I write about headlines a lot. I’ve compared them to movie themes and talked about how to make them awesome, but what I haven’t yet really addressed are some of the things I see often being done that prevent me (and lots of other readers, most likely) from reading an article.
You probably already know that you need to have killer headlines if you want to get your content read by lots of people. Most people read a LOT of headlines on any given day, so yours has to be good to grab their attention. If you feel like you’re doing pretty well but you want to take your headlines to the next level, you might want to skip to this post. But if you’re a beginner and just getting started with your headlines, start here.
Reading this should prevent you from making some of the most common rookie mistakes I see being made way too often.
Making It All About You
Unless your blog is a journal (and that’s totally fine if it is… but don’t expect much growth unless you’re a celebrity or have a particularly fascinating life) then you’re going to always want to keep in mind that your reader doesn’t care all that much about the ins and outs of your life.
It’s not that you’re not a lovely person. I’m sure you’re just fantastic. But if your headline includes the word “me”, “my”, “I” or something similar, you might want to consider a quick rewrite. Why? Because it’s human nature for your reader to be wondering what’s in it for them if they read your post. Make sure they can clearly understand what benefit, entertainment or helpful information they’ll get if they read your article.
Don’t tell me 8 reasons you love your goldfish. Tell me why I should get a goldfish… and maybe I will!
Using Series Titles In Your Headline
Many bloggers like to take a serial approach to their posts, and it’s not a bad idea, particularly if you’re known for something. My friend (and IBA board member) Lauren Tamm has had a ton of success with her posts on Baby Sleep, so she does a fabulous baby sleep series, which was a fantastic idea for her.
What she DOESN’T do, however, is use the name of the series in her titles. This is smart. Why? Because she knows it isn’t essential to the specific topic of each post. Remember that Google likes us to keep our titles under 70 characters, and each one of them should be as relevant and compelling as possible. Why waste those precious characters on a series title?
The reality is, for most of us, the readers who visit our post won’t stick around for the rest of the series. Its title isn’t what makes them want to read your post– so don’t include it. If you want to have Watermelon Wednesdays, by all means do that, but maybe save the series title for a quick note in your opening paragraph. That will work just as well, and give you a much better chance at creating a stellar headline.
Using Hashtags and @ Symbols
I don’t see this a ton, but it does happen– mostly because of sharing platforms like Triberr that rely heavily on sharing on Twitter. Triberr users do this sometimes because they figure if most people will be automatically sharing their title to Twitter, they might as well format it… twitter-style.
Now, I suppose if you’re a Triberr superstar and that’s where most of your traffic is coming from, you might be able to get away with this… but just be aware that it makes your posts look considerably less professional on any other network a potential reader might see it. (Full disclosure? I’ve totally done this in the past… in fact I’ve probably done all of these! So, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.)
Being Too Vague
This is the most common culprit of headline mediocrity, in my opinion. It happens a lot on family-centered blogs, but I see it everywhere. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– it has to be abundantly clear from your headline what the reader will learn or experience in your post.
If it isn’t clear, then how can you expect anyone to want to read it?
Sounding Too “Pitchy”
Doing a sponsored post from time to time is not a bad thing; I know lots of bloggers who’ve done really well with them. But as far as your headlines are concerned, there’s a right and a wrong way to do this.
Please know that I’m speaking as a reader here, and not an advertiser. I realize that some advertisers have specific requirements for how you word things, and if that’s the case, hey, what can you do? But as a reader, there are few things more off-putting than a headline that screams “I’m a commercial!” You might as well make your headline, “I’m a super boring and pointless post, please don’t read me.”
On a side note, I might actually click through and read a post with that title, come to think of it. =)
One of my favorite bloggers is Mel over at The Nectar Collective. Now there’s a girl who knows how to write a classy affiliate post! The trick to doing this? Do what Mel does and always provide value and helpful information– make it about helping the reader, not the advertiser– and the advertiser will actually benefit more from your happy readers, so everybody wins.
Other great bloggers to watch for examples of great affiliate posts are Lara at Overstuffed and Katelyn at What’s Up Fagans. They also do a lovely job with their affiliate stuff, making it content I actually WANT to read– sometimes I don’t even notice it’s a sponsored post. That’s the way to do it!
Now I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of a little “sizzle” in a headline. But there IS such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you promise in your headline “How to Make a Million Dollars by This Time Tomorrow” I’m going to be a bit skeptical. Make sure your headline doesn’t promise something your post can’t deliver.
That said, if you know how to make me a million dollars by this time tomorrow, please do write about it and let me know. I would like to buy a Rug Doctor.
Made of diamonds.
Over to You
What are some headline mistakes you see being made? What kinds of headlines attract your attention as a reader? I’d love to hear from you!