Writing headlines is something a lot of bloggers take for granted.
How do I know this?
Because I see a lot of blog posts in SERPs and social media that have bland, uninspiring headlines.
In this post, we’ll make sure you never get this problem with the help of the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.
Table Of Contents
- 1. Benefits of Writing a Killer Headline
- 2. What is the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
- 3. How to Use Headline Analyzer to Write Better Headlines
- 3.1 Striking the Perfect Word Balance
- 3.2 Finding the Headline Type for Your Content
- 3.3 Keeping Your Headline at the Right Length
- 3.4 Making Your Content Go Viral
- 3.5 Keyword-Optimizing Your Headline for SEO
- 3.6 Using the Right Headline Sentiment for Engagement
- 3.7 Making Sure Your Headline Displays Properly
- 4. Conclusion
Benefits of Writing a Killer Headline
“Headlines? I could write a dozen of those with my eyes closed!”
Sure — you can technically write and use any headline you want. The question is, are you sure your headline gets your content the pageviews it deserves?
Suppose you put thousands of dollars into search engine marketing — maybe into PPC ads.
With a terrible headline, all the money, time, and effort you invested in your campaign will be thrown out the window.
Regardless of your content’s quality, the user’s decision to click depends on whether or not they liked your headline.
Aside from getting clicks, here are a few more reasons why your content needs crazy good headlines:
- Great Headlines Fuel Social Media Shares — Social media users are all about emotional, thought-provoking headlines. The better your headlines are, the more shares, likes, and comments you can amass on social media networks.
- Headlines can be Repurposed into Email Subject Lines — Just like in search engine results and social media, headlines directly affect the number of clicks you get from emails. The same can be said if you want click-throughs from content headlines pasted into the email’s main body.
- Keyword-Optimized Headlines as an SEO Factor — If you know a thing or two about SEO, you should be aware that keyword-optimized headlines improve search engine rankings. Catchy headlines also make your page stand out in SERPs, which lets you take full advantage of your SEO results.
Ready to whip up some amazing headlines for your blog?
Then allow me to introduce you to our tool for the day.
What is the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
Some of you probably never heard of the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer before.
As the name implies, it’s a web-based tool that analyzes headlines based on a number of factors.
The Headline Analyzer is also 100% free to use, so go ahead and give it a test run. Here’s what the report should look like above the fold:
How to Use Headline Analyzer to Write Better Headlines
In the screenshot above, you saw that the headline “How to Build a Blog” got a score of 58.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Although the headline would somewhat accurately describe what the content will be about, it just looks flat-out boring.
To help improve your headline word for word, Headline Analyzer slices up the report into seven segments.
Why don’t we give each segment a look-see?
1. Striking the Perfect Word Balance
The top of the report also displays the “Word Balance” analysis. This breaks down the types of words used the headline, namely common, uncommon, emotional, and power words.
This begs the question: what is the perfect combination of common, uncommon, emotional, and power words?
To answer this, let me explain what these word types actually mean.
First and foremost, common words pertain to prepositions, articles, conjunctions, and other terms that hold sentences together. Some of the most common examples are “the,” “to,” “be,” and “in.”
CoSchedule recommends that 20 to 30 percent of your headline should be common words.
While common words are essential for the construction of sentences, uncommon words give them meaning.
Uncommon words can be anything — like “more,” “little,” and “something.”
Remember, words that aren’t labeled as “common” by Headline Analyzer are not uncommon by default. You’ll have to experiment with some attention-grabbing words to see what passes as “uncommon” in the online landscape.
The sweet spot for uncommon words in headlines is between 10 to 20 percent.
Here’s the thing: a headline can exist without any emotional word attached to it.
You can write “Ways to Make Money Online” and people will understand what your content is about.
But who would pick your content if there’s another post called “Easy Ways to Make Money Quickly”?
That’s the power of emotional words. They can incite positive or negative emotions that can inspire clicks from the audience.
Take note that terms like “how to” are also considered as emotional words.
The sole reason for this is because users have associated “how to” with in-depth, authoritative learning resources. They trust these words; hence they are influenced at an emotional level to click these headlines.
Try to create headlines that are 10 to 15 percent emotional words to entice potential readers.
Lastly, power words are used in headlines for only one reason:
To give it an extra kick.
Power words are basically overblown adjectives that can spice up any headline.
For example, “tips” can be “mind-blowing tips.” “Advice” can be “killer advice.”
At least one power word is needed to give your headline more “oomph.”
How to Use Word Balance
Now that you understand the different word types, let’s see how we can improve our headline.
