How to write a killer blog headline

headline

Newspaper headline writing is an art, taught to sub-editors over many years. A great headline can make you smile, think, stop in your tracks.

Your headline is the thing which will be shared on social media. Get it right, and it could be the reason hundreds, or thousands, of people read on.

The reason news media do headlines so well is simple: they write it at the end of the process, not the beginning. They know the story.

In the same vein, your blog headline should never be written until you have typed the last full stop on your post. It should not be written until you have re-read that post at least three times.

Here are the basic rules:

Use short, active words – A punchy headline grabs the attention. Cut out unnecessary words, especially adverbs, in a headline.

It must contain a verb – Making the headline active means using a verb, even if that verb’s ‘is’, or ‘are’.

Use figures – Don’t write them out as words. Studies have also shown that using figures in a headline makes it more attractive to the reader. Round monetary figures up, or down, to the nearest hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, half million.

Make it accurate – Don’t write a sensational but inaccurate headline to suck readers into the post. They’ll feel cheated.

Reflect your content – Throwing in a celebrity name to the headline, for example, without backing that up in the post will backfire on you. Again, your readers will feel cheated.

Don’t use tortuous puns – No matter how tempted you feel, just don’t do it. This isn’t about showing how cleverly you can write, it’s about communicating with your target audience. That kind of pun can be a real turn-off to some readers.

Don’t over-use exclamation marks – In newspapers, we call them ‘screamers’ because they are often over-used to scream out content to the reader. Most of the time, the content really doesn’t deserve an exclamation mark.

Read it aloud – If it sounds convoluted, or ridiculous, delete and start again. If it can’t be said easily, it can’t be read easily.

Will it appeal to your target audience? – Ask yourself how, and why they would read on. Think about their problems, how they like to spend their time when you’re making this decision.

You’ve probably seen a thousand social media posts offering you the perfect formula for blog headline writing. Some of them offer useful tips.

However, beware.

If you’re seeing these social media posts, so are a million other bloggers. It’s all too easy to spot a formula headline.

While those tips are great, don’t follow them slavishly. The other thing to remember is that those formula headlines weren’t written with your target audience in mind. They’re written to appeal to the widest audience possible.

For you, that’s not the aim. Your aim is to speak directly to your ideal customers.

Think about this: your ideal customer is Yvonne, a married small business owner in her 50s whose time is precious, who has two grandchildren and cares about their future. She has an income of between £35,000 and £45,000 a year, likes to travel to Italy and eat out regularly.

Is this headline going to speak to her?: “Discover 50 awesome nightclubs within 50 miles of you”.

You already know the answer, don’t you?

Don’t forget SEO: Search engine optimisation is still very important when it comes to writing blog headlines. Your keyword research should help you – which words appeal to your ideal customers? How can you incorporate them in an organic way?

Some headline power words: There are some words which people find innately attractive. “Discover”, “Find”, and “Secrets” arouse our curiosity and make us want to find out more.

“Powerful”, “effective”, and “hacks” make us feel the content we’re about to read is hitting our usefulness sweet spot. So does the word “useful”.

If you have great images, don’t be afraid to use “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, and “stunning”.

If you’re writing in the first person, use “my” to make that clear in the headline – people like personal content.

Too busy to blog yourself? Drop me an email on maria@wordsyoucanuse.co.uk.

 

 

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Why businesses need to search for Mr and Ms Right

 

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Sometimes, we feel like there’s a deluge of information on the internet. It can be off-putting, confusing.

There’s so much content out there right now. The thing you have to remember is that most of it isn’t useful to your target audience.

You need to be different. You need to speak directly to them.

You need to find your Mr and Ms Right.

Building a profile of your ideal customer/s is the starting point.

It all starts with data.

Your data will show you who is buying your products or services, and who is interacting with your social media posts. That’s not to say all of them are your ideal customers, but it must be your starting point.

Here are your sources of data:

Google Analytics – if you haven’t got this activated on your website, activate it now. It’s still the gold standard when it comes to seeing website visitor numbers and the levels of engagement. Its demographics function also gives you a great deal of information about your website visitors. Please be aware, though, that a cookies warning may well be necessary for those activating the demographics part of the service.

Twitter Analytics – Twitter gives you a great deal of information about those who view and interact with your posts. It tells you what interests your followers (business, news, sport, comedy, etc), the age range and gender breakdown, what sort of devices they use, and even which mobile phone/broadband service they use. Twitter has shown me that a growing number of people are viewing my tweets via iPhones and iPads, and Android phones, continuing the trend towards mobile.

Facebook and other social media – Facebook can show you a great deal about those who engage with your posts including locality, age range, friendship networks, interests (via your followers’ likes), and other social media you use regularly can also give you good insights into who is interacting with you.

Your sales records – It’s amazing how many people overlook this. Your own records have great insights into who is buying your products or services, and how they are using them. It’s an excellent starting point. If you don’t know how old they are, what brought them to you, etc, why not consider a customer questionnaire to help you improve your service?

Take a few days to plough through all of this information. Pick out the age range, gender balance, locality, their interests, where they ‘hang out’ on social media, whether they are professionals.

Now, you have a basic profile. You should know whether you are targeting women in their 40s or professional 20-somethings.

Most people would stop there. Don’t. Your ideal customer profile has to be very detailed. Now, you have to take a look at marketing data about your specific age range and gender group.

A good place to start would be marketing studies carried out by academics, professional bodies, or marketing media.

It’s as simple as Googling “marketing to women in their 40s”, for example, and seeing what comes up. You’ll soon find information which is highly useful. Did you know that 96 per cent of women in their 40s make all or most of the major spending decisions for their households? Neither did I until I started profiling a customer’s ideal clients.

From all of this data and information you’ve gathered, you should now have a feel for where you’re going with your profile. At some point, the data has to be supplemented by your intuition about those who will buy from your business, and why.

How will your target audience find you on the web?

What kind of keywords could you use? There are a number of keyword finder tools – both paid for and free – which you could use in your research.

Google has shut down its free keyword search tool and now you have to access its keyword searcher via Adwords here: https://adwords.google.co.uk/KeywordPlanner.

There are plenty of other keyword research tools you could use, including these:

http://keywordtool.io/

http://www.wordstream.com/keyword-tools

http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/search/

http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/

http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html

http://ubersuggest.org/

http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster/

Need help with blogging for your business? Email maria@wordsyoucanuse.co.uk. Check out what my company does here