It’s blogging 101–write good headlines that drive clicks!
However, the thought of spending 2+ hours on a headline makes me cringe. Here’s the simple formula I use for coming up with headline ideas…then PERFECTING them using my favorite two headline analyzer apps 😉
Her name was Katie.
7th grade Pete was in LOVE with Katie.
She was the cutest girl in school.
I wore my coolest clothes every day for 2 years, and still never found the guts to walk up and ask her out.
Then one day we LITERALLY bumped into each other at a high school football game.
I looked like this at football games:
I tried to apologize and play it cool, but the words barely squeaked through my braces.
Terrible first impression = she never even found out how cool I actually am 🙂
Are your blog headlines like 9th grade Pete?
Bland, unappealing, and not attractive enough to actually get people into your awesome content?
Today we’re doing 3 things:
- Exploring 7 types of headlines that drive clicks
- I’ll share my 80/20 process for creating headlines
- How to perfect headlines with two headline analyzer tools: AMI and CoSchedule
Nobody’s going to read your content if they never click past your 9th grade Pete headline 🙂
Here’s a 61 second video on WHY this is important:
Why are headlines so dang important?
Two huge reasons:
- Headlines are THE driving force behind people clicking through to your blog
- We’re not just talking about blog post titles!
The headline analyzer guide below will help you NAIL the first point of contact people have with your content: Blog titles, email subject lines, Pinterest Pin titles and image copy, and more.
My broskis over at Copyblogger estimate that while 80% of people will look at your headline, only 20% will continue into your content.
Your headline (pin title, email subject line, etc) is the first impression.
It’s like dating…
Even if your blog post is TOTALLY marriage-worthy, nobody’s going to get that far if your headline looks like Steve Buscemi.
A note on clickbait:
Clickbait exists for a reason. It works.
In fact, clickbait is only clickbait when the content doesn’t deliver for the headline.
Feel free to use the headline analyzers below for days on end, but make DANG sure your content follows up and DELIVERS value relevant to your headline.
Else you erode trust (which if you haven’t noticed, is incredibly important for blogging and business)
What are the different types of headlines?
Though there are a billion different headline formulas, starting with these 7 is the simplest and quickest way to go.
Note: the Coschedule headline analyzer only really recognizes the first three in their tool….but rest assured, ALL of these are designed to drive clicks.
The “How to” headline
We’ve all seen these a million times.
- How to monetize a blog that makes a ton of money.
- How to get rich (in only 5 minutes a day)
- How to learn any skill 10x quicker
- How to bllllaaaaahhhhhh
In writing this post, I went over to Darren at Problogger to see which headline type he used in his most recent post:
The Listicle headline (or “list post” if you wanna be boring and not fun)
- 7 ways to lose belly fat
- 67 SEO tips for bloggers
- 3 donut recipes that are actually healthy
I’d read all three of those actually.
The Question Headline
- Want to enter ketosis quicker? Here’s how. (also a how-to headline really)
- Are you making these destructive blog traffic mistakes?
- Have you seen these new Pinterest traffic techniques?
- Can you really lose fat by eating pizza every day?
The question headline works because we want to know the answer…as long as the question is both intriguing to something we care about. If not, we don’t click.
The “ONL Intrigue” headline
This one is named after my friend Tanja from Our Next Life.
I’m 97.3% certain Tanja doesn’t use a headline analyzer, or write out 25 different headlines for each blog post. Not many listicles or how-tos here.
The “ONL Intrigue” is the name I’m giving ANY headline that really doesn’t matter…because we’re all going to click-through based on brand recognition, and because we KNOW the content is going to be damn-good anyways.
That, and Tanja does an incredible job building anticipation and intrigue for her blog content.
Check out the headlines in the screenshot above…they’re intriguing. They prompt…
- Retiring early is what you preach though? Why are you glad you DIDN’T do it earlier??
- Wait what’s “REAL” financial independence? I want it.
- I feel like I’m always in a slog. Yes please help.
The Emotional headline
Last year, Glen from Detailed.com shared an article on “emotion bait.”
We’ve seen the Buzzfeed emotion headlines…“Reporter breaks down while interviewing 3-year old!” but I’d actually like to EXPAND this idea further.
Bitches Get Riches hold absolutely NOTHING back from their content, and their headlines are incredibly effective for riling up their followers (and creating brand loyalty, and oh yeah, driving clicks).
- Why I’m totally in love with this new headline analyzer (also a ‘reasons why’ headline)
- I Believe in Blogging (ok this headline could’ve been better, but the content did evoke the emotion I set out for)
- 3 things to make you smile (see below)
I took this screenshot to actually show my friend Nate’s email subject line from Social Worker Success…then also realized Bobby’s emotional headline as well just underneath it.
