5 Tips For Creating Engaging And Click-Worthy Headlines Without Being Clickbait

Apr 4, 2019


When it comes to a click worthy headline, there is always a middle ground between beckoning your readers with a ‘shocking’ claim: ‘SEO is dead’ or a painfully predictable topic like: ‘Tips to write better blog headlines’.

Many marketers and savvy online readers have a growing resentment for clickbait and this is for a good reason; the vague and misleading headlines have been made famous by spam ridden news sites. Headlines I often see go something like: '5 shocking things to do with coconut oil’ or 'The one thing doctors in Coventry don't want you to know', this is a style of writing that charms readers into thinking they have found something exclusive and sometimes confidential. While this may not be so harmful on social media, when it comes to building a brand you can seriously harm your reputation.

Here are some of the lessons we can learn from clickbait to create effective headlines that drive results:


Clickbait will attract the wrong visitors:

When growing a successful brand, relevant and targeted content can help you to evolve, by engaging your persona. You need people to discover your site, find useful content, respect it and want to return. Clickbait is based around bold claims and overblown promises and its viral potential largely attracts one time audiences. From an inbound marketing perspective broad titles can attract a larger audience, but the truth is, most of them won’t care about your brand. Clickbait is a psychological game, causing audiences to presume an end result and stringing them along in the process.

Clickbait will make your bounce rate rocket:

It’s not a good look to have thousands of people visiting your site, staying for five seconds and then bouncing straight off the page with no intention of returning again. Clickbait generally doesn’t give the impression of deep, meaningful content and visitors having a bad reaction to your site does not stead well for your reputation and credibility in the long run. This is why Facebook took the initiative to analyse people’s time on page as a marker of quality which is exactly why authoritative long form content does well.

Brian Dean from Buzzsumo conducted a study in which he found that long form content (2000-3000 words) performed best in terms of social shares and SEO rankings. He also found that this type of content is likely to get more backlinks, which is a valuable tool for building a strong brand.

You will disappoint your audience and damage your sites important data:

Rarely will clickbait ever provide you with the content you're expecting. This corresponds with the above two points, clickbait is a bad idea - disappointment will lead to bounces, which will lead to an inevitable lack of trust and engagement in your content. This is why clickbait headlines are becoming outdated and we are drawn more towards specific, punchy headlines that tell the reader exactly what they are going to learn. Even sites such as Buzzfeed which was once the king of clickbait have now tamed back their shocking claims in favour of building a strong brand reputation. For example: ‘how to’ posts and ‘list’ posts receive deeper engagement because they have clear takeaways, e.g: ‘7 novels to read if you love Game of Thrones’.

From an analytics point of view, your website may get 40,000 views a day, however, a marketing specialist WILL dig deeper. They will ask questions such as: How long are visitors staying on your site? What content is driving most views? What are the viewers demographics? If you are relying on clickbait posts then your analytics can get messy and you won’t easily be able to understand the numbers that matter, without the bounce rate from clickbait posts bringing them down.

Tips to help you create read-worthy headlines:

  • Learn the popular headline formulas:

There has been a huge amount of research into the formulas and patterns of headlines that routinely outperform others.

Here are a few examples:

  • Number headlines - Any headline that starts with a number and provide a clear and concise list form of information. These types of post imply a clear outcome and learning

  • ‘How to’ headlines - This is a great way of engaging readers, with a clear outcome. If someone is trying to figure out how to do something they are far more likely to read to the end and engage with the content

  • ‘Why’ headline - This again like the other has a clear learning and outcome, as it will answer a question that readers are searching for

    -Brian Dean, Buzzsumo.

1. Use keyword research:

Use the language your readers are using, this is both good for SEO and getting clicks. However, be aware of keyword stuffing, you don’t want to use keywords in your headlines that appear awkward or forced - only use the keyword if it works naturally.

2. Be specific:

People want to know exactly what they’re going to get out of a blog post. HubSpot’s data proves this. They tested over 3 million headlines and found that titles that give people more information about the type of content format they’re getting, such as: ‘How to’ and ‘why’ headlines performed 38% better than those that didn’t include that information.

3. Do A/B testing:

Ultimately you need to understand exactly what your target audience are drawn to. Whenever you are unsure or torn between titles, do some A/B testing, find out which one performs better and use it! The more data you collect, the more you’ll know about how to get those clicks in future blog titles.

4. Add some emotion:

You can still add emotive language to your headlines without being clickbaity, although, it’s a fine line. Researchers have found that clicking on a blog post is often an emotional decision. However, only use emotive language if it is genuinely relevant and you can follow through with your content. Think about what you want your readers to feel when they click and work on providing that in the post and describe what they can expect in the blog title. As long as you’re consistent and genuine, this can work.

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