Will people consume your content or ignore it? As a small business publisher, the difference between those two outcomes starts with the headline. It’s not just a case of write it and they will read it. With so much content around, your headline must truly engage to attract attention. Here’s how to make sure it does every time.
First let’s look at why headlines are so important.
What’s the Big Deal About Headlines, Anyway?
With millions of blog posts published daily and a wealth of social media content produced every minute, people need a way to figure out what’s worth paying attention to. The headline is how they decide.
This applies when people search for information online, when they browse your website, and when they see your ads on other sites. The bottom line is that writing engaging headlines is the first step to attracting traffic to your website.
Clickbait or Clickable: Does it Matter?
When thinking about engaging headlines, one issue that’s sometimes confusing is whether you need clickbait headlines or clickable ones. There’s a huge difference in the user experience between the two.
Clickbait headlines are enticing, but most of the time they don’t deliver. If people click on a headline, visit your site and then don’t find what they expect, they’ll click away fast. That’s bad for your reputation, and it reduces your content’s prominence in search results.
In contrast, clickable headlines make people want to click AND they deliver what visitors expect when they land on a web page. This validates the decision to click, and makes visitors more likely to stick around or return.
Tips For Headlines That Work
Here are a few tips to guide the headline creation process. First of all, don’t be afraid to experiment with multiple headlines. Many publishers and bloggers write 25 or more headlines before picking the one they think will work best for a piece of content or ad.
Next, keep headlines short. According to CoSchedule, the ideal headline length is six words or 50-70 characters. But don’t be afraid to go longer if necessary.
Make sure your headline tells potential visitors what to expect. Whether you play it straight or use humor, readers want to know what they’re getting. Related to that, show the benefit, by letting them know how it will help them.
You can also appeal to the emotions to entice people to click. Surprise, curiosity, simplicity, and urgency all make your headlines more interesting. This list of power words will help you get started.
Winning Headline Templates
BuzzSumo says that the most successful headlines contain words that relate to the post format, the type of content, emotions, a trending topic, and a promise to the reader, e.g. 25 Surprising Stats That’ll Make You a Marketing Genius.
There are some types of headlines that consistently engage audiences. These include:
- The number or list headline, e.g. 4 Tips for Writing Engaging Headlines
- The how-to headline, e.g. How to Write Engaging Headlines for Your Articles
- The question-based headline, e.g. How Do Publishers Write Engaging Headlines?
- The command headline, e.g. Use These Tips to Write Headlines That Win Traffic
- The story headline, e.g. What Happened When I Wrote 25 Engaging Headlines
- The fear-based headline, e.g. Warning! These 5 Headline Types Will Tank Your Traffic
Use these as a starting point for creating your own.
How to Use Keyword Trends to Write Engaging Headlines
One way to make your headlines instantly more appealing is to combine winning headline types with current trends. Use Taboola Keyword Trends to find keywords with a high engagement rate.
Create headlines using those keywords based on some of the headline types listed above. (You can also use BuzzSumo’s content analyzer to find the most shared content with those keywords, and use those titles as a prompt.)
Then use Taboola Title Analyzer to test your titles, and find those with a high predicted click through rate (CTR).
Here are a few examples for different sectors:
We looked at desktop users in the education sector. We found that using the words ‘perfect’ and ‘test’ in a title lifts engagement by 104% and 191% respectively.
Based on our research, we created two possible titles:
- 6 Ways to Get Perfect Test Scores on Your SATs (list post)
- 11 Tips to Help Your Students Get Perfect Test Scores (list post)
The second headline vastly outperformed the first, probably because it uses an odd number, has the superlative ‘perfect’ and the word ‘help’ is emotive.
Health and Fitness
In the health and fitness vertical, across all devices, keyword trends research suggested that a title about eating bananas would be engaging.
We came up with three headline options:
- Is Eating Bananas Bad For You? Learn the Facts (question-based)
- I Ate 20 Bananas This Week. Here’s What Happened (story-based)
- The Hidden Truth About Eating Bananas (emotional appeal)
The third headline was the clear winner. That’s because it inspires curiosity with the word ‘hidden’ and includes the engaging keywords identified earlier.
Following the same process, the Taboola Trends tool suggested high engagement keywords in the auto vertical included ‘worthless,’ ‘soon,’ ‘plummeting’ and ‘value.’ After cross-checking on BuzzSumo, we tried these possible headlines:
- Warning! Your Auto Trade-in Value Could Soon Be Worthless (fear-based and emotive)
- How to Avoid Plummeting Trade-in Values (how-to)
Though the warning headline is very emotive, it could also seem over-hyped and more like clickbait. So it’s no surprise that the popular how-to headline offers a better predicted CTR.
The Trends tool shows that ‘break’ and ‘take’ are top performing terms in the business vertical. Headlines about taking breaks are also popular in BuzzSumo. Here are a couple of ideas we tested:
- 9 Reasons to Take a Break From Your Business
- How to Take Breaks and Still Win Business
While the first title originally scored well, the how-to ended up the clear winner.
Keyword trends in the food vertical suggest that headlines about blood pressure achieve high engagement and these also perform well according to BuzzSumo’s data. We tested these two options:
- 5 Tips to Lower Your Blood Pressure Safely
- Blood Pressure Woes? The Best Way to Stay in Control
The second headline has a higher predicted CTR than the first. It identifies the issue at the start, and seems to offer a solution. But when you add the word ‘simple’ or a number, both those versions outperform the originals. With people looking for easy solutions, simplicity has more click appeal.
What We Learned
This data shows that following formulas for writing engaging headlines is a good start. And, you’ll have even more success if you use current keyword trends to improve engagement and CTR. Don’t be afraid to test multiple versions till you find the title that works best for you.