This technique works especially well for social media copy (Twitter, Facebook ads, etc). Try sharing how you feel about any given post. See what happens!
The “Reasons why” headline
Kinda boring and old school, but these are still as popular as ever…because they work:
- 7 reasons why you NEED to try SmarterQueue
- 3 reasons why fasting might be terrible for you
Why do these work? Why? WHY?
(No, as is in…”why” is the answer!) Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it drives massive clicks.
The “lessons learned” headline
These are POTENT headlines, for one huge reason:
We trust real world examples. Oh, and case studies.
- What I learned from my first six-figure blog launch.
- 7 lessons learned from my 2-year Peer-to-peer lending experiment. (also a list headline)
- How to lose 28 pounds in 1 month [real world case study]
Sharing your (or somebody else’s) lessons learned makes it real. There’s substantial evidence and examples. That’s why we love these.
My 80/20 process for generating headlines
Using ANY headline analyzer is actually step 2 or 3 in the process.
Remember, our goal is to create attractive, intriguing, and clickable headlines…QUICKLY.
Have you ever heard marketers shouting “You should spend the same amount of time creating your headline as you did creating your content!”
Ain’t no blogger got time for that.
Step 1 – Create a temporary headline.
If you spend more than 12 seconds on this, the headline is too good.
Ideally, this step will be done in bulk; I.e. you generate 20 different topic ideas, and create a temporary headline for each.
Why is this important? You want to make 1,000% sure the headline is RELEVANT to the blog post as a whole.
It will be 10x easier to make that happen AFTER you’ve done the researching and writing for the blog post.
Jot down a simple & dumb headline, then…
Step 2 – Write the post.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have this grand idea of a what a post will be…and once you’re done writing, it turns out to be something completely different 🙂
Once the post is at 100%…move back to the headline process.
Step 3 – Braindump a bunch of headlines.
Here’s where I agree with the digital marketer hype of “write 50 headlines at a minimum” sort of thing.
But do it quickly.
Don’t waste time trying to make them good. Just spit it out on paper.
It took me 4 minutes and 3 seconds to come up with 21 ideas:
Step 4 – Run them through the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer, then the AMI analzyer.
Optional: If there are a few you KNOW you won’t be using…feel free to scratch those off before you head to the headline analzyer.
We’re going through the “how to use these” tools below, but here’s what I came up with for this post specifically.
Optional: I don’t actually use a spreadsheet usually. I’ll braindump lots of headlines straight into the CoSchedule tool. More on that below.
Next, the Advanced Marketing Institute headline tool:
Step 5 – Pick one, spend a few mins perfecting, then hit publish.
So the clear winner above was “You need to be using these two headline analyzer apps.”
If you’re not looking to go 110%, you should just use the top ranking headline and GO. Spend more time marketing.
However, I wanted “headline analyzer” to be at the BEGINNING of the headline for SEO reasons.
So I tried a few, but they felt “manufactured.” Meh.
Next, I went back to the top-scoring headlines and tried to make them even better by changing the length, headline type, and SEO keywords.
Turns out switching “apps” to “tools was both better for SEO, and for the headline analyzers.
It makes sense. I’d much rather learn about a “tool” than an “app.” It implies something that work, that helps me.
So below in the resources section, I’ll share several headline generators, analyzers, topic idea generators…
But there are only two tools worth learning: The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer and the AMI Emotional Analyzer.
How to use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
Huge props to CoSchedule for building this, as it’s totally free and useful.
First, here’s what analzyer does:
- You plug in a headline
- You opt-in for their newsletter (Meh can’t blame them for this)
- The headline tools spits back a score, followed by the data behind the score
- You make changes to your headline, then repeat.
Here’s a 60-second video of my first try for this post:
What’s the score calculated on?
- Length of your headline
- Balance of emotional and power words
- Headline type
Remember: Just because you’ve optimized a high scoring headline does NOT mean it’s actually going to be effective.
There are a ton of factors that go into creating clickable Brad Pitt headlines…
Including WHO your audience is and WHERE you’ll be promoting the headline.
It’s a tool, and an awesome one at that, but it’s not a magic solution for driving traffic.
Second, here’s HOW you should use the CoSchedule analzyer:
After you’ve created a dummy headline and wrote the post, it’s time to start dumping multiple headlines into the tool.
DO NOT immediately scroll down and start analyzing the headlines one-by-one. Run a few at a time, then sort through in bulk based on scores.
If you’re more experienced, batch process of your headline ideas. 20-30 of them….then grab the best ones and take them to the AMI headline analyzer.
However, if you’re a newer blogger (or just not used to writing a TON of headlines on the fly), I’d suggest this process:
- Input 3-5 headline ideas
- Click through each one using the history and look at WHY the headlines you like might be do well…or not well.
