And how to use my secret “throw-it-all-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks” technique
As I sat down to write about creating powerful blog headlines, I realised I’d better get the headline to this one as exceptional as possible, right?
Except, there is no ‘right’ answer to creating the perfect headline. Up front, I’ll tell you it’s a craft rather than a science, and I’ll show you why below. I also say ‘craft’ deliberately because I believe anyone can learn how to create great headlines. I’ll even describe an effective shortcut to get there fast.
You really don’t have to be a talented creative, or witty wordsmith, or endure years of practice to create headlines that convert.
As I skilled up in my early days of becoming a copywriter, I did study all the ways to craft a good headline and I have reams of quick reference headline prompts, styles, and power words. Over the years, I used these to develop my own headline-creation process based on a mishmash of all of them together which I call the “throw-it-all-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks” technique.
I’m kinda only half-joking.
The fast way I check to see if a headline is likely to be effective is to use an online headline analyser. Several are available, many of them free, and they often have access to enhanced features if you upgrade to the purchased versions. I’ll show you how a few of them work below. Aside from using technology, which does have its downsides, the other effective method is to know your target audience incredibly well, and I have an important lesson I learned about that which I also share below.
How to start creating great headlines
Different copywriting courses I’ve done recommend writing out anything between 25 and 100 different headline options for each piece of writing, then choosing the best. Who has time for that? (Not me, and I bet not you either.)
I believe you can shortcut this process by using an online headline analyser tool. Instead of writing your headings out on paper, type them directly into your headline analyser tool of choice and iterate from there. I liken it to a game of hot and cold that you might play with your kids. You know: “Warmer… warmer… cold… absolutely freezing…” while they search for a fun-size chocolate bar you’ve hidden inside the cushion cover that was a Xmas present from Aunty Cathy seven years ago.
Type your first headline into your chosen tool. What’s the score? And what are the suggestions for how to improve it. Tweak, tweak, and tweak again. If the score doesn’t go up, try a different headline and tweak that. Is it too long, too short? Does it have enough emotional, power and uncommon words? Is it a positive or negative title, a question or a list headline?
Headline tools are programmed to rate a variety of factors and spit out not only a score, but also a colour similar to a traffic light system. I’ve discovered that this colour is tightly connected to my dopamine levels. When that score is red, I’m deflated. When I see a green score, I’m buoyant that I’m on the right track.
Why are we encouraged to spend so much time on headlines anyway?
Even David Ogilvy, the ‘Father of Advertising’, suggested that 80 cents of each dollar of advertising should be spent on nailing the headline.
You’re looking for an enticing title. You want to attract your target audience. You’d like to engage them enough so they read your article. If you’ve written 2000 words of brilliant, funny, valuable insights that will change your audience’s world, it means nothing if they don’t feel compelled to read it in the first place.
So, make sure those headlines you’re testing out are relevant, truthful, and useful to your audience. Make the headline interesting, though don’t be too clever. Resist the urge to pun, make an inside joke, or be too mysterious.
Tug at the emotions or titillate a response. And make sure the article they read lives up to the promise in the headline you’ve caught their attention with.
So, what are these headline analyser tools?
Rather than add my opinion into the mix, let me show you what five of these headline tools demonstrated with the best and worst versions of the titles I played around with for the article you’re reading right now.
For each of the following five tools, I used the following two headlines:
“5 Ways to Check if You’re Creating Powerful Blog Headlines”
“Will My Headline Work?”
A few things to notice:
- The gap between a good or a bad headline varies depending on the tool. This is not an exact science!
- Some tools contradict each other, with one urging us to increase the headline length while another encourages us to reduce the word count – for the same headline!
- When you visit the page of each and read the in-depth analysis, you’ll notice they’re all geared towards slightly different areas of focus. So, choose one that resonates with you and most closely mimics your audiences’ preferences and behaviour
- Remember that it’s all relative, not absolute, and there is no right answer
So, I can get certainty about the effectiveness of my headlines?
Well… Yes and no.
Yes, the online headline analyser tools will give you a score and even recommendations about how to improve your headlines in most cases.
But also, no. These tools are pieces of software created with code that follow a series of rules. They can process data against parameters much faster than our puny human brains, but they are not humans. In the end, the best headline is the one that works.
My most effective blog to date is about the difference between an opt-in page and a landing page which came about when a client asked me that exact question. I tried using two headline tools to come up with a high-ranking headline score, but nothing I tried worked without it becoming convoluted or off-topic. I’m pretty sure I really did test well over 100 different titles, but deep inside I just wanted to use:
“What’s the Difference Between a Landing Page and an Opt-in Page?”
I asked my copywriting mentor and she confirmed the title I naturally chose was likely the right one. Why? Because I knew already that it answered the question people were asking. And that proved to be true in the weeks that followed.
Use what gets eyeballs on your writing and visitors to your website. Be aware of the constraints of each because none are perfect. They can’t do all things for all people.
Key recommendations for powerful blog headlines
A far wider range of online headline analyser tools exists than the ones above, but at least you get to see a snapshot of how different they all are.
Personally, I use two, a combination of MonsterInsights and CoSchedule Headline Analyser. Why? Because MonsterInsights is convenient – it’s already part of my WordPress plugins – and I find CoSchedule enjoyable and easy to use. I like using two at once to ensure I’m covering all the bases as each one focuses on different areas.
Still, headlines, right? Eurrrgghh.
If you prefer to have your headlines written for you, along with the rest of your blog content, while tapping into your expertise in just 7 minutes, you could get your weekly blog sorted with a Sparticle.
Contact me to find out how, and sparkle on!
About The Ink Rat
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor.
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
I bring comprehensive practical experience to supporting your writing needs.