“7 Reasons Why Your Headlines Suck” by Mike Marko.
Ever wonder why no one clicks on your link to read your blog post?
I’ve been frustrated when I’ve created some killer content I feel like is my best work, and I don’t get the traffic I think it deserves.
I found out this weekend that that the reason was probably because I had a weak headline. And I had put all these hours into something barely noticed.
Headlines are the hook to get readers to at least scan your blog post. If you don’t have a good hook you won’t get people interested in reading your blog post. I know it was a huge eye opener when I finally found this out during a seminar with Neil Patel.
Today I’m going to tell you why my headlines used to suck, and how you can avoid these same mistakes.
Reason #1: Your Headline Are Too Long
But having too long a headline can be hurting you, especially in the search engines. The search engines won’t be displaying the entire headline.
Example of a Poor Headline
For example, if your headline is, “7 Reasons Why You Need to Have the Best Headline Possible For Your Blog Post” then Google will only display:
“7 Reasons Why You Need to Have the Best Headline Possible For Yo….”
That doesn’t look very good, right?
Example of How to Have a Good Headline
That is why you need to limit the number of characters, or in other words letters, spaces, and other symbols in your title. The maximum length you should shoot for is 65 characters otherwise it will probably be cut off.
For this reason the title to this blog post is “7 Reasons Why Your Headlines Suck”… it only take up 34 characters. That is guarantees that the headline won’t be truncated in Google Search, or pretty much anywhere else.
Reason #2: Your Headline is Too Wordy
Often a headline appears as a long descriptive sentence… often as a complete run-on sentence. Many times this is because the writer wants to stuff as many keywords into the headline (to help with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as possible. The problem with this type of headline is that it is clumsy and too much effort to read (most people are just scanning search results to find an article). This is slightly different from Reason #1 because you can keep your headline within 65 characters, and still have it be too wordy.
You need to have crisp and clear headlines that grab attention.
Example of a Wordy Headline
An example of a headline that needs work is “7 Ways to Improve Your Headline to be the Best for Your Blog Post.” This is definitely too wordy and needs to be shortened and more concise… It’s boring, and too much to read.
How to Make a Good Headline
You want to portray yourself in as few words as possible, while still making sure the headline portrays the purpose of the blog post to the reader. Make it too wordy and it will turn them off. Make it too short and they will have no clue what your blog post is about. The headline needs to be short AND concise.
For that reason a good target to aim for is 6 to 7 words in your headline.
Reason #3: Your Headline Isn’t Odd
When I first started writing this blog post I wasn’t sure what the ppsychologybehind odd numbers is, but to me it seemed like odd numbers are more interesting than even numbers. I then did some research and discovered that Outbrain looked at 150,000 article headlines or titles and found that titles with odd numbers got a 20% higher click through rate that even numbers.
So had this blog post been about:
“8 Reasons Why Your Headlines Suck”
It wouldn’t get as much attention than the headline with an odd number.
Another thing to consider is that you need to have at least seven in the quantity. This shows the reader that there is a lot of value in the blog post. Use numbers like 7, 9, 11, 21, etc. This will all help you get more attention to your blog post.
The only exception to this is where you want to show how simple something is. For example, “The Three Steps to Losing 10 lbs by Summer” is a lot more attractive to your reader than “The 21 Steps to Loosing 10 lbs by Summer.”
Reason #4: You Are Not Telling Them How Many or Something Negative
The headline doesn’t give the reader the little extra to be excited about the article, or raise the stakes. What I mean by that is that by either telling them how many tips you are giving them, or raising a little controversy, you will increase the chances the reader will check out the blog post.
You want to help the reader know what to expect. With an enticing headline you will make the blog post look like it’s worth their time to read.
Example of a “Flat” Headline
An example of a headline that needs improvement would be “How to Improve Your Headlines.” This headline is a yawner. Not only does it not indicate that there is lots of value in the blog post (no quantity) but also there is not excitement… no controversy.
Readers see lot of potential content to read. If your headline doesn’t look interesting then it won’t be read.
