TUTORIAL: The Art of Crafting a Brilliant Headline

Admit it. You’ve worked and worked on your blog post. You genuinely believe in your words, and you are sure your readers will benefit greatly by reading them.

But now you’re stuck.

You just don’t know what headline to use. You have a few variants, but they just don’t sound good enough.

Should you hoist the white flag, publish it with a lousy title, and hope for the best?

Well, you might have heard that 8 out of 10 people never read past the headline. 

These figures underline the importance of headlines, and how short our attention spans have become.

There Are a Lot of Fish in the Pond

Every single day, millions and millions of blog posts are published. So your headline must stand out. Grab attention. Make folks curious.

But how?

Do not fret, for this tutorial shows you what headline to use (and when). 

Let’s get started …

A Question That Demands to Be Answered (and You Know the Answer)

Examples:

  1. Did You Choose the Wrong Topic for Your Blog?
  2. Do Your Readers Trust You?
  3. How Much Does SEO Still Matter?
  4. Do You Truly Love Yourself?

It’s all quite simple: ask the most burning question in your niche.

Why?

Because questions arouse our curiosity.

We all struggle with certain issues, we all want to know stuff that is going to help us on our journey towards accomplishing certain dreams and goals.

After all, we all turn to Google to solve a lot of our problems...

So ask yourself which burning questions do your readers struggle to get answered? 

Use these questions as your headlines and provide in-depth answers in your posts.

The Classic How-To

Examples:

  1. How to Write Blog Posts that Your Readers Will Love
  2. How to Get People to Read Every Single Word You Write
  3. How to Be a Boss at Blogging When You Have 0 Followers
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People (As a Blogger)

How to [Achieve Something Specific] always works as a headline because it promises the reader a solution of a certain problem.

This formula works best when you make the problem as specific as possible. For instance, instead of learning how to write blog posts, the first example above promises you’ll learn how to write blog posts your readers will love.

This also means using strong words, make certain promises that are a bit on the dramatic side, just so you accentuate how you are going to help your readers solve an issue they’ve been struggling with.

What problems are your readers struggling with? How can you narrow down this problem to make your post more specific?

Remember, generic headlines sound bland; specificity adds interest.

The How-To Case Study

Examples:

  1. How I Got 403 Comments on One Blog Post
  2. How I Wrote Five Books in Five Years
  3. How I (Almost) Ruined My Life

The formula:

How [I/We] [Achieved Something Specific] is a variation of the Classic How-To headline. The headline arouses curiosity by sharing a story about a specific person or group. 

Of course, as readers, we hope to learn something from this case study.

Note how the headline examples are all ultra-specific. 

How to Build an Online Business would have been generic and bland; it doesn’t arouse curiosity.

How to apply this headline formula: 

Can you share a case study? Can you interview someone for a case study? Or would your readers be interested in a story about your own journey/struggles? 

Remember to add specific results for credibility and interest.

Connecting Some (Seemingly Unrelated) Dots

Examples:

  1. The Fight Club Guide to Blogging
  2. Donald Trump’s Guide to Blogging
  3. Don Draper’s Guide to Fantastic Writing
  4. Zen and the Art of Blogging
  5. Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Blogging

Ever thought that Donald Trump has something to teach you about blogging? Or that Zen Buddhism can be applied to blogging? Or even that art and blogging are related?

This type of headline works because it makes your readers terribly, terribly curious. Of course, you need to deliver. The dots need to actually connect.

It’s got to make sense. You have to answer some difficult questions. 

There’s no clear way to go about crafting such a headline: you just brainstorm ideas until something clicks. You start with two seemingly unrelated personalities/concepts/ideas and then try to notice their similarities and differences.

How does Stoic Philosophy apply to Art? How can you use Minimalism when it comes to Religion?=

The Guide

Examples:

  1. The Concise Guide to Formatting Your Blog Posts
  2. The Definitive, Incredibly Short, Easy-To-Follow, No-Bullshit Guide to Blogging
  3. Gary Vaynerchuk’s Guide to Gutsy Blogging
  4. The Ultimate Guide to Inspiration
  5. A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a Novel

The Guide is another old classic, but be careful how you phrase the contents of your guide. 

