Writing great content is one thing, but getting people to read it and rank is a whole different story. This is where writing a phenomenal title comes into play. Blog post titles are what sell the content. They represent it in search engines, in email, and on social media. That being said, it’s no surprise that some of the most common questions bloggers ask is how to craft a compelling title. Other common questions include:

  • How long should my title be?
  • What words should I use?
  • What words should I avoid?
  • Should I optimize for search…social…or both?

Lucky for you, there is a simple formula for writing catchy headlines and blog titles that you can reference from here on out. Enough of this introductory nonsense, are you ready to dive in?

A Foolproof Formula to Write Catchy Headlines and Titles

1.) Start with a Working Title

Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of developing the perfect title, start with a rough draft: your working title. What exactly is that you may ask? Many people confuse working titles with topics. Let’s take a moment to clear the air here:

Topics are typically general and could yield several different blog posts. Think “blogging” or “cornhole”.  A writer may look at either of those topics and choose to take them in extremely different directions.

A working title, on the contrary, is very specific and guides the development of a single blog post. For instance, from the topic “blogging”, you could derive the following working titles:

Do you see how unique and specific each of those titles is? That is what makes them working titles, instead of overarching, high-level topics. It’s also worth noting that none of those titles are perfect – they should just be specific enough to guide your blog post. We’ll worry about making it clickable and SEO friendly later on.

2.) Stay Accurate

Accuracy is essential when trying to craft a powerful title because it sets clear expectations for your audience. While lots of people would love to click a post that said “10 Companies Killing It on Facebook They Don’t Need Any Other Marketing Channel”…it’s a little over the top, right?

Unless, of course, you genuinely found 10 companies rocking Facebook that hard and could confirm that they stopped using all other marketing channels. First and foremost, your title needs to accurately reflect the content that is about to follow.

One way to ensure accuracy? Add bracketed clarification to your headline, like the blog post below:

Bracketed Blog Post Title

In a study involving over 3.3M paid link headlines, the headlines that featured a [bracketed] clarification performed 38% better than headlines without clarification. Again, it’s all about setting clear expectations. Thanks to the proper use of brackets, these readers knew exactly what they were getting themselves into before they even clicked the link.

So if you only take one thing away from this blog post about how to write blog titles, let it be this: the most important rule of titles is to respect the experience of the reader. If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust.

Accuracy covers more than just hyperbole, though. With the example of the working title above you’d also want to confirm all of the examples are, indeed, real companies.

3.) Make It Sexy

Just because you need to be accurate doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to make your titles pop. There are a lot of ways to make a title sexier.

Of course, all of this hinges on understanding your core buyer persona. You need to find language that resonates with them, and know what they find valuable.

Once you’re armed with knowledge of your buyer persona’s preferred style, try testing out some of these tips for making your headlines a little more sexy:

  • Make it pop with alliteration. The title and header in this blog post, for instance, play with alliteration: “Foolproof Formula.” It’s a device that makes something a little more lovely to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.
  • Use strong language. Strong phrases like “Things People Hate,” or “Brilliant XYZ” pack a real punch. However, these must be used in moderation. Remember, if everything is bold, nothing is bold.
  • Make the value clear. As mentioned above, presenting the format and/or contents to a reader helps make your content a little sexier. Templates tend to be particularly powerful for click-through-rates (CTR).
  • Make it visual. Is there an opportunity to include visuals within your post? If so, make that clear in your title. Headlines featuring the word “photo(s)” performed 37% better than headlines without this word.
  • Focus on the “whos,” not the “whys”. Want to intrigue your audience? Focus on the “who”: headlines including the word “who” generate a 22% higher CTR than headlines without it.

4.) Keep it Short

Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long (or short) when it comes to how to write blog titles. It all depends on what your goals are and where your headlines will appear.

Do you want this post to rank really well in search? Focus on keeping the title under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.

Are you trying to optimize your title for social sharing? Well, headlines with 8-12 words get the most Twitter shares on average. As for Facebook, headlines with either 12-14 words received the most likes.

Furthermore, headlines with eight words have a 21% higher clickthrough rate than the average title according to Outbrain.

What’s the key takeaway here? Well, it’s always a good idea to run a few tests to see what works best for your unique audience.

5.) Try to Optimize for Search and Social

The key term for this section is “try” – trying too hard to optimize for these things can make your title sound clunky and strange. Remember: you want to optimize your title for your audience first, but if you can also optimize for both search and social, then that’s great!

Want to know the secret to thinking about all three at once? Well, here you go! You need to focus on keywords that you know your audience is already searching for, then look into the search volume for said keywords. Once you have a keyword in mind, you’ll want to be sure to place it as close as possible to the beginning of your headline to catch your reader’s attention. Again, you should keep your headline under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.

Here’s another important consideration. Make sure your headlines are tweetable – the 120-130 character range is the sweet spot for a high CTR. This range leaves enough space for people to include a short comment if they opt to manually retweet and cite your original content.

6.) Brainstorm with Someone Else

Once you’ve had a chance to polish your title using the tips above, it’s time to come up for some air and connect with a fellow human. Title brainstorming is an essential part of the process. One way to make this happen is to engage in a back-and-forth process with a teammate. Each interaction with your teammate should further refine your title until it is as near to perfect as humanly possible.

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About Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is an underwriter by day at United Wholesale Mortgage and a digital marketer by night. Andrew is currently pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.