Harry Truman

Do you want to increase the readership of your blog by 400% in just one easy step?

Lean in close now as I share this blogging secret: “Stop writing sucky headlines.”

In today’s world, you simply MUST craft a descriptive, accurate, catchy and “tweet-able” headline.  I know this aspect of blogging has been written about before so I am mystified as to why it remains such an obstacle to so many bloggers.

If you don’t have a headline that grabs me by the throat in a nano-second you have lost me, and most other people too.

I swiped a couple headlines from my blog reader to illustrate both good and bad examples of blog headlines.  Maybe one of them is yours? Here are real blog headlines that were so bad I could not bear to click:

“False Hope” — The headline is smug. The writer assumes the post is so epic that they don’t even have to indicate what it is about. Unless you’re Malcolm Gladwell, I’m probably not going to read this.

“Your Video Presence” — This has the potential to be an interesting topic but the headline is too generic.  It doesn’t tell me enough about the angle of the article to force me to take the next action. I’m a busy guy. Sell me baby.

“What’s in a Word?” — I don’t know and I won’t find out either. It’s clever but not descriptive enough to capture my attention.

“A Walk in the Cloud, Part 2″ — Cloud computing is an interesting topic but a “series” generally does not work for a blog. When I see this headline, I think “Well I missed Part 1 so I should probably skip this.” It’s like walking in during the middle of a movie.

“Monday Inspiration” — This could be a great article but it’s a lazy headline. Unless I am a regular reader and already interested in you as a person, this is probably not enough information for me to click through.

“Want to grow your revenue? Check out B2B Marketing Sales Leads, a sales lead generation program” Ewwww. You’re trying to sell me something. Yuck. Do this a second time and you’ll get deleted from the blog reader. No check that. I’ve already deleted you.

“New Yelp feature turns photos into online menus and we also compare tablet VS smartphones usage stats” This is an interesting headline but it’s too long. At 100 characters, it’s too long to tweet once you get the sender’s name in there. And remember, if it gets RT’d, that adds more characters. So keep headlines short enough to encourage social sharing.

Now, here are some great headlines from the pros:

How some people are using Triberr to kill blogging By The JackB — This headline promises a fresh angle on a hot technology. It indicates that people are mis-using Triberr to hurt something near and dear to me. I want to read this.

5 Lessons From the Best Example of Content Marketing Ever By Jay Baer — For my money Jay is one of the best headline writers in the business. And he knows a number in a headline is gold. Probably increases “sharing potential” by 30%.  Eight of my 10 most popular blog posts have a number in the headline and that goes for most other bloggers too.

What is sharing on Facebook worth in cold hard cash? By Jeff Bullas — Jeff is a master blogger who understands how to write a headline. He never fails to grab you and his content keeps you there. Combining “Facebook” with “cold hard cash” is a winner.

Five Tips to Navigate Sandy’s Stress and Sensory Overload By Judy Martin — We recently wrote about how capitalizing on the Hurricane Sandy tragedy was a bad idea.  But here’s another take. Judy writes a post that is timely, appropriate, and HELPFUL in a time of need.

Did technology kill curiosity? By Christian Hollingsworth — Christian is a masterful headline writer. In this example, he takes a simple question that might be on his mind, and the mind of others, and riffs on an answer. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Transmedia Writing By Geoff Livingston — Is it possible to get an idea across in just two words?  Geoff did it. “Transmedia” writing promises to explore a fresh concept and it made me click. Bravo.

So here is the Schaefer Ever-So-Useful List of Best Blog Post Headline Practices:

  • Make it “tweetable short.”
  • It should be descriptive and accurate. Don’t EVER mislead readers.
  • Make it creative enough to stand out in a crowded blog reader.
  • Numbered lists work well.
  • Grab me with something I have never seen before.
  • Make sure the “value proposition” offers something helpful.
  • Use descriptive and unusual verbs and adjectives.
  • Don’t make your headline an after-thought. It’s the most critical part of the post.
Did I miss anything? Was this helpful?

Illustration: This is a very famous headline announcing the wrong presidential election result, held up by the true victor Harry Truman.

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