3 essentials for every writer: great headlines that get found, get clicked, get read
My dog story failed miserably. Like, crash and burned. CRASH! Whoosh! For starters, I saw #LoveYourPetDay was coming up. Next, I thought I’d be ahead of the trend by writing a cute story with even cuter pictures. But I failed. Then I realized–I suck at making great headlines. Certainly, I needed to know how to write good headlines.
A great headline delivers everything a writer needs. First and foremost, a headline is essential in getting your article found. That is to say, you can pour your heart and soul into your writing, slaving hours and days to make it perfect, but if your headline doesn’t appear on Google, your life’s work will wither and die a lonely, miserable death.
This is essential–be found first
To clarify–because this is SO important–your potential readers need to FIND your headline. Why is this so important? Because more people visit Google every month than YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, and Wikipedia–combined!!
70 million blog posts appear online every month. Furthermore, 600,000 new posts appear on Medium every month. In other words, if you post one article every day in a month, each reader has a 0.005% chance of seeing your post. Thankfully, the algorithm helps in matching reader interest with written content. But still–make it easier for the reader to find your stuff.
Before you do anything else in your headline, determine what question you are answering. For instance, for this article, I went to answerthepublic.com and typed in the word “headline.” It gave me the who-what-why-where-how-when breakdown of things people are searching online for regarding headlines.
Write findable headlines with CoSchedule
Above all, my reason for using CoSchedule for my headlines is to write better headlines that people will find. I’ve played around with other headline tools online, but I haven’t found anything that does what I need–help make my headlines more “findable.”
Likewise, other tools help with wording and capitalization, too, but again the most essential–most vital–most important thing of headlines is: “Will my reader find me?”
Rachel Thompson is the queen at getting found online. (Find her on Twitter at @BadReadheadMedia.) She wrote this essential read: How to Write Powerful Blog Post Headlines. Above all, she recommends using keywords in headlines. That’s how you’re found. Keywords.
How to write good headlines for SEO using keywords
Wow! That’s an intimidating header. WTF is SEO? As a writer, you have a story to tell. You want the world to hear it. But how do you turn your story that you need to tell into something that readers need to find? Keywords.
Again, you can use Google and Ask the Internet to find what people are asking regarding your topic. Here, I wanted to write about “headlines.” Then I found that a fair amount of people are asking “how to write good headlines.”
Next is where CoSchedule shines. Many people use it to optimize their headline wording (we’ll get to that next), but my greatest benefit is using it for SEO. Again, writing a good headline search is MOST IMPORTANT. Remember, Google had 19 billion visits in February 2021.
CoSchedule (called Headline Studio or headline analyzer) has two tabs for its headlines. When I first started using it, I only paid attention to its first tab, the headline score. However, the next tab, the SEO score, has recently become my greatest ally.
Headline Studio offers five tools in its SEO score tab:
- The overall SEO score for your headline
- A preview of how your headline appears in search
- An estimate of how well your headline would do against competition
- Keyword variations (other words and phrases you can use)
- Related questions (what people are searching for)
Interestingly, in writing this article, I used CoSchedule’s analyzer and ended up finding a good headline with a higher SEO score than their own headlines. (Although I still highly recommend their article 73 Headlines that Will Easily Reach Your Reader. It’s really helpful!)
How to write a good catchy headline
Now that your reader sees your headline, you need to get them to click it. But how? There is a lot of advice on how to write a good headline. However, the best articles I’ve found is Rachel’s and CoSchedule’s, which both are linked above, and also these three:
That said, there’s a lot of psychological voodoo involved in getting a reader to click open your headline. Sometimes it feels like manipulation or trickery. But it doesn’t have to be.
Essentially, write a headline that tells the reader what you are giving them in exchange for their time. In other words, how will you either inform, inspire, or entertain the reader? That’s it. Hopefully, there is a mix of two or all three of those. But you should always aim to inform, inspire, or entertain. Is that why you click headlines to read?
CoSchedule makes writing good headlines easy
Pulling from the articles, experts recommend that you write several versions of your headline. Some say to spend as much time on your headline as you do in writing your article! But I don’t have time for that! Do you?
I’ve tried using a variety of methods, including opening a Word document and brainstorming dozens of variations of titles. This is similar to James Altucher’s method (make a list of 10 items, if you can’t complete 10, then write 20).
However, CoSchedule saves me time by plugging in my headline idea. It gives me a score representing a clickability ratio and offers improvement suggestions. From here, I can look at what words I can use to make my headline more appealing. For instance, do I have uncommon words, or emotional words, or power words?
Below your headline are categories for your words, along with word banks for each category. But you don’t have to pay for a Pro membership; CoSchedule has the list of words published online for free. However, it is nice to have them clickable right there.
CoSchedule saves 25 versions of your headlines with their respective scores. You can then click on the various ones to compare suggestions and phrasing. Again, asking yourself the question, “what would make me click this to open it?”
Don’t make your doggies sad
I wrote about my dog Frankie and included the best puppy pictures I could find, but no one found my article. However, of the people that opened and read it, over 80% engaged with it (liking it, clapping, or commenting). But, if I knew then how to write a good headline… Who knows?
Later I tried the same thing for #NationalMuffinDay. Everyone likes muffins, right? Besides writing a muffin-themed article, I also included the gory details of the muffin man’s true story–about a serial killer who targeted children. It also was a flop.
In summary, there are two main ingredients to writing a headline. Remember, as a writer, readers fuel you. In other words, you will die if you don’t have readers. So:
- First, write a good headline that readers will find in Google.
- Then write a good headline that readers will want to click.
Tools like CoSchedule definitely help, but it ultimately comes down to keywords, curiosity, and desire. You know this best.
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Your tips on how to write good headlines
Did I miss anything? Do you have any essential tips on how to write good headlines? I’d love to know!