By: Marilyn L. Davis
Without A Great Headline, People Don’t Read the Content
“If you use a poor headline, it does not matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read.” – John Caples
Too often, people spend considerable time on their content, writing that killer sentence in conclusion. And it may be a great sentence, but if your headline attracted no one, it’s just sitting there, lonely on the web.
I’m certainly not telling you to ignore great content, but to let you know that it won’t get read, liked, shared, or help you get that book deal if no one reads it because the headline wasn’t as good as the content.
How To Immediately Engage Your Reader with Your Headline
How do you engage a reader? – with a headline that grabs their attention. Well, you’re thinking, that goes without saying, but I’m serious. Grab them immediately. First Word. What are some words that will get their attention?
Notice that some are in caps? This emphasis will immediately get someone’s attention, but don’t overdo it, and be sure that what follows confirms the focus.
Make Your Headline Work with your Topic
Can’t quite figure out how any of those words would work for your topics? Then play around with similar terms and see if you can’t create a headline that gets their attention. I’ll give you an idea of how I might use one word for both of my blogs:
- WARNING: These Activities Might Take You Back to Your Use (For From Addict 2 Advocate)
- WARNING: SEO Strategies Have Changed – Has Your Blog? (For Two Drops of Ink)
Your Headline Starts with One Word – Make It Powerful
- Free usually gets someone’s attention.
- Trending keywords need to be prominent
- Create a Call to Action
- Ask a Question
Is It Truly Free?
We’ve all clicked on the free, scrolled for several minutes only to find out that the free action was just us clicking; to get any helpful information, we have to pay. Don’t do that to your readers.
Think about downloading an app; at least they tell you upfront that there are in-app purchases. If you’re going to offer free and paid, let the readers know.
Trending Keywords and Life Examples Make Good Headlines
Trends, by definition, are something hot today, but most trends are fleeting, so research all similar words and see if there aren’t long-tail keywords that you can strategically insert. But again, don’t overdo it.
Beyond keywords, trends are happening in the world. I’m not talking about where the nouveau riche are vacationing, either; in fact, social distancing seems the opposite, but the pandemic forced all of us to rethink our social worlds.
So words and phrases like isolation, work from home, how to homeschool if you’re not a teacher, and many other terms for avoiding the virus became trending words starting in 2020.
Know Your Keywords and Incorporate Them in Your Headline
While addiction ranks well in Google searches, it’s often combined with treatment for the following: faith, 12-step, secular-based programs, and this means that I’ve got to qualify my SEO for From Addict 2 Advocate. I write about addiction, recovery, and changes but don’t offer treatment.
Yet, recovery is one of the most searched words for ‘addiction,’ so I’ll work it into a title: Early Recovery Jobs: Lowered Expectations and Higher Rewards. I’ve managed to incorporate recovery, jobs, and rewards into a headline that defines what the post is about and used high-ranking keywords.
Call to Action
We use a Call To Action (CTA) to get our readers to do something. But if you don’t make it worthwhile or helpful to them, they will rarely engage.
The most obvious use for a Call To Action is “Buy Now!”
But what if you aren’t directly selling something? It doesn’t matter; your Call to Action can get you, additional followers on your social media pages with a prompt like, “Follow us on FB, Linked In, Twitter, or Instagram to get more writing tips.”
Hyperlink all of your social media sites and let the readers decide which they want to follow. Whichever they choose, you’ve gotten a new follower.
Hyperlinking to similar posts, either an inbound link to a post on your blog or another writer’s, is also a way to help readers know more about the topic by asking them to click a link indirectly.
Everyone has answers – yes, some are better than others, but people like to know that their opinions, resources, or experiences matter.
For instance, I’d like to know how your make your headlines grab a reader’s attention. So I’ll ask:
- What have you noticed about your best headlines?
- Are there words and phrases that attract more readers to your site?
- Do you write your headline before or after you write the content?
Regardless of the answers, these questions can provide me with helpful, funny, or thought-provoking responses.
Find the Right Readers with Your Headline
While SEO is important, you’re still writing for humans, not just search engines. We no longer have to speak GoogleFu when searching, whew, that’s a relief.
We’re able to ask conversational questions to find what we want. Ensure that you’ve got keywords in your headline and that they show up in your content without overdoing them.
Humans want to be entertained, educated, and enchanted – and if you play around with the intent of your post, you can convey it in your headline.
Use Your Categories in the Headline
We’ve made some things simple at Two Drops of Ink, and our headlines will often reflect the category of the post. Some of our categories are:
- Poetry Breaks
- Sunday Spotlight
- Grammar Shorts
- Literary Agent News
- Hump Day Humor
The headline follows each category, and in some cases that includes the contributor.
All of this means that our headline has specific keywords. If someone is searching for entertainment like poetry or a spotlight of a particular writer, it’s easier to find us, and we might get views that we otherwise wouldn’t.
We’ve also made our tagline straightforward: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing, and your tagline should tell them the who, what, and why as well.
Engaged Readers Share Your Writing
When your content is shared, show your appreciation. If I’ve posted to a page with an administrator who decides whether or not to post my blog, I go in and thank them tagging their name when it’s published. That’s just common curtesy.
Know Who’s Likely to Share Your Post
We hear about our tribes, those people who we have something in common with – the like-minded, the cause-driven comrades, the friends in the dark times, the ones who “get us.”
We support each other, have bonds of friendship, shared interests, and we’re more likely to share a tribe member’s post. I’ve got my writing tribe and my addiction and recovery tribe. Sometimes, they overlap. I know that people are dying from their addictions, and quality posts that will reach people still struggling with addictions are something that I share. It’s reciprocal—my tribe shares mine, and I share theirs. Often, I’m attracted to the headline, just like everyone else.
Are you still looking for your tribe? Start with Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, and Twitter. Each has a search function where you look for the keywords or headlines that interest you. Join some groups and begin interacting.
Headlines: That’s What Readers Share
According to the New York Times study:
- 68% of the population shares to define themselves
- 84% share information about causes that touch them
- 73% share to attract like-minded individuals
A simple search of beliefs, causes, occupations, hobbies, or interests will help you find pages or groups of interest.
Then it’s up to you to interact.
Shares for Others Represent You, Too
Okay, someone sharing my post is beneficial to me. So, how do my shares by another writer demonstrate who I am and indirectly bring me notice? There are four ways this works. My shares give potential readers a link to a helpful article, sending subtle messages about me. For instance, in a share, I might provide:
- Worthwhile Content for Others
Benefit 1: The unstated message: “I believe in this topic/writer/issue. I think this is informative/interesting/entertaining.”
- Articles Defining my Beliefs, Ideas, and Interests to Others
Benefit 2: The unstated message: “This is me written by someone else.”
- Links to Like-Minded Individuals for Online Connections
Benefit 3: The unstated message: “I added this link as we think, feel, and believe in similar ideas.
- A Call to Action for Social Problems, Injustices, and Causes
Benefit 4: The unstated message: “These are the causes, social issues, or injustices that arouse my passion, and I want you to know about this subject.”
So next time you're struggling with your headline, remember to grab them from the get-go, make sure your keywords have value and begin compiling your data to know which headlines attract the most readers. Click To Tweet
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
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