• Scott Herring

7 Proven Methods For Writing Click-Worthy Headlines

How can you make a great headline? It's part of the secret sauce of successful blogging. It's not easy, but it can make the difference between no readers and thousands. Often criticized for its linkbait, Buzzfeed illustrates the wizardry of headlines - they famously test multiple headlines to see which one gets the most clicks and shares. "10 Reasons Writing Headlines Will Make You a Millionaire" would probably outperform "Headlines 101", and their experimentation framework would prove it.

First Impressions Last

If your headline resonates, your post can garner more readers and shares. It's the tip of your article spear, so if you can appeal to the reader with something creative, they're more likely to click through. "Secrets", "Tips", "Reasons", "Mistakes" -- these words, for example, invite curiosity. Everyone wants to know secrets, and no one wants to make mistakes. That first impression gets the reader into the goal of your post.

Bait Your Hook, Hook Your Audience

Buzzfeed mastered linkbait years ago. "Listicles" (like this article) enumerate the answers to the question - we have 7 in this post. There's even psychology to how many! Some results indicate a large number (99 problems...) gets more clicks, while some studies indicate unusual numbers (13 reasons) perform better. Although not all articles are listicles, you should think about what would invite clicking or sharing. You're teasing the answer to a riddle. A reader has to know... Consider "How To", explanations & tutorials, or simply fun titles.

Play on Words

Wordplay, unsurprisingly, involves clever use of words and meaning. For example, taking advantage of spelling, phonetics, and meanings of words. Headline about "hooking readers"? How could you work in bait, line, dock, or worm? Don't miss the boat! Pretty punny, huh? Pretty deep too. It's a whopper of an idea.

Size Matters

Keep headlines to a reasonable length. Think about how it will look as a linkable item. And think about what impact it may have on SEO - there are rules about how much text can be displayed in the title of your post. For example, Google displays around 50–60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your titles under 60 characters, our research suggests that you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly. Another way to think of this is keeping your title simple, which will inevitably keep it succinct.

Be Controversial

Here at Renegade Blogger, we believe in going against the grain with your content. And that includes titles. Being bold feeds everything else. "Warning! You Are Pissing Off Your Audience" or "Why You Won't Be Able To Delight Readers In 2020" invoke curiosity, don't they? I need to know what I'm doing wrong. Click.

See how headlines pull in your eye?
Headlines, Get Your Headlines

Just Add Visuals

If you use blog header images, they can expand the power of your headline. You know, a stock photo may not be worth a thousand words, but a well-chosen one gets pretty close. Unsplash.com has some cool stuff. Play around with your search criteria and your headline. Sometimes I work backwards, starting from an image to write the headline. Shattered glass. Hmmm. What could that be? A boxer getting knocked out. Hey, that works. Green grass. Greener pastures? Be sure to size & optimize your images. And for the record, we don't use images here at Renegade Blogger. We follow rules.


TBH, I don't ever read Buzzfeed. But they are ridiculously good at experimenting. You can try different versions of headlines yourself - there are some pretty easy ways to do it, although it's admittedly a more advanced idea than others here. Initially, try different techniques. With some effort, you can then try split testing (we'll talk about that another time, geeks). Just think different for now. Comedy & word play. Outlandish. Weird listicles. Be yourself, only better :)

The Value of Writing Headlines

Headlines are the attention device in this era of attention deficits. Definitive research shows that web readers scan pages -- with images and headlines getting the bulk of the attention. So play to that phenomenon and you'll enjoy more attention. A few blog posts written with our seven suggestions can give you some data to work with. Then you can truly test, experiment, and grow.


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