Using Content to Drive Traffic

[Intermediate – 109] 9 Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Catchy, Viral Blog Headlines

A catchy headline is why some blog posts become popular and some fade into obscurity. So when you’re putting all that work into creating fantastic content, the last thing you want is for your headline not to draw people in – or worse, for it to actually turn people off. For the most part, the headline is all your audience will see your work, and it’s the one chance you have to intrigue, inform, and attract your perfect reader.

A viral and catchy blog headline must accomplish the following: first, it gives the reader an idea of topic and tone of the content; second, it allows you to market the content to your target audience; and finally, it should be infinitely shareable for social media, where the headline will be your ambassador.

So how do you write these viral, catchy blog titles? We’ve collected our 9 key do’s and don’ts below.

1. DO use numbers

Lists especially numbered ones, are a great way to attract readers. Research shows that headlines with numbers receive higher click-through rates and also drive page views. One odd note? Odd numbers actually get more clicks than even numbers – hence our 9 tips, rather than 10.

2. DO try strange, fun, intriguing adjectives

Use your creativity (and your thesaurus) and choose adjectives and adverbs that will make your reader sit up and take notice. Words can be perplexing, electrifying, harrowing, and mesmerizing. Don’t settle for less.

3. DON’T overcomplicate it

The most catchy headlines offer up something interesting without leading the reader astray. They leave your audience wanting more. There’s no need to explain the entire article in your headline – if anything, you’ll deter readers by convoluting what is actually a very simple task: letting your reader know what your post is all about. Check out a comprehensive roundup of good, bad, and downright ridiculous headlines over here.

4. And DON’T tell your reader what to think

Outbrain’s research shows that the harder consumers are pushed to click, the more likely they are to avoid a headline altogether. Imperatives – words like “need” and “must,” as well as headlines that target the individual (“you,” you’re”) – are more likely to be seen as spammy or untrustworthy. The lesson here? Invite your reader in; don’t tell them they need to open the door – or else!

5. DO use keywords sparingly

Headlines that read like SEO bait are easy to spot and easy to dismiss.

6. DO let your headlines go first

Try writing some sample headlines before you start working on your post. Even if they change later, having clear, specific headlines will give you a straightforward blueprint for the rest of your post, and will help you direct and organize your talking points while writing.

7. DO find your perfect length

Headlines with more than 8 words perform better than the shorter headline – and we’ve got the data to prove it. The sweet spot is between 12-18 words, so aim high. Give the reader enough so that they know what they’re about to click. Engagement dips both at the “too-short” and “too-long” ends of the spectrum, so find your middle ground and write away.

8. DON’T be afraid to go negative

We’ve also found that audiences respond better to negative headlines – “worst” or “never” – than to positive ones. Why is this? Well, we think positive headlines may be overused, and they can often read as inauthentic. On the flip side, negative titles play to our desire to get the down and dirty truth.

9. DO pique your readers’ curiosity

The catchiest headlines are often those that promise something new: titles like “You’ll never believe…” or “What she did next will shock you…” may seem silly out of context, but they perform well for a reason. They play to our innate desire to learn, to be in the know.

Concentrate on this and you’ll quickly find more readers, more buzz, and more love for your blog.

Now that you have your catchy blog headlines  – test, test, and test some more! Try out your headlines on colleagues or fellow bloggers. Test multiple versions on social media and see which gets more clicks. The more data you can gather on how your readers respond to your work, the better you’ll be able to find your newest fan and get readers more engaged with your blog as a whole.

Want to learn more about writing catchy titles? Check out our study on how headline length impacts engagement.

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