Your headline can make or break the success of your content marketing efforts, so it’s important to spend time crafting a powerful headline strategy.
The time you spend on creating a headline worth clicking will pay off in more traffic, more engagement and more powerful marketing results.
In this guide, you’ll learn about major headline trends, using active verbs, SEO considerations, headline strategies and how to rely on subheadings when need be.
Take Trendy Headlines to Task
The best way to determine a headline’s success is to test it with some traffic. How does your audience respond to it? Look at the below trends and if one suits your audience, give it a try.
If you use a program that allows you to do split testing, even better! You can compare version A to version B and get even more insight into your audience.
Ok, let’s review these 4 headline types and strategies to boost your content marketing and SEO.
You’ve probably seen listicle trends on social media and on popular blog sites.
Thanks to the influence of Buzzfeed and other new media sites, there’s a trend toward “listicle” headlines that combine a list format with some hook.
For example, you might see articles with titles like:
- 10 Reasons to Do Less Chores Each Day
- 15 Reasons Why Wix Websites Are Bad For SEO
- Three Things Your Cat is Trying to Tell You
The reason you see article titles like this seemingly everywhere is because they work. They promise a very simple to read, scannable article and list articles deliver just that. Readers are busy and they want to know what they are getting themselves into before they commit the time to read the full article.
The listicles work like an insurance policy for the reader – they’ll get exactly what they expect.
The fact of the day: According to a recent study 8 out of 10 people will read the headline only, but only 2 out of 10 will read the full content.
Listicles aren’t the only type that has become a popular trend. Have you noticed article headings getting increasingly casual and informal? While they used to mimic newspapers, they are almost conversational now.
- Click Like if You Agree with President Trump
- If You’ve Got a Bad Attitude, just… Stop Already!
- Eww, I Can’t Even Handle the Fall
Another article title trend is the question-based article title.
- Are You Talking Too Much, Too Often or Not Enough?
- Can You Believe the Latest Stats On Obesity?
- Are You Taking Enough Vitamin C?
However, if you do create a headline with a question be sure that you are aware of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines which states that “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with the word no.”
Work very hard to create a question headline that invites exploration. In an age of instant gratification, readers can’t resist a heading that invites them to guess and click to find the answer.
Pro Tip: Question-based headlines are also useful if you want to optimize your content for Google’s Answer Box.
Speaking of instant gratification, no headline delivers it better than the teasing headline. It reveals just enough to get the reader very curious, and invites a click over to the main article to scratch that curiosity.
- You’re About to Hate This New Google Update
- This Mom Tries One New Thing; You Won’t Believe What Happens Next
- You Won’t Believe What Happened to This Woman After Plastic Surgery
Teaser headings can be used effectively, but only if you don’t overuse them. As with all types of content marketing, your mileage may vary depending on your audience, your keywords, and other publishing factors.
Take trends to the task and do some testing of them on your own. You may find a winning combination.
Use Action Orientation and the Active Voice
When you write a headline you’re writing to inform as well as inspire action. That’s why it’s so important to use action-oriented language, like verbs, to give it power. Insist, delay, strive, cease and extend are all strong, descriptive, punchy verbs that can make good headlines.
Simplify language wherever you can to make your titles more action-oriented.
For example, you can always opt for specific verbs that describe a single action – win, steal, borrow, find, etc. Avoid dull and weak verbs like is and are, can, will or may. Create a simpler language to make it more action-oriented.
For example, instead of made an appearance simply say appear. Instead of take into consideration, use consider.
It’s shorter, more to the point and more engaging.
Another way to be more engaging and action-oriented is to use the active voice. With the active voice, you just put the actor in the situation at the front of the sentence.
For example, A Woman Beats Sales Record rather than Sales Record is Broken by a Woman. Using the active voice is more straightforward and engaging to your audience.
Write your headlines for people, but keep the search engines in mind! – Emin Sinanyan
Keep The Search Engines in Mind
Engaging your human audience is one thing, but engaging search engines is another thing entirely. Headings must appease both audiences – people and search engine bots – and if you want your article to get found and read, you need to make sure your headline is doing double duty.
It all starts by considering your keywords and key phrases that your ideal customers are likely to be using. Brainstorm a list of keyword phrases that searchers are likely to be using to find a product or service like yours.
Using these keywords and key phrases in your heading will attract the right kind of traffic to your article.
Using a tool like the Google Keyword Planner, as well as SEMrush, can help you find the right keyword phrases to use that will attract the right audience.
Headlines are one of the main places that search engines use to look to categorize a page’s subject, so it’s important to use the right keyword phrases.
Examples of keyword enhanced headlines include:
- Five Ways to Better Digestive Health
- Earning on Etsy: Your Total Guide
- The Pros and Cons of HP’s 2017 Laptop
You can always use your keyword followed by a colon and then use a more creative phrasing for the rest of the headline. There’s an easy way for meeting both the needs of the search engines and the needs of your human readers.
Rely on Subheads for More Details
Sometimes you’ll find that a single heading just can’t cover enough of what you want to summarize. Maybe you’ve created a longer length article, or have an article that covers multiple subjects. That’s where the subhead can come to the rescue!
The subhead is short for the subordinate heading, and it comes after the main headline in a smaller font or less bold typeface. It gives you an opportunity to offer critical information about your article and further information for the reader to scan. While the main headline grabs the reader’s attention with the broad idea, the subhead or subheads can add more details to the entire picture.
Notice how we used the above subheading in this article?
The main keyword-optimized subheading with a bolder and larger font is “Headline Strategies:”. And the less important subheading is with smaller and lighter font “Use Action Orientation and the Active Voice.”
By testing trends out for yourself, working in the active voice, relying on SEO and considering subheads, you can craft a winning headline strategy each and every time.