9 Steps to Write More Compelling Headlines

content writer planning headline for webpage

This is a list of powerful steps to write more compelling headlines. 

Why do you need better headlines?

If the growth in the number of times your content is displayed doesn’t match the growth in the number of times it gets clicked- 

The first thing you should fix is your headline.

Because headlines are the first thing a user interacts with. 

To increase your share of clicks – your blogs need more powerful headlines.

 

In fact, the Headline Analyzer Studio team tested tons of headlines to see what works best. 

Here are some quick stats from their study-

 

227,090 total number of headlines analyzed.

Only 1953 headlines scored satisfactory.

Only 0.7% were top performers of the total data set.

 

Without further ado- Here are the steps to follow to create headlines that stand out from the rest.

Let’s get started.

1. Word Balance

Ensure you have the right word balance between writing readable headlines that command attention. 

Great headlines usually consist of-

 

20-30% Common words (e.g.-to, and)

10-20% Uncommon words (e.g.-more)

10-15% Emotional words (e.g.-powerful)

1 Power word/phrase at least (e.g.-effective, friendly)

headline word balance

If you’re thinking how will find all those words- Here’s the good news:

I’ve shared my headline cheat-sheet at the end of this post –

that includes lists of emotional, power, common and uncommon words. 

2. Word/Character Count

Find the best word and character length for search engines, like Google and email subject lines, and see how readers will analyze your headlines.

Headlines with around 12 words / 70 characters tend to generate the highest number of clicks. 

Additionally, you must ensure you aren’t exceeding the word count to push Google to truncate your title in the SERP – because the truncated title may give a bad user experience. 

3. Headline Type

Use the headline types that get the most traction for social shares, traffic, and search engine ranking.

General headlines don’t compel users to click.

What compels them is something like –

 

Step-by-step: It promises readers to teach them how to do something in a limited number of steps.

Numbered-list: Numbers mean a stat, percentage, or a number of items in a list.

Including a number allows people to understand the quantity of content they will be exposed to.

Numbers also support that content claim.

X Ways to do (Action)-this tells the readers the article’s main concepts and focus. It also promises readers a content that’s finite.

Question: Headlines that pose a question to readers tend to incite them to take action.

 

Note- This is not an exhaustive list of types of headlines. 

Various types of headlines according to preference

4. Reading Grade Level

Reading level affects the headline’s performance. 

The average American has a readability level equivalent to a 7th-8th grader (12 to 14 years old).

Hence, your headline should read at a 7th-8th grade reading level, which makes it easy for readers to comprehend. 

To sum-up:

Write keeping in mind your audience. And don’t use heavy words. 

5. Sentiment

Your headline should convey a positive sentiment, which drives engagement by exciting or inspiring readers. 

A headline passes a positive sentiment when- it sounds hopeful and confident, and also considers good aspects of a situation rather than bad ones. 

For example-

Deny treatment vs Improve treatments 

Deny treatment sends out a negative sentiment but improve treatments convey a positive sentiment. 

 

How about one more example-

Word that makes the title of this post positive is: powerful.

6. Clarity

Your headline message should be clear and concise. 

Here are some ways to make to do it:

 

Minimize transitional words. Words like “is”, “it”, “to”, “but”, “and”, “so”, etc.

No jargon. Will your audience understand technical terms? If you are not sure, choose words that are easier to understand.

Don’t stamp the length. Use as many words as necessary – neither more nor less.

7. Useful

To make headlines useful – follow rule of three U:

Uniqueness, ultra-specific, and urgency. 

Unique means original and different from others – that make your headlines stand-out.

Let me show you how to do it:

Head over to Google and search for your headline with double quotation marks to get exact search results.

7 never successful content marketing strategies - google serp results

As you can see, there are no pages with your headline.

But that’s the goal, right? Writing headlines that no one is writing. 

 

Ultra-specific means your headline should solve that precise queries your users are looking for. 

The more precise you can be the more closer you’ll get to your customers. 

Example:

Learn How to Do Content Planning for Your Website From Scratch

Do you notice how specific the above headline is?

 

Urgency. We’re all familiar with the fear of missing an amazing opportunity.

So headlines that can create a sense of urgency and scarcity end up doing better.

The psychology behind FOMO marketing works because we’re a risk-averse species.

Have a look – how Amazon is using urgency and scarcity in it’s marketing: 

Amazon-urgency-scarcity-elements

8. Skimmability

Skimming means reading the text only that readers consider to be relevant. And the majority of readers skim through the text. 

So make sure to include your keyword or topic in the first or last three words of your headline,

because that makes it easy for readers to skim and understand at a glance.

Headline clearly tells SEO is the topic

9. SEO Optimization

Don’t forget to optimize your headline following current SERP rankings, keyword topics, and search competition.

Take a good look at your google SERP results and your competitors. 

Create different and better headlines than your competitors. 

Here’s how to do it-

 

If your competitors don’t have power words in their headlines, you can include in yours.

For example-

Competitor headline: 10 Ways to fix mobile battery

You can create: 9 Simple Ways to Fix Mobile Battery

Bonus Tips for Even More Catchy Headlines

1: Numbers Psychology

Always try to use odd numbers because they seem like a better deal for readers. 

In our minds, numbers that end in 3, 5, 7 or 9 appear smaller than the ones that end in even number or 0. 

Hence, instead of writing ’10 methods to do keyword research’ better write ‘9 methods to do keyword research’. 

2: Modifiers

Using modifiers “updated”, “ultimate”, “best”, “checklist”, “fast”, “review”, “current year”, etc. can help your page SEO to rank higher for long queries.

For example, my keyword research post includes modifiers: “ultimate” and “current year” i.e. 2022 and that help the article to rank on Google’s first page:

keyword research guide 2022

Takeaway

That’s 9 steps (that are super useful to create more compelling and SEO friendly headlines).

Needless to mention, your content should follow through the promises your headline makes. Otherwise , you’ll end up creating clickbait.  

Finally, here is the cheat-sheet that has a list of emotional, power, common and uncommon words

Now it’s your turn to try this out-

Don’t forget to let me know in the comment section which steps make most impact on your headline performance. 

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