Your headlines are annoying. Here’s how to make them better.

Magnet pulling finger to tabletWrite better headlines that work for search as well as social

If you want to build your web presence online, you better get good at getting people’s attention. It’s a free-for-all out there, and crafting a smart headline is one of the best ways to get likes, shares, and better search rankings. Online publications like Upworthy and Viralnova have made writing irresistible headlines the focus of their marketing efforts and it’s worked like gangbusters. (You can read more about how Upworthy crafts their click-inducing headlines here.) Unfortunately, the success of these “click-bait” headlines has inspired some ridiculous headline writing that often sacrifices search rankings and integrity just to get more clicks.

Here’s a headline I just pulled from Upworthy: “You Don’t Care About Your Privacy, And Kim Kardashian Proves It.” What does that mean? Nothing. What does it do? It makes you click. Why? Because you want to know what the hell they are talking about.

While headlines like this are very effective on social media, they don’t work all that well in search engines like Google. If you want your blog posts to rank well in Google, you need to clearly spell out what your post is actually about in the headline.  Headlines like, “Watch The First 54 Seconds. That’s All I Ask. You’ll Be Hooked After That, I Swear.” mean nothing to Google. Upworthy may rule your Facebook feed, but it doesn’t do so hot when it comes to search engines.

, recently wrote an excellent post on Search Engine Land titled How to Write Headlines Google Will Love & You and I Will Click, Read, and Share. In it, Salma talks about the growing trend of click-bait headlines that can grate on one’s nerves.

“With headlines like, ‘All The Science Reasons Redheads Do That Redhead Thing That Redheads Do So Well’ (*eyeroll*) and “Clear Your Next 10 Minutes Because This Video Could Change How Happy You Are With Your Entire Week”, it’s clickbait in its purest form. And my au contraire nature naturally rebels.”

Headlines like the ones Jafri mentions get the clicks, but they can also be annoying. Too often the content does not live up to the drama created by the headline. This causes what I’ll term “post-click disillusionment.”  You click on a headline that reads, “You’ll never believe what this incredible girl did to get her boyfriend back.”  And when you read the article (or watch the video), it’s completely believable and kinda boring. You feel cheated. So you stop clicking.

Writing for Search and Social with Integrity — the secret formula

Can’t we have our cake and eat it too? Can’t we write blog titles that Google understands and inspire hundreds of clicks on Facebook too? Why yes, we can. It’s just takes work. Next time you write a post, take some time composing your title. See if you can come up with the perfect blend of click-bait, integrity, and keyword-friendly content in 70 characters or less (70 characters is the approximate number of characters Google allows in a title on search result pages). Try using the 3 ingredients below:

A spoonful of click-bait 

Create mystery. Leave something out. Suggest that there is something on the page that will cause a strong emotion.

Example: This peanut butter commercial might just make you cry

A dash of SEO

Include a popular keyword phrase that describes your post. You can use Google’s keyword planner to discover keyword phrases that have traffic.

Example: Voted one of the funniest commercials of the year, this peanut butter commercial will amaze you.

(According to Google’s keyword planner “funniest commercials of the year” gets 140 searches per month)

One cup of integrity

Be honest. Don’t pretend your post is anything that it’s not. If your content isn’t as spectacular as your headline, tone it down a bit.

Is this peanut butter ad one of the funniest commercials of the year? You decide.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on writing headlines for search and social? Let me know in the comments below.