out there! But as we’ve already mentioned, all that hard work is worth a lot less if people don’t click to read your post. That means your title has a disproportionate amount of power versus the rest of your post and you’ve got to get it right.
Some experts recommend spending as much time working on blog titles as you do on the blog post itself. If you do that, you may well find the difference in results is worth the extra time. At the very least though, commit to writing several blog titles for every post you publish (in addition to the headline writing practice you’ve committed to). Share your headlines with friends or co-workers to get feedback. This will accomplish two things at once:
- You’ll have an easier time selecting the best blog title of the list for each post.
- You’ll get more information on which titles people respond to. In other words, you’ll be expanding your sample set of one to however many people you can get to review your title options and weigh in for each post.
You may find the titles others respond to aren’t the ones you liked the most and that’s valuable information to have before you hit the publish button.
6. Don’t Oversell.
If you’ve heard anyone use the term click bait, you know it tends to get said in a tone of derision or at least annoyance. People hate clicking on a link based on the promise of an appealing headline, only to be disappointed in the content that’s actually there. For websites that have a business model where they make money based on the number of clicks they get, these types of titles may make a certain amount of sense to use. But if you have a business you want people to trust, they’re a terrible idea.
Make sure the blog title you use matches the content of the post. Don’t say your content is going to “blow your mind” when it probably won’t (how would someone measure that anyways?). Don’t say your blog post is the “definitive guide to” what you’re writing about if it’s a short post only covering the basics of the topic.
If you decide to make a big sell in your headline, then do the work to make a blog post that delivers, or figure out another headline.
7. Appeal to Emotions.
Whether or not we recognize why we click and share blog posts in the moment we do so, researchers have found that it’s often an emotional decision. Blog titles that appeal to the reader’s emotions are therefore powerful, especially for inspiring shares. CoSchedule analyzed the number of shares different posts got based on their Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Score and found that those with the highest scores got considerably more shares than those with low scores.
Where possible, use terms that evoke emotions in your readers, like surprising, exclusive, or delighted. Think about what you want your readers to feel when they click and work on providing that in the post and describe what they can expect in the blog title.
8. Be Specific.
People want to know what they’re clicking on. You may feel like being a little vague could make people more interested or give the blog title broader appeal, but more often it will just make it easier for people to scroll past your title without interest. A specific blog title tells them what questions you’re answering and information you’re providing. The reader will recognize if that’s information they want or need and can make an informed decision on whether or not that click is worth their time.
HubSpot’s data backs this up. In testing over 3 million headlines, they noticed that titles that give people more information about the type of content format they’re getting (e.g. putting [Interview] or [Template] in the title) performed 38% better than those that didn’t include that information.
9. Do A/B Testing.
You can do a lot of headline research into what generally works well (and that’s valuable to know!), but ultimately, you need to figure out what works for your target audience. For that, you need to do A/B testing. While every blog post you publish gives you some data on what headlines work, you can figure out more detailed information by putting two headlines against each other.
Whenever your title brainstorming leads to two strong contenders, set up an A/B test and see what happens. You can make some conjectures about what makes the winning blog title work better in each test, but where you’ll really gain insights is by looking at the trends over time. Maybe your audience responds better to blog titles with negative wording in them than positive, or maybe they consistently go for how-to headlines.
The more data you collect in your testing, the more you’ll know about how to get those clicks in the future blog titles you write.
10. Write Blog Titles for YOUR Audience.
You don’t need everyone on the internet to like your blog titles, but you do need the people in your target audience to like them. General knowledge on best practices for writing blog titles is good to have when getting started, but the longer you publish on your blog and analyze what works for your audience, the more your blog title strategies should be based on your own data.
You’re not writing these blog titles for you or to sound clever to other marketers or even your boss. For you to do your job, the only people that need to respond to your blog titles are the ones you want reading your blog. Always keep that in mind when deciding which titles you go with.
When you have a business blog, it may seem like every day you learn about more work you’re supposed to be doing to get results. It’s frustrating to have to add spending more time on blog titles to your to-do list, but while it seems like a small part of the overall whole of a blog post, it really is the part that each post’s overall success hinges on. If you want the other work you’re doing to pay off, then this is an important step to take.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.