As it stands, the words in the headline “How to Build a Blog” are 20% common, 0% uncommon, 40% emotional, and 0% power.
Clearly, we need to add uncommon and power words into the mix. “More,” for example, is an uncommon word that we can fit.
Check below for what Headline Analyzer has to say about our updated headline:
According to the results, we just hit the recommended percentage of uncommon words in a headline.
Next up, we need at least one power word.
I decided to go with “outstanding” to make the headline more attractive.
According to the Headline Analyzer, the new headline we put together now scores a 77. That’s a big step up from our original headline.
Despite the improvement, our headline still isn’t perfect.
For one, we haven’t adjusted the percentage of emotional words to within 10 to 15 percent. Unfortunately, it’ll be difficult to achieve the perfect word balance just by adding or removing words.
Bear in mind, adding words will also affect the percentage of other word types. This makes it incredibly tricky to strike the perfect word balance in your headline.
What you can do, however, is to keep writing different versions of your headline from scratch.
To help you with this, let’s move on to the next section of the Headline Analyzer report.
2. Finding a Headline Type for Your Content
You don’t actually need the Headline Analyzer to determine the type of headline you used.
In the example earlier, it’s clear as day that we wrote a “how to” headline — as stated by Headline Analyzer.
“How to” articles are a staple in most bloggers’ content development arsenal.
Not only do they attract clicks, they also get spread like wildfire through social media, message boards, and other blogs.
It only takes a few seconds on my blog to know that I’m a huge fan of “how to” headlines. That’s mainly because most of the articles I publish are educational, step-by-step content on how to do something specific.
As great as a “how to” headline is, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
There are three other headline types you need to learn in order to diversify your blog content library:
List Post Headlines
List post headlines — another personal favorite — also attract readers for a couple of reasons.
One, they’ll know exactly what they’ll get from the get-go.
This means that a post that promises 10 tips should garner more attention than another with only five.
Two, list posts chunk down the content into multiple, organized sections. This makes the entire piece easier to digest, remember, and act upon.
From a writer’s perspective, I also find that list posts are among the easiest to write.
I find it easy to create outlines for list posts and manage the length of each section. They also make the tedious task of content idea generation a walk in the park.
I’ve outlined my step-by-step process of writing killer list posts that you must follow.
With all that being said, don’t be surprised if you see more of these in the future:
You may use list post headlines if you plan to write about:
- Other sites
Sometimes, the best way to pique your target audience’s interest is to ask a question.
Question headlines work well because they directly address the challenges your visitors have. More importantly, they utilize one of the strongest desires in human nature: CURIOSITY.
There’s no need to be overly technical about this. If you present someone with a question that relates to their personal struggles, they instinctively want to find answers.
That’s why question headlines are so effective in getting clicks.
It’s also pretty easy to come up with question headlines. Even if you just use the question itself as your headline, it should still generate clicks and engagement.
In fact, my question-based post below did quite well with 89 comments — more are still yet to be approved.
To maximize the impact of a question headline, give hints about the answer in your introduction or the headline itself.
Ever come across a post title with the words “number 11 will shock you”?
They became so prevalent on social media because they work.
Of course, you need an approach that matches the language of your ideal audience.
If you’re targeting other marketers and bloggers, you’ll need a more professional phrase that will get them hooked.
In some cases, you can attach the term “case study” to tease that you already have a definitive answer. If not, try something like “results after 30 days” or “here’s what I found out.”
Question headlines make sense if you are writing about:
- Popular issues that affect your niche
- Strategies that are yet to be proven
- Results you’ve already achieved
- Product comparisons
Truth be told, I’m only mentioning generic headlines to tell you that they’re bad for business.
In a nutshell, generic headlines are lifeless strings of text that should have no place in any blog. While they may describe the content, their lack of creativity crushes the reader’s enthusiasm before they even click.
I can’t show you an example from my blog since I never use generic headlines. But here’s one off the top of my head: SEO Marketing Guide.
It’s so bad that Headline Analyzer gave it a score of zero.
On the flip side, Headline Analyzer should warn you right away if you wrote a generic headline. And, to be fair, it’s actually hard to write a generic headline unless you’re doing it on purpose.
Playing with Headline Types
Using headline types to get a high headline score is completely reliant on trial and error.
For instance, let’s say you want to improve the headline “How to Build an Outstanding Blog for More Traffic.”
The first thing I’d try is to convert this “how to” headline into a list post headline.
Looking at our headline, we can simply replace “How To” with “10 Ways To” to change its type. Still, Headline Analyzer’s findings suggest that the first one is superior.