- Make a few tweaks to those 3-5 headlines
Try these tweaks to improve the score:
- Word balance
Length = Shorten the headline. Cut out fluff words (even “power” or “emotional” words as needed).
Headline word balance = Add some descriptive words in whatever category you’re lacking.
See below for a TON of my favorite emotional and power words 🙂
Once you’ve played around the words, type, and length, it’s time to take your top 3-10 headlines to the AMI tool.
How to use the Advanced Marketing Institute Emotional Headline Analyzer (AMI)
This tool is not as extensive as CoSchedule.
- It doesn’t have an analysis history.
- There’s no detailed reasoning.
- You have to select an annoying dropdown for every analysis.
However, when used as a 2nd round test, the AMI analyzer does a phenomenal job at rating powerful headlines.
Personally, I trust the overall AMI scores more than I do CoSchedule, but CoSchedule’s history and data make it the best choice for 1st round testing.
Using the tool is easy:
- Head to the analyzer here.
- Enter your headline
- Select a category from the dropdown (Pro tip: Once the headline is entered, hit “tab” then “b” then “tab” then “enter.”)
- Analyze. That’s it.
Here’s a 2-minute video showing it in action:
Other headline resources
Huge list of power words & emotional words:
These are just my favorites. Check out CoSchedule’s own headline word guide here.
Power words that imply something big or awesome:
- in the world
- the best
Power word phrases that work:
- behind the scenes
- that will make you
- what happened
- when you
- will make you
- you need to
Power words having to do with money or price:
Power words that apply something being easy, quick, etc.
Power words that imply authority
Other fun power and emotional words:
Other headline generators and analyzers
Inbound Now – blog title generator
This headline generator tends to spit out the most reasonable ideas…as compared to the ones below. That’s why it comes first here.
Portent’s Content Idea Generator
MY FAVORITE. Not because it actually generates great headlines, but because it’s fun to play with 🙂 Think of it as more of a content idea tool that headline tool.
It’s exactly what it sounds link. You enter your topic, it spits back some generic headlines (could be good for brainstorming)
SEOPressor – blog title generator
Same as the previous tool. Enter keywords get headline ideas.
Character counter = it counts the number of characters, words, spaces, and paragraphs. Copy and paste test into there.
If you’ve ever wondered which words to capitalize and which words NOT too, this tool shows you!
This tool takes keywords as it’s inputs, and spits back a question. Usually, these are thoughts to work well for headlines, especially for SEO.
Tools for A/B testing headlines
They’re the most well known split-testing software out there, but it’s not made for bloggers. It’s made for companies with marketing budgets. Pass.
WordPress plugin woot! THIS is what I’d recommend trying to split-test your headlines…and they also have a ton of other things you can test too 🙂
It doesn’t matter what your blogging goals are–money, influence, change, etc…
If you can’t get people on to your site and deep into your content, you’re not going to reach those goals.
Headlines + awesome intros = how you get people into your content 🙂
Pete, this is awesome content as always. I need to do a better job with my headlines going forward.
One question, for past posts do you recommend going back and modifying headlines using these tips? I’m not sure if that will impact any current SEO mojo or not. What do you think?
Really needed this. I noticed that I would make a headline, then change it like three times before looking at it again wondering whether or not it’s good. Glad to see that won’t be happening anymore.
Amazing content. Thanks for sharing the headline tools , I didn’t think they existed at all. My next blog post headline will be intriguing.
Thanks for the kind words Pachalo! Hope these help 🙂
Oh my gosh I am binge reading your site! It is amazing! I have read hundreds of articles and blogs, and I feel like I don’t need to go anywhere else. SAVED IN THE TOOLBAR! Thank you for generating great content!
Am I missing something, or is something broken, or what? The CoSchedule headline analyzer is making me enter all of my information, wait for my blog to verify, hit next, enter another pageful of information, hit next…to analyze only ONE headline. And then if I want to enter a tweaked version of the headline I have to go through the whole shebang all over again. I don’t mind opting in, but that is really, REALLY inefficient use of my time, and I’m positive it didn’t work that way in the past. Did they change something, or is something broken on my end?
YES! That’s incredibly annoying!
They did this about a year ago I think–but you should have to only do it once! You should be able to jump hop on next time and go (there might be another popup blocking the results, but there will be a link at the bottom that says something like “no thanks, just take me to my results” or something.
Hope that helps!
I think they did this a year ago, but you should only do it once! You should be able to jump next time and go (there may be another pop-up blocking the results, but there will be a link at the bottom that says something like “No, thanks, just take me to my results” or something like that).
Yeap headline is much important one to implement. It’s one of the most important things to be done & look after. Sometimes we ignore this & that cost us a lot.
Great article Pete!
I think for practical reasons most of us need to get comfortable with one tool and use it every time.
This article is a great place to start.