In the realm of clickbait, sites like BuzzFeed reign supreme. Dedicated to providing shareable news and entertainment, these types of websites frequently use catchy headlines (like “10 Insanely Delicious Brunch Recipes That’ll Take Your Brunch Game To The Next Level”) to increase click through rates to various articles.
And it works, for the most part (because brunch, obviously). By packaging interesting topics and compelling adjectives into a single, albeit long-winded title, BuzzFeed and others capture their audience’s attention fast. That’s because headlines boasting of “insanely delicious recipes” or “life-changing secrets from NASA” easily stand out from other articles and statuses. More often than not, they’re also funny and relatable, which helps their click through rates skyrocket.
There’s something to be said for this tactic, especially in terms of inbound marketing. Certain headlines succeed in attracting visitors, while others send them running for the hills. Familiarizing yourself with the best practices makes all the difference, which is why I’ve compiled this list of headline tips for all of the non-writers out there.
1. Be Genuine
If MOZ’s study is correct, then only 16% of all people read everything word-for-word. This means that an overwhelming 84% of the online population skims or skips text, or that they only read the headline before moving on altogether. Your first job, then, is to hook that 84% percent by being genuine in your headline.
In other words, don’t make the title of your article, “A Man Tried to Purchase a National Landmark: First You’ll Be Shocked, Then You’ll Be Inspired” if the post doesn’t actually have anything to do with a landmark (or isn’t shocking/an inspiration…in fact, just don’t write this headline, ever). Instead, remember that your headline is a reflection of your content, and so it should give readers an accurate impression of what they’ll find next. As laughable as BuzzFeed’s titles might be, they always deliver what they promise.
2. Pay Attention to Grammar
Although typos are minor infractions in the overall body of a text, they’re much less excusable in a headline of roughly 10 words or less—and they will ruin a post if left uncorrected. Because, let’s face it, typos in a title are a flashing sign for spam, and no one wants to open that can of processed meat product.
My advice? Always proofread your work and try to catch any errors before they’re published. Your headline is the first piece of your writing that readers will see, and they’ll use it as a benchmark for judging the quality of your work. You’ve already hooked them with your subject matter; keep them on the hook with proper grammar.
3. Be Concise
As much as I enjoy BuzzFeed, I will say that their headlines often leave me breathless. Most max out at anywhere between 12 and 15 words, and the additional adjectives (although entertaining) are almost always unnecessary.
To be fair, BuzzFeed isn’t exactly in the inbound marketing industry, but that doesn’t change the fact that the best writing is concise. If you want your headline to succeed and be taken seriously, use 10 words or less to get your point across.
The headline is arguably the most important part of any blog post or article. You don’t have to be a writer to make it a great one. Just follow these simple tips, be careful of the occasionally overused buzzword, and ask yourself—would you click on your own headline?