Use unusual words and try to entice your readers. The “ultimate guide” is a bit played out, but the “compact guide” is still making folks eager to read it.

Which reader problems can you solve? Don’t try to solve all problems in one go; instead narrow down your topic as much as possible.

Goofs, Errors, Mistakes

Examples:

  1. 5 Common Errors That “Help” You Make Bad Decisions 
  2. 8 Bad Habits that Kill Your Creativity
  3. Are You Guilty of Making These Mistakes?
  4. 9 Mistakes That Will Screw Up Your Blog

Words like errors, mistakes, and goofs are power words, attracting our attention. 

The truth is that we’re all afraid of making silly mistakes, so a list of mistakes arouses our curiosity, encouraging us to find out whether we’ve been silly, too.

In fact, most times it’s best to write about how not to do something than it is to explain your readers how to do it.

Think about your readers and consider what mistakes they make. Or consider the errors you’ve made when starting out. Make sure your post also explains how to do your topic right.

The Classic List Post

Examples:

  1. Top 10 Persuasive Writing Techniques
  2. 50 Ways to Become a Better Blogger
  3. 12 Books That Will Surely Make You Cry
  4. So Bad They’re Good: The 10 Worst Movies Ever Made
  5. Eight Undeniable Truths That Are Going to Change Your Life

Even though some want you to believe that readers are all but fed-up with lists posts, the truth is that these kind of posts continue to be amazingly popular. 

My post “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers”, for instance, was read by over fifty thousand people and garnered an unbelievable 2854 likes and 602 comments, making it the most popular post on The Art of Blogging.

Think in terms of intriguing elements or tips that might help your readers. If you write about books, think about what kinds of books your readers are more likely to want to read about. 

Don’t write a superficial post. Instead, include enough content to make it worth your readers’ time without going overboard. 

For added interest, include interesting or emotional words in the title like legitimate, sneaky, kindness, love, or truth

A high number can also help boost social shares sometimes.

The “Why”

Examples:

  1. Why No One Reads Your Blog (and What to Do about It)
  2. Why Should We Read Your Blog?
  3. Why Being Bold is Essential to Having Success as a Blogger
  4. Why Frank Herbert’s “Dune” Is So Difficult to Adapt into a Movie

I believe it’s not how, but rather why that we are obsessed with. Isn’t it true that we want to understand why things are the way they are? Why do children ask questions like Why is grass green? Why do people get sick? Why is water wet?

Of course, this type of headline works best when you prove a surprising standpoint in your post. This will make people more curious to read the article itself

The Reasons Why

Examples:

  1. A List of 7 Reasons Why List Posts Work
  2. 10 Reasons Why You Should Read a Young Adult Novel
  3. 5 Reasons Neil Gaiman is a Master Storyteller

This type of headline is powerful because it combines a list (numbers attract attention) with reasons why

Some of the most popular posts on my blogs use this formula.

You can use this formula to stir up a bit of controversy, boosting comments and shares. But be sure you argue your case well.

How-To + List Post

Examples:

  1. How to Be a Better Blogger — The Four Steps, 15 Minutes Routine
  2. How to Overcome Boredom: 3 Simple Steps
  3. How To Be Consistent: 5 Steps To Get Things Done

Combine the two most popular headline formulas—the how-to and the classic list—and you get the kind of headline that is almost guaranteed to work: within the first few words readers know what they’ll learn.

Start by writing a super-short how-to headline for the first part of this formula—highlight the key problem your readers are struggling with. 

Then simply write down how many tips or steps you’ll share in the second part of the formula.

The Art of Crafting Brilliant Headlines

Here’s the plot twist: irresistible headlines are not just about applying these formulas, but rather with you knowing your readers.

Understand which issues keep them up at night. Find out why they can’t make up their minds. Ask them what they’re struggling with. Answer their most burning questions. Know which quick tips can solve their biggest problems. Help them deal with those petty frustrations that steal their joy.

When your headline uses a proven formula and addresses reader problems, that’s a recipe for success. That’s how you become a popular blogger and an authority in your field.

Always serve your readers first.

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