It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you expend trying to craft incredible content, it’s all for nothing if your headlines don’t grab attention. We’ve all struggled with these essential elements from time to time – sometimes stressing far too much for our own good.
And that’s no surprise. A study in 2016 found that 59% of links shared on social media had never actually been clicked. Others have found that 80% of readers never get past the headline – suggesting that we aren’t always getting it right. And as Wired reports, traffic can fluctuate by 500% depending on which headline is chosen.
However, there are some principles and concepts to keep in mind when formulating heading text which can help you match them with viewer interests, SEO, and the content they are attached to. So let’s get stuck in and run through a few ideas that never seem to fail.
Understanding the Art of the Headline: Core Principles
1. Test Your Headlines Before Posting
The first thing to master is A/B testing for headlines. Most of us test pages for SEO performance based on keywords and length, so why not do the same for different headlines?
Set aside time and budget for testing, and be prepared to make a few adjustments along the way. And if something succeeds, try to ask why? Who appreciated it, and felt the desire to find out more? Sometimes headers can apply to certain groups of people, and knowing who they appeal to can make a huge difference.
2. Be Keyword Savvy
Keywords are extremely important when writing headers for SEO purposes, which applies to most of our blog readers. So research terms which are relevant to the main body text, and use high value keywords in headline formulation.
Don’t stuff your header with keywords. Pick one (or possibly two) which are most relevant to searches and use them accordingly.
3. Stay Relevant at all Times
Similarly, your headline must align with the content it precedes. Any veteran internet users will have experienced the wave of clickbait which flooded the web in the 2000s and 2010s. In those days, it seemed like the most outlandish headers could win every time.
Nowadays, the game has changed. Google’s search algorithm has tightened up, and won’t reward clickbait in the same way. But it will reward accurate headers that reflect the content of their text body. So resist the urge to over-elaborate. Stay on point and relevant to succeed.
4. Size Matters
How long your headings are is another determinant of their SEO reach. At the moment, Google uses the first 62 characters of headers to look for relevant keywords (so front load headers if possible). Anything over that number, and you may be penalised.
However, if you need to say more in a headline, be sure to do so. Precision can outweigh raw keyword ranking, especially in niche areas where you can really exploit the search terms that customers use. Then again, sticking to six to ten words will help to keep the attention of readers. Never get wordy. Precision and concision are all-important.
5. Grab Attention with Data
Bland headlines aren’t likely to blow away the competition, no matter how accurate they may be. Instead, it’s a good idea to add a relevant statistic (such as “increase sales by 55% with Anonicorp’s services”).
The headline number is a good focal point, and projects an air of authority – providing you avoid the appearance of clickbait.
6. To Ask or not? That is the Question
Another popular strategy is to build your headers as questions. This is a good way of structuring them so they appeal to readers (people naturally tend to read until the end of questions) and it has some SEO benefits, too.
If you find a question that fits the kind of searches made by your target demographic, and you can link this question to your brand, you could be in business. As voice search becomes more common, questions are also likely to become ever more relevant.
Mix Unmissable Headlines with Incredible Content
All of these ideas put together provide a good grounding in headline writing. But is that enough to generate conversions? Yes and no. If you master headers, you’ll see increased traffic. But if people click through to content that doesn’t match the quality of the headline, there’s no guarantee that conversions will grow.
Avoid that eventuality by optimising your body text and headers. At greatcontent, we can assist with all areas of content production. So get in touch with our team, and we’ll find a solution.
Text: Sam Urquhart
Image: Nathan Dumlao on unsplash.com