Writing headlines for blogs and other content can feel like a difficult test with no right answers. There is a very good reason for this: you usually feel pressured to write your headline so that it satisfies all of your possible digital marketing goals at once. Since the qualities that make a headline work really well for search can make it a poor performer on social, people feel saddled with an impossible task.
Rest assured that writing the headline that is perfect for all things and all people is impossible. But, you can get as close as possible by setting goals and making compromises. You can also explore options while writing to organically discover the right choice for you.
Using a technique recommended by SEO expert and Moz founder Rand Fishkin, you can quickly and confidently write blog headlines without having an existential crisis every single time.
Why Writing Good Blog Headlines Is So Darn Hard
In a recent blog post on his Wwhiteboard Friday series, Fishkin describes how our criteria for writing a “good” headline for one medium may sabotage our efforts to make the headline work for another medium.
For instance, a headline that provides the maximum amount of descriptiveness works great for website visitors, but it may be far too long for SEO. Additionally, the keywords you want to use may not quite fit. It’s like trying to hit every mole at once in a game of whack-a-mole.
According to Fishkin, there are three main realms competing for your acceptability standards when it comes to writing headlines:
- SEO: Getting rankings, providing enough interest/incentive to click, relevant enough so no one bounces
- Social: Get amplification for a story, eliciting emotion and getting reactions even among those who don’t read the article
- Website experience: Targeting the right audiences, delivering on promises from referring source, not detracting from brand reputation
Looking at these competing interests, you can easily see how a clickbait headline that performs ably on social may not sit well with your more professional/mature brand voice. In fact, satisfying all of these criteria at once may very well be impossible.
Yet, there is a surefire method you can use to narrow down your choices and help you settle on a headline that may not be “perfect” but that can help you hit most of your goals.
A Six-Step Process for Writing Better Headlines
Writing the optimal headline is a difficult process, and you probably won’t nail it every single time. Regardless, keep these techniques in mind to make sure you’re writing the best headline possible:
1. Define your primary goal for the piece — social vs. SEO vs. website/brand experience
You can always alternate your primary purpose as you write, such as publishing an SEO focused piece on Monday and a social-focused piece on Wednesday. You can even repurpose posts later to serve multiple goals.
2. Accept imperfect matches
Facebook, WordPress and title tags all allow you to have some variety in your headlines. Your Title Tag can show an SEO-optimized headline, for instance, while your social markup lets you have a different title from your actual article’s H1. Don’t have wildly different titles, though, since people can become confused or feel deceived. Have a common hook, purpose and message behind each option.
3. Write the most straightforward version of a headline
Regardless of your post’s purpose, write the first version of your headline to be as descriptive yet as succinct as possible. This version doesn’t have to have any keywords or be that interesting, for that matter. For instance, a version for this post could say, “A Six-Step Process for Making It Easier to Write Blog Headlines.”
4. Then, write the most sensational, clickbait-y title possible
Now, you can try to create the most exciting, emotional or mysterious title possible. For instance, this post’s headline could be modified to say, “This One Weird Trick Will Have You Writing Better Blog Headlines in Seconds.”
5. Combine/compromise options from step three and four, then inject keywords
The actual H1 we’re using for this article could be seen as an example. Another alternative could be: “Write Better Blog Headlines in Six Easy Steps.”
6. Try to shorten and optimize your headline AND come up with multiple options
Using the five-step process above, you may end up with a weird, long-winded mishmash. Something like: “Digital Marketing Expert Shares His Secret Six-Step Process for Writing Better Blog Headlines and Nailing Blog Headline SEO Best Practices.” You should always try to come up with the shortest yet most descriptive version of a blog title possible so no one’s eyes glaze over. You should also try to come up with alternative options, such as leading with a verb, question, or an eye-catching statement. You can then choose from your options, use multiple variants, or even A/B test to identify a winner.
This process obviously isn’t a science, but it is enough to guide you the next time you feel stuck. Writing multiple headline options down can also usually help you organically discover something that really works without being repetitive.
Keep at it, get methodical, and really pay attention to your goals, and you should be writing better headlines in no time — no “weird tricks” needed.
If you want help achieving your blogging, SEO, and social media goals, you can also entrust a full service digital marketing company like EverSpark to provide guidance. With our content marketing skills and other services, you could never have to worry about your headlines again! Contact us today to learn how we can help your online presence thrive.