All bloggers share a common dream. That dream is to wake up one morning to find that your blog has exploded. Traffic is pouring in. Your server is buckling under the sheer weight of visitors.
And when any blogger has this dream, the cause of the surge is always the same – viral content. The piece you publish that resonates with people in such a way that they just can’t help but share it. As it reaches more and more people, the snowball effect kicks in, and the floodgates open.
Keep It Simple Stupid
At ManageWP, we like to distill things down to the lowest common denominator. We are not interested in throwing so much information at you that you suffer from analysis paralysis and feel completely intimidated by the concept of even trying to do something. We like to keep it simple (stupid).
With that in mind, today we want to focus on one small part of any given blog post that has by far the biggest relative impact on its potential to “go viral”. We are of course talking about the simple headline.
Your Headline is the Gateway to Your Blog
It has been said on more than one occasion by more than one source that 8 out of 10 people read headlines, but only 2 out of 10 people read the connected content. We’re not in the habit of reading too much into baseless statistics, but the principle is certainly true – more people will read your headline than your content.
You only have to briefly observe your own browsing habits to understand that fact. Consider this – have you ever found yourself in an airport bookshop, trying to pick something out to read on your flight? How many books did you look at, and how many did you buy?
Don’t underestimate the power of a good headline.
How To Create An Engaging Headline
The topic of producing engaging headlines is extremely well-worn. With that said, you might be wondering why we feel that the internet needs yet another one. Our answer to that would be in our typical approach to such topics – we like to keep things simple.
I challenge you to go and search for related articles and not be overwhelmed by the sheer weight and intricacy of the advice handed out. You’re going to read about “emotional engagement” and other psychological concepts. For those of you who are not dyed in the wool marketers, it can all seem extremely intimidating.
But you do not need to be an artist (or a scientist) to produce an engaging headline. We’re not here to talk about psychology, or emotional need. We want to stick to one single basic fundamental – give people what they want.
Forgive us if this seems too obvious to you, but when it comes to creating an engaging headline, if you promise to fulfill a strong enough desire in the reader, they will click on your headline. It doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that.
Producing an engaging headline is far less the about technical aspects, and far more about how well you understand your audience. If you know that the majority of your audience wants to read X, and you give them X, you will get a lot of clicks. If you give them Y, but with a brilliantly-crafted headline, you’ll get less clicks – regardless of the quality of the headline.
How Do I Know What My Audience Wants?
Typically speaking, you want to address problems and desires. Producing posts that are closely aligned with your audience’s problems and desires will result in a high headline read-to-click ratio. Whilst it is true that you can improve that conversion rate by crafting a more engaging headline, the most benefit is to be gained by hitting on the right topic.
So how do you get into the mind of your reader? Here are 6 simple methods:
1. Email List
Not only is this a great of discovering your audience’s problems and desires, it also serves to demonstrate that you are not a “faceless” blogger – that you want to engage with your readers.
In your introductory email to your new email list subscribers, just go ahead and ask them what they want. Ask them what they are struggling with, or what they hope to achieve. You may wish to alter the wording of the question to suit your niche, but the principle remains the same.
2. Social Media Outlets
You are probably already on at least Facebook and Twitter, so what are you waiting for? Go ahead and ask your followers the same question that you put to your email list!
3. Blog Post
It will take just a few minutes to put a simple blog post together asking your readers what they want from you, but the responses you receive can be invaluable.
4. People Who Email You
Never neglect those who reach out to you – they can become your biggest fans.
As your blog grows and you receive more and more emails, you will start to observe a general pattern of common problems and desires.
5. Blog Comments
The principle is the same here also – if you are reading and responding to all of the comments left on your blog, you will start to notice that many of your readers share the same problems and desires.
We have discussed this here before on ManageWP – how you can read people’s minds with search data. This is one of the most valuable resources you can take advantage of to gain a better idea of what your audience is looking for.
If you are looking for big-time improvements in your blog’s traffic and engagement, you would be best suited in discovering your audiences problems and desires before you start trying to fine-tune your headline writing technique. But a word of warning – only write headlines that you can deliver on. Nothing destroys a blogger’s reputation more quickly than headlines that don’t deliver.
Remember – the headline is only the first step. Once you have gotten someone to your site and they have read your headline, it has served its singular purposes. Your job then is to hook the reader with the strength and quality of your content.
What Has Been Your Most Successful Headline?
Have you ever created a blog post with a headline so engaging that it has gone viral? What do you think was the main reason for the headline being so successful? Let us know in the comments section!
Creative Commons images courtesy of Scott Ableman, crucially, brewbooks and AJC1
Interesting read 🙂