Granted, changing “how to” does remove the only emotion words in the headline. But even if we inject another emotion word like “Practical,” the score doesn’t improve at all.
So, now what?
Since there’s no point in aiming for a generic headline, there’s only one headline type left: question headlines.
Although “how to” is technically a question, it’s recognized as a standalone headline type due to its popularity. As such, let’s try swapping it with the phrase “How Can I.”
Interestingly, it’s the same old story:
Again, you may think that it’s because the new headline lacks an emotional word. But even if I add an emotional word like “Easily,” the headline score won’t budge.
However, there’s one more reason why changing the headline type reduces the headline score.
Two words: headline length.
3. Keeping Your Headline at the Right Length
While we were too busy changing the type of our headline, we didn’t realize that we’re also making it longer.
This issue is brought to light in the next section of the Headline Analyzer report.
Under “Length Analysis,” Headline Analyzer provides insights on your headline’s length. Apart from the exact number of words and characters, it also tells you up front if it’s too long or short.
Our highest-scoring headline thus far appears to have just 49 characters and nine words — well within ideal ranges.
Here’s what happened: when we tried to change the headline type, we inadvertently increased its length over the recommended values.
A headline with 55 characters or less and around six words can maximize click-throughs.
The headline “10 Practical Ways to Build an Outstanding Blog for More Traffic,” however, had 63 characters and 11 words.
In terms of characters, its length is still acceptable. Headline Analyzer, however, deems the headline to be a tad too wordy.
Keeping Headlines at the Right Length
At this point, you should already know what to do for clickworthy headlines:
Experiment with different words and sentence structures until your headline is at the right length.
Looking for synonyms is a neat trick that will help you do this. Simply fire up your favorite search engine and enter the word you want to change along with the keyword “synonyms.”
For example, if you want to replace the word “outstanding” with something shorter, search using the phrase:
Below are some of the words that Google found:
Of course, there’s no need to go about and switch up similar words if headline length isn’t an issue. But if it is, then combing through search engines to find synonyms should get the job done.
4. Making Your Content Go Viral with Six Words
When it comes to headlines, word arrangement matters.
Whether it’s online or on print, people tend to fixate on the first and last three words of a headline. Professional advertisers know this, and you should as well.
Headline Analyzer wants you to be aware of this, which is why it has a “First & Last” section.
As a rule of thumb, you should reserve these spots for your focus keyword. Otherwise, there are a number of phrases you can plug in to maximize your headline’s impact on the reader.
What Words to Use?
We can refer to BuzzSumo’s study on this subject. It involved an impressive sample size of 100 million headlines — more than adequate if you’re looking for reliable data.
Based on their findings, the top 10 phrases for the first three words are as follows:
- # Reasons Why
- This is What
- # Things You
- # of the
- This is The
- # Ways to
- This is How
- The # Best
- This is Why
- How to Make
Interestingly, BuzzSumo only managed to identify two-word phrases that frequently appeared at the end of headlines. This can be seen as an advantage since you’re free to add any word that’s relevant to your content’s topic.
With that out of the way, here are the top 10 phrases for the last three words of headlines:
- …the World
- …# Years
- …Goes Viral
- …to Know
- …# Days
- …On Twitter
- …are You
- …Right Now
- …Can You
- …on Instagram
Check out the study for the full list of phrases you can use as your headline’s first and last words.
These phrases look familiar, right?
Because a lot of high-traffic blog posts use these as the first and last three words of their headlines.
That’s not a coincidence.
I, myself, gravitate toward these types of headlines since I know they can bring about more clicks.
Banking on the top phrases at the beginning and end of headlines ought to be a foolproof strategy.
That is, if you plan to only use headlines that are five to six words long.
Think about it, how many times do you come across posts with headlines that short? Chances are they’re too few to remember.
Yeah — they’re quite difficult to write, especially if you want a headline that sounds original.
Headlines like “10 Ways to Promote on Instagram” or “How to Make Money on Twitter” may work. The downside is, some readers may find these headlines a bit too generic to be interesting.
This leads to the next question that you must answer to learn how to write better headlines.
What Goes in the Middle?
Going back to the BuzzSumo study, the phrase “will make you” is proven to do well on Facebook.
Do you know what this means?
What you put in the middle of your headline also affects how much engagement your content can stir up.
This may be completely optional, but if you can, try to include the following at the center of your headlines:
- This is Why
- Can We Guess
- Only # in
- The Reason Is
- Are Freaking Out
- # Stunning Photos
- Tears of Joy
- Is What Happens
5. Keyword-Optimizing Your Headline for SEO
All the information above may seem like a lot to take in for new bloggers.
