Choosing the headline of an article or blog post is one of the most important parts of building a website and optimizing it for the search engines. Adding keywords into the headline is a great way to ensure Google and the other search engines give you the boost you’re looking for, but it is equally important to find headlines which will encourage readers to share the post on their social networks. A recent study by Startup Moon found that headlines which are action oriented and even a little dark tend to be shared at a much higher rate than posts with a lighter hearted or positive headline.
Use Powerful Verbs
One of the things which caused people to share a post based on the headline was when there were powerful verbs within the headline. The headline should be seen as an instruction to the reader. Using words like “Use,” “want,” or “need” seems to quickly draw the attention of the reader so they are more likely to read and share the article. Add in more violent or darker sounding phrases like “kill,” “fear,” or “war” and you’re going to get even better engagement from the readers.
Using a headline such as, “Google to Kill SEO Strategies in 2013,” for example, will draw in far more people to read and share the article than something like, “Google Updating Search Algorithm with SEO changes in 2013.” While these two headlines could easily be used for the exact same article, they will most likely have dramatically different engagement levels from the readers.
Words to Show What’s Lacking
Another great way to encourage people to share your content is to use phrases which tell the reader what is lacking in their life or knowledge about a topic. Saying something like, “Marketers Missing the Point on SEO” is going to generate far better results than, “Marketers SEO Strategies Could be Improved”. Again, the same general concept, but worded differently to create a much higher level of engagement.
Specifics & Lists
One last thing which really helps to encourage readers to take the time to go through the entire article and share it with their friends is to use a more specific headline. If you’re giving a list of ten tips to improve SEO, make sure the headline indicates that there will be ten of them rather than leaving out the number. According to the study people prefer these types of headlines which are very specific in the amount and type of content they will get from the article.
Of course, it is also important to tailor your headlines to the specific audience you’re targeting. What works for one group of people might not do well at all for another. Performing tests and experimenting is a great way to see what will engage your readers and get them to share your content. The more people that share your posts, after all, the more readers you’ll have and the better your rankings will be in the long term.
How much thought do you put into your headlines? Have you noticed higher engagement with more direct headlines like this? I’m interested to hear your stories on this. To see the entire study, click HERE.