What was the first thing you read before you landed on this post?
What grabbed your attention?
What convinced you to click?
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was the headline.
Those ruddy things eh? They’re everywhere!
Pack a punch
Let’s start with a reality check.
80% of people will read your headline, while 20% will go on to read the post (copyblogger).
That means 75% of those who read your headline are turned off by your copy. It means they’re indifferent to your message. Or even worse, they think you’re boring (deep breaths).
We know that B2B blogging isn’t easy. But a well-arranged series of words can go a long way.
And headlines are testament to this.
They need to pack a punch. They need to get to the point and inspire action.
In the blink of an eye your prospective readers need to know why your post will add value to them - and why time spent reading it will be more edifying and enlightening than scanning the Daily Mail’s notorious ‘sidebar of shame’ - for that is just a click away.
In a nutshell: a headline will sell your content.
The currency of attention
“Remember, every element of compelling copy has just one purpose — to get the next sentence read. And then the sentence after that, and so on, all the way down to your call to action. So it’s fairly obvious that if people stop at the headline, you’re already dead in the water.” - copyblogger
Don’t look at your headline like a title. Look at it as the billboard for your blog post.
If it’s bland, ambiguous and inoffensive are people going to care?
These days human attention is hard-earned. Content that fails to deliver the striking messages that catch the eye, provoke thought, and stop readers in their tracks will crash and burn.
And no, I’m not being dramatic.
The headline how-to
An effective headline should meet three criteria:
Answer the questions the buyer might have about an issue or challenge
If you’ve already written your worldly-wise blog post, you’ll already know which pain point you’re trying to massage with your content. Keep the headline relevant to the subject matter. Use it to complement your post and make sure the reader knows how they’re going to benefit.
If you’re yet to write your post and you’re looking for inspiration - go back to your delicately assembled buyer personas and have a think about the questions they may have about a specific problem they’re having.
This will help to inform your post and lay the framework for what your headline needs to say.
Offer desirable knowledge
When people go in search of solutions to their challenges, they want actionable guidance. How-tos, Step-by-Step guides and Listicles (3 ways to…) are all proven to drive traffic.
But why not go one better and put your own spin on the traditional format?
- Who Else Wants [blank]?
Example: Who Else Wants to Increase Their Presence on Social Media?
- The Secret of [blank]
Example: The Secret of Successful B2B Blogging
- Here is a Method That is Helping [blank] to [blank]
Example: Here is a Method That is Helping Marketers Generate Leads
- Little Known Ways to [blank]
Example: Little Known Ways to Grow Your Newsletter Subscribers
- Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All
Example: Get Rid of Unproductive Work Habits Once and For All
- Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]
Example: Here’s a Quick Way to Boost Web Page Dwell Time
- Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]
Example: Now You Can Grow Your Audience From the Comfort Of Your Living Room
- [Do something] like [world-class example]
Example: Write Like a Bestselling Author
- Have a [or] Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of
Example: Build a Website You Can Be Proud Of
- What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]
Example: What Everybody Ought to Know About Content Marketing
...the main thing to remember is that you’re helping, not selling. So your headline needs to emphasise this is as much as possible!
Use concise, powerful, punchy language
Prioritise clarity and make it digestible.
KISSmetrics put the optimum headline length at 6 words. But it’ll be different for everyone, so we recommend you experiment with length (within reason) - as "some of the highest-converting headlines on the web are as long as 30 words". The focus should really be on creating clarity and that entertainment factor we all look for as humans.
Time to channel your inner writer and put the stand-out touches to your headline. Provocative language and subtle, skillful wordplay will go a long way, but there’s no point being relevant, witty and clever if you are too wordy for your own good. That’s when confusion kicks in
But be mindful of how a reader consumes a blog post when placing your words. For example, we tend to focus on the first three words and the last three words.
Then ask yourself: Would I stop in my tracks if this appeared in my social feeds?
If the answer’s no - go back to the drawing board.
SEO is important - but don’t live and die by it
As well as including a carefully chosen keyword (or two), the headline also needs to be 65 characters or less to fit in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Anything longer than this will be cut off in Google, potentially diminishing the impact of your copy.
It’s always good practice to adhere to tried and tested SEO tactics, but don’t threaten the impact of your headline by trying to shoehorn in unnecessary words. Every word should be there to compliment the headline. Don’t dirty your efforts.
One final nugget of advice
Hubspot advises clarifying the format of the post in the headline, to set and manage expectations.
For example, if the post includes an infographic, the headline carries more weight if it reads ‘How brands can create a mind-blowing blog post [Infographic]’ than if it simply reads ‘‘How brands can create a mind-blowing blog post’.
In a study of over 3.3 Million paid link headlines, those which clarified the format of the post - for example, [interview], [podcast], [infographic] - performed 38% better than headlines without clarification." (Outbrain and HubSpot, 2014).
Write the words that work
Over to you now.
We’ve laid these tips out on the page to give you a headstart. But as Gary Vaynerchuk puts so damn well ‘Creativity is the differentiator for success’.
So get that brain of yours into gear, take some time to consider what your audience will react to, be expressive, experiment with different headlines and put your brand stamp on every single one you write.
If you’re looking for more practical advice on how to boost your B2B blogging, you can download our free guide below. Be rude not to really ;-)