This is the follow up to 'The Art of Writing Great Blog Posts' series
Not all great blog posts get the recognition they deserve. There are literally thousands of blog posts out there swimming in a sea of social media that haven't gained their owners the credit they deserve. However, 1 great blog post does not make a great blogger, you have to consistently write great posts and eventually you will be recognized for your craft. I will give you some great bloggers to follow and emulate their style until you find your own blogging voice.
The second in this series concentrates on the headline of your blog post.
Imagine you are driving a car on an empty motorway at 70 miles per hour and there are hundreds of billboards lining the motorway, all with various types of headlines on them. You are not really reading, you are skimming them as you concentrate on the road. There are headlines like:
- Here is a picture of my cute little cat making a funny face looking like Robert De Niro
- If you try and know everything in the world here is what will happen
- How to write like Seth Godin
- Great films to see by the time you reach the age of fifty
If you are on a motorway driving at 70 miles per hour, which one of the headlines will stand out the most? I would say that most people would say 3 and 4, the others are too long. Out of 3 and 4 the one that gives us the most information is 4, it tells us exactly what the post is going to be about. Number 3 could be about anything to do with books and has too little information so titles like this, unless we know the blogger well, will be bypassed.
There are millions of blog posts out there and readers are skimming their RSS readers to look for great posts. Nobody has the time to read a long headline, click on it, wait for the page loading and then find out that the post is not what they wanted to read.
Your headline must grab the readers attentions from the very first word.
Chunking and Highlighting
When we are reading at high speeds we are either chunking or highlighting the words. Chunking means that we are grouping the words together in blocks of 3-5. When people are doing this it would make sense to only have one or two chunks to read. As I look at my Google reader just now and look under the folder 'Personal Development' I see 4 posts that immediately stand out:
- Value Your Self Worth
- The Short But Powerful Guide To Finding Your Passion
- How to Kill Your Disappointment
- The Keys to Great Digestive Health
When we chunk the headlines above we see that most of them have two chunks with the exception of headline 2, which is a 3-4 chunker.
Ideally 2-3 chunks would be best, so here we look at how to make the most of the two chunks:
1st chunk – Introduce your article to the reader but make them want more:
How To, 10 Ways To, The Keys, The Top 10 Ways, The Secret To, The Real Truth, Shortcuts to
So you are piquing the readers interest with your first 3-4 words. Look at the headlines above and look at the first 3-4 words, if you are chunking your brain will naturally ask the questions:
Value your self what?
The Short But Powerful Guide to what?
How to Kill What?
The keys To Great what?
The skimmer and reader wants to know more and keep reading the headline.
2nd chunk – Tell your reader or skimmer exactly what you are going to talk about. and leave out no room for guessing.
The headline 'How To Make Sunshine' does not tell the reader anything on the second chunk and leaves them asking another question.
The headline, 'How To Make Colored Candles', tells the reader exactly what the post is about and leaves no room for questions.
The other type of reader and skimmer will highlight certain words rather than chunking them. For example in the headline:
'Markets Plunge As Shares Go Into Freefall'
The words that stand out are 'Plunge' and 'Freefall'
So with the reader who highlights it best to use strong verbs and nouns which appeal to their emotions and curiosity. This happens when we read in general, when we read newspapers, we skim the headlines, when we look at books in a bookshop we skim the title. You can see how important it is to get a great headline that will appeal to as many people as possible.
Verbs, Nouns and Adjectives
If you are going to use longer headlines make sure you have a few strong verbs in there. The verbs will help the headline stand out from the crowd. Strong verbs help create a visual image in the readers mind and therefore grabs their attention and makes them stop, very briefly. In that moment of stopping, the decision is made whether or not to continue reading the article or not.
As in the example above:
'Markets Plunge As Shares Go Into Freefall'
The verbs; 'Plunge' and 'Freefall', make the headline stand out and convey a sense of urgency and pique the readers interest.
Nouns are a way to convey to a reader the importance of something and readers who highlight when reading headlines, will also be attracted to nouns that announce something important like:
'Disaster Causes Global Economy To Crumble'
The word disaster conveys something important has happened and makes the reader want to know more.
Verbs are as great way of catching a readers attention, however they might not catch the readers emotion, which can be another motivating factor for a reader wanting to read past a headline when they are highlighting words.
Look at these headlines:
- How To Keep Your Children Safe At Night
- How To Feel Energized Every Morning
They play to our emotions by using adjectives such as 'Safe' and 'Energized'
Headlines are a major part of your blog post and it will determine if a reader will go on to look at the rest of the article or not so it is best to take some time over your headlines. When you have a few hundred articles under your belt you will instinctively know what will work and what won't and you won't have to go through this process every single time.
Next week we will look at using images in your blog post. You might not think there's a lot to say about this however you will be surprised.