Can a short string of words really have that much impact on your content’s performance? Yes, and more than you probably realize. According to Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley, headlines can cause inbound traffic to vary by up to 500%.
In fact, headlines are so important to hot biz-tech site Quartz that publisher Jay Lauf admits they won’t write an article until they’ve come up with a headline that’ll spread like wildfire across Twitter.
So if you’re not thrilled with the engagement you’re seeing in Hootsuite or GA, your blog’s headlines could be the culprit. To turn things around, ask your writing team to experiment with these strategies cribbed from professional journalists.
Scrutinize your headlines
While many pros advocate writing as many as 25 headlines, non-editors can get tripped up when it comes time to evaluate them. Fortunately The Atlantic’s Matt Thompson shared the headline checklist he runs through before hitting ‘publish.’ Below are the questions I found most relevant to content marketers:
Does it provide a compelling reason to click?
— Upworthy (@Upworthy) November 22, 2015
Would a number make it more appealing?
— Mashable (@mashable) December 1, 2015
When The Guardian conducted an online survey last year, they discovered that even numbers were perceived to be more trustworthy. The outliers: odd numbers ending in five and the number seven, which handily trumped all others.
Does it explain anything? Should it?
— Vox (@voxdotcom) November 22, 2015
Could it be improved with superlatives?
— SAVEUR (@SAVEURMAG) November 22, 2015
You shouldn’t limit yourself to positive words like Easiest, Greatest, Hottest or Biggest. According to Co.Schedule, negative superlatives perform up to 30% better!
Don’t assume a hook-y headline is enough
Here’s a startling stat from Copyblogger: only 20% of those who see a headline will go on to finish a post. How can you get more people to read to completion?
It all starts with the lede, an old-school journalism term for an article’s opening. For advice on crafting intriguing intros, I pulled these tips from the Associated Press Guide To Newswriting:
- Don’t bury the news
Start with the most pertinent information. Take this Intel post, for example. It lets readers know what it’s about right from the get-go.
- Avoid saying too much
While details are great, don’t let them distract. The first paragraph in this Netflix-sponsored article has just enough facts to grab someone’s attention.
- Find what’s different
Look for the unusual or unique and bring it to the fore. Red Bull’s profile of NFL running back Baron Batch has a surprising hook.
- Add a little color
Paint a picture with a clever phase or a bit of humor. Newcastle’s native ad doesn’t take itself too seriously — and that’s why it works.
Even if Pablo Escobar and British brews aren’t part of your editorial calendar, you’ll want your writers to keep the above advice in mind. After all, ensuring your blog gets read takes more than just paid distribution — it needs killer headlines and strong lead-ins, too.
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