How to Make a Better Headline
Your headline needs to help portray to your reader that the blog post is both interesting and provocative. That is why it is best to either talk about something negative in the headline (controversy or provocative), or have a number in it.
When you look at the headline for this blog post, “7 Reasons Why Your Headlines Suck,” you will notice that it includes both a number (“7 reasons”) and something negative (“suck”).
Reason #5: You’re Not Using Interesting Adjectives
Take a look at your headline and see if YOU would read it.
Does it grab your attention?
Example of a Boring Headline
The headline, “7 Tips to Make Better Headlines,” isn’t very exciting. Sure it satisfies the other criteria, but it isn’t as interesting as it could be.
How to Make a More Exciting Headline
Using interesting adjectives is an easy way to make more exciting headlines. If you pick really interesting adjectives, suddenly the headline jumps out and grabs your reader’s attention. Good adjectives include the words “exciting”, “interesting”, “astonishing, “outstanding”, and other adjectives that stand out.
A better headline would be “7 Tips to Create Exciting Headlines.” The word, “Exciting,” helps pull the reader into the blog post . It just makes it more interesting.
Reason #6: Your Headline Has a Double Meaning
If you have a confusing or easily misunderstood headline, then your reader won’t know if they should check the blog post out, or just keep looking. You need to make your headline as unambiguous as possible.
Example of an Ambiguous Headline
While brainstorming headlines for this blog post, I came up with a couple ambiguous headlines that I decided not to use. For example the headline, “7 Ways to Resuscitate Your Dead Headline,” could have multiple meanings. Your reader is left wondering, “why is the headline dead?”. Is it because the article has gotten old after having been around a while, or any a number of other reasons why it is dead.
The other headline,,“7 Tips to Create Killer Headlines,” is a bit confusing because the word “Killer” can be misinterpreted just like “Dead”. What example is a “Dead” headline? Is it because it is about the dead? Or did Google choose not to rank it? Again the headline is not really clear about the content of the blog post.
How to Make an Unambiguous Headline
You need to ensure that your headings don’t have double meanings. Don’t do a play on words because you think it is fun or may get traffic that you normally won’t. if you “trick” someone into clicking to your article, and they realize that your article isn’t what they expected, they’ll quick bounce off the article. Having people quickly leave your blog post actually hurts you in the eyes of Google because then Google thinks your content isn’t very good and you won’t rank very well in search.
Reason 7: Your Headline Isn’t Congruent with The Blog Post
This reason goes along with Reason #6 in that you need to make sure the headline clearly represents what the blog post is about. Sure you want to get readers to click through to your blog post, but if they feel like they were misled with a provocative headline then they’ll leave just as quickly. Make sure the headline and content of the blog post are congruent.
Example of a Misleading Headline
A headline like, “7 Ways To Make More Money with Headlines,” would have been a misleading headline for this blog post. Sure having great headlines may help you make more money, but the headlines themselves won’t directly help you make more money other than generate more traffic. The headline won’t be congruent with the content of this blog post.
A headline like “7 Ways to Help Your Sex Life with Headlines” might get people to read your blog post, but they will quickly bounce off when they realize it’s not about that.this unlitmately hurts you.
Having great headlines is paramount to having people read your blog posts. It is the hook that draws your readers in so they begin checking out what you wrote.
Now keep in mind you don’t have to satisfy everything we have covered. Getting all seven would be great, but even achieving five of the seven for every headline you create would result in a significant improvement in the number of people becoming interested in your content from the headline.
Think of it this way: if you are trying to sell your house then the blog post is the interior of your house, and the headline is the outside. You can have the most amazing interior for your home, with granite countertops, a large kitchen, gorgeous flooring, and all the built in amenities you can imagine. But if you have mediocre or poor curb appeal, you’ll lose a lot of interested people. Sure some will check out the home, but you won’t get the traffic through the house you want.
The headline works the same way.
I hope you found value in my blog post. If you have other suggestions on how to make better headlines, or have questions, please feel free to comment below.
Author: Mike Marko
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