This guest post is by Peter Sandeen of Affect Selling.
Do you know why most of your blog’s visitors quickly scroll down your home page, read a couple of headlines, and go back to watching cute kitty videos on YouTube?
And why those who begin reading a post, only read the first two paragraphs before leaving to read their favorite blogs—blogs which might not even be as good as yours is?
There are two principles behind the solution.
The principles are simple, but not necessarily easy. But when you do get them right, you’re much closer to your goal of having the most popular blog in the world, and getting an email from Darren Rowse asking if you could read his guest post idea for your blog (I’m still waiting for this to happen…).
If you write posts that don’t get read, you’re wasting your time. Your audience can’t grow, AdSense will keep making you $0.08 per month, and your email list’s reach will stay limited to your mom and your dog (for whom you created an email address to have more subscribers).
If and when you start to use these principles in your posts, you’ll see a shift in your audience; they’ll share your posts on social media, they’ll leave comments, and they subscribe to get more of your content.
Here are the principles you must know, to have any chance of making it as a blogger. Just understanding them will get you leaps and bounds ahead of other bloggers in your niche.
The headline captures attention
The headline is the most important part of any post. Why? Because people either read your posts or leave your site based on your headlines.
In other words, publishing a post without a great headline won’t do you any good.
There are three things you need to get right in the headline.
- The topic.
- The angle.
- The placement.
When you get all of these right, your headline will capture your audience’s attention and get them to click it anxiously, waiting to read the post.
1. The topic of the headline
The most obvious topic of your post isn’t nearly always the best topic for the headline.
For example, let’s say you write a post about weight loss—more specifically, about “man boobs.” You have two headlines to choose from:
- How to Lose Weight
- How to Get Rid of Man Boobs
Which one will attract more attention from the target audience for that post?
Grabbing attention is not just about being specific: it’s about using what your audience wants to know more of. Weight loss is such a general and common topic that most people wouldn’t dream of reading another post about it, even if they’re somewhat interested in it.
“Man boobs” on the other hand (I promise I won’t say, “man boobs” anymore), is specific—it’s probably not something anyone has read 100 posts about previously.
What if your topic is actually something general like “weight loss,” with no more specific focus? Well, you’ll get the answer to that in tomorrow’s post, so remember to check back…
2. The angle of the headline
Did you think it’s enough to just pick the right topic to feature in your headline? Figuring out the topic is just the start: you need to find the right angle for it too.
What is an “angle” in a headline? It’s the way you present a topic. For example: “Basics of landing pages” isn’t really that interesting. What about Stockmann-Syndrome – Don’t Try this (Landing Page) at Home?
The first headline may point to the same content as the latter one. But there’s an important difference: the latter is unlikely to make you think, “I’ve already read that.” Instead, it makes a promise to deliver something new to an old topic, or at least to be entertaining.
There are also really important differences between the words used here, even when they’re basically synonyms. For example, “How to” implies simple and easy-to-use-use content made for non-experts, while you can use “Learn to” with more complicated topics, and when your audience is better educated about the topic. “How to Build a Helicopter” sounds like a joke, but “Learn to Build a Helicopter” sounds like there’s something to it.
And one more mistake you can make is to ask a question people will answer, “No, I’m not interested in that.” Copyblogger did that some months ago, and they wrote an interesting post about the mistake.
3. The placement of the headline
What if you saw the headline, “How to Be a Good News Anchor,” here at ProBlogger?
You might click through to see what the heck it’s about. But you’re not here to learn about building a career as a news anchor. On the other hand, what if it said, “How to Look Authoritative on Video”? You’d be much more interested, right?
The context of your headline changes how people react to it and what expectations it creates. Sure, you won’t write a headline that far off the mark, but smaller details make a huge difference as well.
Can you write a headline that gets clicked?
If you’re up for it, leave a link to your best headline (or just tell us what your headline is) in the comments below.
Keep in mind, this is just the first principle. You’ll get people to start reading your post with a great headline, but getting them to read to the end is a different goal. We’ll look at that in the second post in this series!
101 Headline Formulas is a FREE eBook that’s Not Just a Great Swipe File; it also explains what should come after each headline to keep readers reading to the end. To learn Persuasive Copywriting, how to build High-Conversion Landing Pages, and understand the practical application of the Real Principles of Effective Marketing, check out Affect Selling by Peter Sandeen.