Headlines are like the exit signs noting when to slow down and get off the highway for your destination. Much like those important road signs, the words you use in your headlines (or H1s) need to be colorful, prominent, and eyecatching—or you risk folks not seeing you and racing on by. This is why headlines are so essential. The words you choose will make or break your content and can directly influence the success of your business.
So, how do you ensure you’re creating headlines that are powerful enough to appropriately amplify your content so that customers see you—and pull off the highway to visit?
SEM Rush recently conducted research to try and answer this question. By diving into visits, backlinks, and social shares of 1,200,000+ articles picked from domains with a blog section that had from 30,000 up to 500,000 sessions, they uncovered a lot; including important insights around headlines.
Here are five key takeaways from those studies to help make your website blog headlines work harder and more successfully for your business.
1. Be mindful of context and make your content count
As you’d imagine, the context of your headline is incredibly important. Your H1 needs to accurately label what your article content is delivering. To ensure your title is a winner, you’ll need to put on your editor cap and think carefully about your content.
Ask yourself the following questions, as you think about what words to use:
- What about your article is unique?
- Are there a certain number of key topics you can relay through your title? (For example, “three crucial things to know about your business”.)
- What problems are you solving for readers?
- What services does your article provide to consumers?
2. When it comes to title length, aim for the sweet spot
Aside from having a pithy, listicle-style headline and how-to content, you also need to be mindful of how many words you’re using in your H1.
With space at a premium, the words you select need to do double duty and catch both readers and web crawlers that read your content and H1 and then decide how high it will be served in search engine results.
SEM Rush’s findings found that headlines with between 10 to 13 words drove twice as much traffic than shorter headlines with seven or fewer words.
3. Consider organizing your content into a how-to or step-by-step list
If your list-style content can integrate how-tos or instructional steps, it becomes even more powerful and impactful for readers. SEM Rush’s research shows that how-to articles drove 38% more traffic compared to other types of articles (second only to listicles).
So, if you’re able to pair a listicle with a how-to format, you’ve got a recipe for a double whammy. Plus, how-to and step-by-step lists feed an integral part of our data-hungry minds. In today’s fast-paced world, this is the type of content we all want and need: Fast, easily accessible, well-organized, and to-the-point.
4. Before you get started, do your homework
When thinking about the best headline for your article or blog content, it's always a good idea to do a Google search for similar topics. Pay close attention to pieces that rise to the top of your search. Do you see content gaps or holes your resources and services could fill? What keywords seem to carry across all the top search returns? Can you mirror any of those top results in your own content headlines?
Looking for popular questions you can answer, commonalities in top-performing keywords, and problems you can solve are a great place to start when thinking both about content and headline development for your website content.
4. Make a list … and check it over and over again.
Content that leverages listicle formatting is inherently eye-catching and scannable by readers. This format taps into the organization and efficiency needs we all have as readers. In fact, according to Maria Konnikova, author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, “In the current media environment, a list is perfectly designed for our brain. We are drawn to it intuitively, we process it more efficiently, and we retain it with little effort.” SEM Rush’s research confirms this, too, finding that lists get 80% more traffic than other types of articles.
Listicles lend themselves so well to web content because ...
- It stands out quickly, when compared to other content types—in part because numbers in titles are more attention-grabbing.
- Numbers pique our curiosity about the subject matter they represent. What’s being tallied, categorized, or classified?
- Numbered content appears to be more well-organized and trustworthy to readers.
- List-stye headlines, and the content they represent, are more digestible for our brains.
Need help with next steps?
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