Don’t worry — the next section of Headline Analyzer’s report will take you back to familiar territory.
The “Keywords” section of the report plucks out the searchable terms in your headline. This ensures that your content is discoverable to the right audience.
As a blogger, you should know that post headlines must be keyword-optimized.
Too bad we can’t delve too deeply into keyword research as it’s a topic for another day.
What I can tell you is this.
Just like headlines, keywords are crucial factors that could determine the success of your blog.
That said, I insist you read a keyword research guide to supplement what you’ll learn in this post. This long-tail keyword research post I’ve written some time ago should be an excellent starting point.
Attaching Keywords to Headlines
“Okay, I get it. Keywords are important — now what?”
With “How to Build an Outstanding Blog for More traffic,” Headline Analyzer determined that our keywords are “blog” and “traffic.”
Lucky for us, we didn’t use too many keywords in our headline. We also did a decent job of keeping it short.
Some headlines, however, may confuse readers by having a handful of prominent keywords.
For example, this headline looks passable on Headline Analyzer:
At first glance, you may notice the keywords “social,” “slideshow,” and “presentations.”
These terms may stand out to you because you understand what they mean. But for other readers, some of your keywords may not be immediately noticeable.
We can verify this by looking at the keywords section of Headline Analyzer’s report.
See? The keyword “social” can be missed!
In case Headline Analyzer doesn’t detect your focus keywords, there are two things you can try.
The obvious fix is to limit the number of keywords in your headline. This alone should be enough to make Headline Analyzer recognize the only keywords you used.
Also, try to play with different headline types so that your keyword is near the beginning of your headline.
I’ll just let search engine results speak for themselves. Take a look at the search engine results below for the keyword “content marketing”:
6. Using the Right Headline Sentiment for Engagement
For clickworthy headlines, the last piece of the puzzle is sentiment.
Ask yourself this, what emotion does your headline convey to your audience?
Do they feel highly optimistic or pessimistic about a certain subject matter? Or will they feel absolutely neutral about the topic?
Headline Analyzer advises going for either of the first two. Otherwise, some readers may not be compelled to click on your post.
Instilling Audience Sentiment in Your Headline
It shouldn’t be hard to paint your headline a certain way to invoke the emotion you want from readers. For example, to have them feel strong negativity that urges them to click, use words like “mistakes,” “terrible,” and “harm.”
Take a look at this headline, for instance:
Looks negative, right? Headline Analyzer thinks so, too — and that’s a good thing.
Who wouldn’t feel that way with keywords like “pitfalls” and “wreck”?
With a negative sentiment, you leverage emotions like the fear of missing out and uncertainty to encourage a click. Just be sure your content sticks to the same angle and capitalizes on the emotion your readers latch on to.
If you would rather have your audience feel positive about your topic, use keywords like “best,” “great,” and “successful.”
A positive sentiment energizes readers and could motivate them to take action right away. Negative emotions may be more effective in instilling urgency. However, positivity can push readers to take the next step with reassurance.
7. Making Sure Your Headline Displays Properly
Finally, Headline Analyzer gives you a glimpse of your headline when viewed in SERPs and as email subject lines.
These previews are there for one reason: to make sure your headline isn’t long enough to be truncated.
In search engines, email software, and databases, truncation occurs when the last few words of a headline are cut off. This keeps the user interface consistent by shortening long and wordy headlines.
If your headline is too long, the words near the end may not be displayed. This may leave users guessing what your content is really about.
Adjusting Your Headline’s Length
“Wait a minute, if this is about length again, then what’s the point of the length analysis report section?”
For the record, I never mentioned anything about SERPs or email clients in that section. Those character and word count recommendations were for readability,not truncation.
To put things in perspective, let’s analyze the headline “How to Develop Successful Websites for Thousands of Pageviews.”
Looking at the headline’s length analysis, its word and character counts may look fine.
But once we look at the SERP preview, it seems like our headline is a wee bit too long.
From a reader’s point of view, “How to Develop Successful Websites for Thousands of Pag…” can be off-putting.
That’s why you shouldn’t rely exclusively on the length analysis section when writing your headline. Double-check its length on the SERP and email previews to be extra safe.
Brilliant — you’re now a certified Headline Analyzer expert!
Now, crafting perfect headlines may require more time and effort, but I guarantee that it’s well worth it.
After all, a headline is essentially your website’s front door in the online space. Polish it to the best of your abilities and you will surely attract visitors in droves.
If you have any questions? What alternative tool would you recommend for headline writing?
Leave a comment below to get the conversation started. Thanks!
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