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8 Tips for Writing Catchy Blog Titles (Without Resorting to Clickbait)

By: Compose.ly — August 01, 2019

The number one enemy of web content—other than misinformation—is boredom.

After all, only those who find your blog title interesting will choose to click and read your content.

Want to increase the number of eyes digesting your hard work? Read on to find out how to come up with a good title for each of your new blog posts.

Table of Contents

  1. Grab Attention with Vivid Language
  2. Ask a Question to Spark Curiosity
  3. Make a Promise (And Keep It)
  4. Avoid Clickbait Clichés
  5. Use Numbers Wisely
  6. Incorporate SEO Keywords Naturally
  7. Be Concise
  8. Connect with Your Target Audience

1. Grab Attention with Vivid Language

Select words that paint a picture in your readers’ minds.

If you must address a concept, use concrete imagery to make your content engaging. Think back to elementary school and how you were pressed to write sentences full of colorful adjectives and adverbs. Reconnect with your inner child to make your headlines exciting and interesting.

For an idea of how descriptive language can enhance the appeal of your blog post titles, take a look at Mic.

Screenshot of Mic article headlines

Mic’s headlines convey powerful imagery with their vivid detail. For instance, “A tiny squid that looks like a pig and lives deep in the ocean was caught on video” sounds far more enticing than a less descriptive title like, “A small squid was recorded on camera.”

2. Ask a Question to Spark Curiosity

People like answers. When there’s a question, they want to know the response, especially if you’re asking something they’re curious about. Consider your target audience and the topics or issues they want to know more about, and then pose the question.

The headline for this article could’ve been, “Do You Want to Write a Great Headline without Resorting to Clickbait?” Experts call this technique a “yes question,” because the writer expects a “yes” answer from the target audience. The reader connects with the question and is compelled to consume the promised information. It’s not a trick: a good headline tells readers you have information they want, and they respond positively.

Never underestimate the power of an intriguing question, one designed to stir the imagination and find out more.

Consider this example:

Screenshot of Compose.ly blog post

Note the descriptive language and imagery; “tangled” is an evocative word. This headline also uses the yes-question technique, but the brief follow-up sentence is the call-to-action that revs a reader’s curiosity. Here is the answer to your vexing problem: click this headline to read it!

3. Make a Promise (And Keep It)

In your article title, promise to solve a problem.

How often do people use the internet as a resource to overcome a challenge? Very often!

Craft the perfect title to help your target audience find the useful answers you’re offering.

Even when readers aren’t looking to solve a specific problem, they’re almost always looking for digestible information. Good blog titles tell readers that your content will educate them. Who doesn’t love a good “How to” article? Or “Expert Tips for …

Today’s busy individuals want quick and concise information that will practically impact their lives. They want to know how to accomplish a specific task expediently or be able to follow a bullet point list of tips for tackling their latest project.

When it comes to both your headline and your content, think streamlined. Think reader-friendly. Think simple—not for the purposes of “dumbing it down” but for efficiency.

4. Write Stimulating Titles While Avoiding Clickbait Clichés

Sensationalized headlines that attract attention but offer disappointing content will quickly give your blog a bad reputation. It’s not all about attracting eyes to your headline. You must live up to your promises and deliver the advertised information.

Of course, if you truly have sensational information to share with the world, don’t undersell it for fear of being labeled as clickbait.

To distinguish your stimulating headline from the clickbait crowd, avoid using overused phrases like the following:

• this is the• will make you• when you see• til you see• what happens when
• wait til you• here are the• you see what• you need to• this is what
• that will make• what this guy• what happened to• like a normal• in the world
• what he did• looks like a• I’ve ever seen• how to make• blow your mind

If you just want clicks, these phrases will help you achieve that goal. If your goal is to write a stimulating title matched with quality content, however, then you’ll want to leave these clickbait clichés behind.

Check out how Vice uses humor to make some of its article titles appealing but not overly sensational.

Screenshot of Vice's Money headlines

A Few Ideas for Those Rich People Who Have More Money Than They Can Spend” and “Take My Cash, You Discriminatory Corporate Buffoons” successfully pique readers’ interest without using any exaggerated clickbait.

Let your creative juices flow and use engaging language in your headline but be sure you’re providing corresponding content.

5. Use Numbers Wisely

Studies show that numbers draw a reader’s attention. If you’re writing a list post (also known as a listicle), number the points and include the total in your headline as a digit.

