Not long ago, I was tasked with the arduous duty of becoming a headline queen 👑 by John Hall, our CEO. I wouldn't say that I've achieved queen status quite yet, but I do think I've grown my knowledge in a major way.
It isn't always easy. As consumers of content, we know the types of headlines that intrigue us. But when it comes to our own content, we find ourselves playing a guessing game. We try to read our audience's minds and figure out what readers would find most exciting, while also infusing a headline with personality. What can we say that will give enough insight into the article, but will also leave enough mystery so that the audience will actually read it?
Crafting the perfect headline is extremely important, but it can be hard to figure out where to start and what to keep in mind.
When we at Influence and Co. analyzed more than 4 million pieces of content for our State of Digital Media report, we gathered countless insights that illuminate what audiences look for in headlines. Leveraging this information has helped both us and our clients improve our acceptance rates, publishing frequency, and overall content marketing results.
Per the report, here are some things to consider when crafting headlines that aim to engage:
Before putting together your headline, consult your SEO keywords list. (If you don't have one yet, put one together!) These terms should accurately classify your company and product, and they should relate to the topics you want to be associated with. Keeping them in a living document will help ensure they actually appear in your headlines and articles — which, in turn, will ensure your name pops up when someone types those keywords into a search engine.
It's important to remember the overarching goals of your content. In addition to providing expert-level commentary, you're also aiming to help your audience solve ongoing problems. The headline is the first thing a reader sees. To earn a click, the headline needs to grab his or her attention and say, "I'm here to help you overcome a pain point. You won't regret clicking on me!"
If you don't give any indication that you are here to solve a problem, your audience won't read your content.
Our report showed that, on average, headlines between eight and 11 words tend to result in the most social shares. That's not so good news for those of you who believe headlines should be short and sweet. However, it appears that headlines on the longer side get the most engagement on social media.
We didn't gather much insight into why this is the case, but I believe it could mean that the more descriptive you are in your headlines, the more intrigued readers will be with the entire article. It also shows that you aren't leading them in with a headline that has nothing to do with the article, as I'm sure we've all fallen victim to.
If you're looking for a little extra help, I recommend using our client, CoSchedule's headline analyzer. It breaks down your headlines based on common and uncommon words, and it determines whether they evoke emotion and power. It also classifies them and gives them a score. (Note, we've done business with CoSchedule in the past, but didn't help them create this tool. We just really love it, so we wanted to share it with our readers.) What are some other tools you use to help improve your content?
Natalie Slyman is a content marketing and social media professional. She enjoys reading her favorite blogs, perusing Instagram, and talking about her cats (even when no one is listening).