The art of writing headlines
Be the signal not the noise.
I can’t remember who told me this but it has always stuck in my mind. The world of blogging and social media has become more populated than it once was. It’s now a tough market with lots of noise. So how do you stand out from the crowd? Send out a strong signal by mastering the art of writing headlines.
1. Write the post first and then come up with the headline. You never know what pithy sentence might present itself while you’re in the flow. It beats scratching your head to come up with something before you write.
2. After you’ve finished write out 10 – 25 headlines based on your content. I know that sounds a lot. You may have a natural flair for writing headlines which is great. In my experience most people I coach struggle with this. The more you play with headlines the more easily they will come to you.
David Ogilvy, said to be the ‘Father of Advertising’, was apparently the inspiration for Don Draper in Mad Men. David was a master at writing headlines. How did he do it? He wrote 100 headlines for every ad.
At 60 an hour the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock! – David Ogilvy.
3. Pick out the best of the bunch. It’s likely many of your headlines won’t make the grade. Writing headlines that hit the spot is a challenge so be gentle with yourself if you feel they are weak at first. Sometimes I use headlines that I think are rubbish but then they surprise me by getting the best engagement.
4. Use the also-rans for social media headlining. Throw nothing away! If you’re going to run a mini-campaign of sharing your post regularly on social media a different headline for each Tweet keeps it fresh. One of these headlines might not work so well. Another may get you a new stream of visitors.
5. Check which ones got the best results. Rather than trusting your luck there is merit in using tools like Buffer or SumAll to give you feedback as to what posts have done well and which headlines are getting the most engagement. The basic information you need is available free. Of course it could be the time you post that’s a factor but check those that are favourited, liked or shared the most and make a note of the type of headline that you used. Use it again to test if it’s a winning formula.
5. Try out a couple of online tools for writing headlines. CoSchedule have a tool for analyzing your headlines. As the title suggests it’s an American tool so may not translate across the pond. It scores your headline according to the mix of words you use.
For instance my first attempt at a headline for this post ‘Writing headlines – business blogging tip 3’ got a measly 39 out of 100. So I changed it to ‘Writing headlines to get a competitive edge’ and got 74!
As you change the headline you get a score and ideas about how to improve it It keeps a record of all the headlines you’ve tried so you can compare results.
They also provide a free download of 180 power words for creating emotional headlines if you sign up with your email address.
For something with a little bit more fun and less effort try out Portent. Their Title Maker lets you put in the subject or keyword and it automatically kicks out a headline for you. If you don’t like the one it gives you you can refresh it for a new one. Some are very off the wall but I tried ‘The Simplest Ways to Make the Best of Writing Headlines’ in Coschedule and it got a score of 76!
I didn’t use it as it didn’t scan well for me or reflect exactly what I was writing about. And that’s another key in writing headlines. Don’t write headlines that mislead your audience.
Did you know that newspapers have people who write the article and people designated to write the headline.
So I hope you have fun writing headlines from now on and if you know of any other tips or resources please let us know in the comments below!