Not only do numbers draw attention, but they also promise the reader an efficient, orderly experience that’s easily digestible. They might not have time to read a thesis on the topic, but they can surely process 7 tips within the next available 10 minutes.

Just avoid getting “stuck” on numbers. In other words, not every article is suited for a listicle format or a number headline. It’s also silly to write a post based upon a predetermined number for the headline. You never want to sacrifice quality material for a catchy header. Instead, aim for the perfect title and valuable content.

Is there an optimal number for a headline?

Yes and no. Many researchers agree that odd numbers attract more attention, because they’re … odd. Some studies suggest that people don’t trust even numbers as much, because they seem too neat and contrived.

Whatever the reason, odd numbered lists appear to get more traffic and “pop” in the headline, as in the following examples:

screenshot of Buzzfeed listicle headlines

(Image credit: BuzzFeed)

Besides odd numbers, other studies recommend ending lists in 0 or 5. Our brains tend to process larger numbers more effectively when they end with these specific digits, which is why many content creators often use the numbers 10, 15, or 25 for longer lists.

6. Incorporate SEO Keywords Naturally

SEO keywords are a digital writer’s greatest ally and should never take a backseat when crafting effective blog post titles. Let’s not forget what the term SEO means, after all—search engine optimization.

What words are people using when they’re searching for information contained in your article?

To find out…

  1. Start with a Google search. Google’s autocomplete function shows popular search queries when you begin typing. Use this to find out what users around the world are looking up. Then you can build your headline around these keyword phrases, making your content more SEO-friendly.
  2. Use keyword research tools. If you want more specific keyword phrases, it’s worth considering a keyword research tool like Google Ads’ Keyword Planner or SEMrush. These tools take the guesswork out of your keyword planning and help you craft the perfect title with confidence. Some offer completely free versions or have limited-time free trials. Premium versions typically cost about $30-100 monthly (sometimes more). If you’re a very prolific writer or content marketer, you’d likely benefit from using a premium service.
  3. Craft crisp headlines around keywords. Natural keyword integration is a key component in learning how to write an SEO-friendly headline. Choose your keyword or phrase first, and then build creative, relevant language around it.

7. Be Concise

Good blog titles tend to be short.

In fact, in a study of BBC’s top stories, the average headline ran no more than 5 words and 34 characters.

Don’t feel constrained to shortening all your post titles to this length, though. Opinions vary, but generally speaking, many internet marketing experts recommend headlines with no more than 6-10 words.

If it takes over 10 words to explain the primary purpose of your article, then readers will likely pass over your headline in search of more expedient information.

Be straightforward and aim for brevity when possible. You don’t want to give away too much, after all—your title should provide just enough information that readers will want to learn more.

8. Connect with Your Target Audience

Many different websites likely distribute the same information you do. You want your readers to regard your site as a familiar resource, and choose it because they feel connected to it and trust you. When they see your site pop up in search results, they should feel drawn to it based on their previous experience.

Connect with your readers by following these three tips:

  • Use subject-specific terms familiar to your readers. Many times, these will match your keywords. Familiarity draws attention, because it makes people feel comfortable.
  • Choose a relevant topic. If you want to show that you’re plugged in to the latest information, then choose a specific subject your educated readers want to know more about.
  • Carve out a distinct brand voice. Giving your headline a flare of personality will make it more alluring, as if news were coming from a person rather than a robot.

For an example of a brand that clearly speaks to its target audience, look no further than PopSugar.

Screenshot of PopSugar's headlines

It’s obvious who PopSugar’s target readers are: pop culture and entertainment fanatics. After all, each of its blog titles includes the name of a celebrity or television show (or both). It even uses acronyms—that’s America’s Got Talent if you didn’t know what “AGT” was—to save precious title space, knowing its readers will understand what they stand for.

Big Tip
What if you’re just not that excited about writing great headlines for your business’s blog? What if your new and growing business requires more content than you can manage? Find out how Compose.ly connects clients with writers who exhibit the creativity and technical expertise your business needs.

Wrap-up

Today’s discerning digital readers have grown weary of clickbait. They’ve developed an incredible ability to spot its formulaic clichés and dismiss them.

So don’t try to deceive your readers with exaggerations and hyperboles; you’ll more likely annoy them. Instead, craft catchy blog titles that speak directly to your target audience’s needs and pique their interest.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Heather Farrington and originally published in September 2018.


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