I love words and the way they come together. But you know what I hate?
The first sentence.
Many times, I’ll actually type out BLAH BLAH BLAH FIRST SENTENCE HERE and then I’ll dive into the rest of the work. I’ll come back to that part at the very end, when I know more about my post’s structure and tone.
Even harder than the first sentence? A headline. Or if you’re following my tips on using SEO tools, the headlines plural.
It’s brutal. Try to be too funny or clever, and you may lose your audience. Be too specific and your readers may think they’re about to read a term paper. Snooze.
So, what can you do? First, a few things that I always try to keep in mind:
- Start with keywords: is your post about a new workout? A social media tool? Your favorite recipe? Brainstorm words and phrases that will let your readers know what’s coming.
- Don’t fall too hard for the clickbait trap — yes, we see that BuzzFeed and ViralNova and so many others have mastered the “10 Things You Won’t Believe About XXX” formula, but do it too many times and don’t follow through and you’ll definitely turn people away.
- But don’t shy away from exciting words either — FREE, DISCOUNT, NEW, EASY, QUICK…those are all things that would get my attention! So instead of titling your post “How to Work Out at Home,” maybe you’d use “A Free, Easy, No-Equipment Workout That Takes Just 10 Minutes at Home.”
- Flatter your competition (as in: mimic them). Notice I’m not saying copy other sites, but if there’s a blogger whose tone you love or whose headlines you always click through, try to figure out why and put your own spin on it.
- Stick to one point. So many bloggers, particularly lifecasters, will cram several things into one post: here’s what I ate, how I worked out, what I’m reading and five articles I just read. That’s fine! But if that’s how you write, try to pull out a single theme — maybe it’s the type of recipe you used for your meal or a point from one of the articles.
Plus, use tools to help! Since I love all things CoSchedule, it should be no big surprise that I also love their headline analyzer, which is free and doesn’t require an account (http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer). And while it’s not the same, I also really think HubSpot has a cool feature in its Blog Topic Generator.
Let’s use, for example, a post title from my archives: “I Don’t Know But I’ll Find Out.” CoSchedule gives it the following analysis, including a score of 65:
Could be better, huh? Just for fun, I tried these alternates:
- The Phrase That Can Make You a Better Blogger, Friend and Business Person (score of 67)
- How to Respond to Questions You Don’t Know the Answer To (score of 71, but yes, the grammar on that bothers me, too)
- What to Say When Someone Asks You a Difficult Question (score of 65)
- How to Answer Questions (score of 61)
- How to Become an Expert at Responding to Questions You Don’t Know the Answer To (score of 67)
The score of 71 gave me an A+, so that’s probably the one I should have chosen, but it gives me good insight for future posts.
By the way — in do as I write, not as I do news, the headline of this post only gets a CoSchedule score of 64. I hope you’ll share it anyway!