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Your blog post headline may be the last thing you think about when you put together your daily or weekly post. But it’s one of the first things people will look at to decide whether it’s worth it to carve out time in their day to read your post. That’s why you might want to take a long and hard look at your headlines if you’re not getting as much traffic on your blog as you’d like. If your audience isn’t flocking to your posts, it may be because you’re making one of these 5 blog post headline mistakes:
1. It’s too long
Just like no one wants to read an email that goes on forever, people don’t get as excited about blog posts with never-ending headlines. And it’s not just because they have short attention spans. It’s because short titles tend to jive better with people and search engines.
So how short should your headline be? We hate to break it to you, but there’s no single optimal blog post headline length. Instead, the optimal length varies depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
If you’re trying to boost your search engine traffic, aim for no more than 65 characters. Longer headlines will get cut off on Google search results pages. So if you want to make it easy for people to see that your post is relevant to what they searched for, keep this character count in mind.
Trying to optimize for social engagement instead? According to HubSpot, headlines 8–12 words long get the most shares on Twitter, and headlines with 12 or 14 words get the most likes on Facebook.
Here’s another thing to consider: KISSmetrics reports that people tend to pay the most attention to the first three and last three words in a blog post headline. So no matter how long your headline is, place your most important words at the beginning or at the very end.
2. It doesn’t contain your keyword
You may be able to come up with a short, snappy headline that generates lots of clicks for your post within the first hour. But if your blog post headline doesn’t contain your keyword, you’ll have a hard time using it to bring in steady traffic over time.
As we’ve mentioned in our posts on 5 things to do when starting a blog and blog post SEO tips, a good blog post is built around a keyword. This applies to the headline too. Your blog post headline is one of the key things search engines look at to identify the topic of your post. That’s why tools that help you optimize your blog posts give you major points for including your keyword in your headline. So unless you don’t care about attracting Google’s attention, make sure your title includes your keyword.
Now, ideally, you don’t want to place your keyword just anywhere in your blog post headline. Instead, you want to place it as close as possible to the beginning of your headline. Why? Remember what KISSmetrics says about the words in a headline we pay attention to the most – the first three and the last three. And remember that search engine results pages display only about the first 65 characters of a headline. That’s why the best place for your keyword to be is in the first three words of your blog post headline.
3. It misleads your reader
Have you ever shown up at an event that promised free food only to find some stale chips and leftover Halloween candy? It wasn’t a great experience was it? Do don’t do the blog equivalent to your readers.
When you’re trying to get people to click on your blog posts, it can be tempting to come up with a sensational headline, one that stretches the truth a bit. For example, maybe you come up a blog post headline like this:
- “10 foolproof tips from Beyoncé on how to spend less at the beauty counter”
What are readers going to expect when you serve them a headline like this? They’re going to expect (a) 10 tips, (b) tips directly from Beyoncé, (c) tips that will always work, and (d) tips that will help them save money on cosmetics. If you don’t deliver on even one of these, your readers might lose trust in you.
Avoid making your readers feel like they’ve been scammed by crafting headlines that are catchy yet accurate. HubSpot even recommends adding a clarifying label to the end of your headline so readers know what they’re going to get. For example, they suggest doing this:
- “10 secrets on how to spend less at the beauty counter [blog post]”
- “8 kid-friendly ways to decorate your home for the holidays [infographic]”
Headlines with these clarifying labels perform 38% better than ones without them.
4. It’s just not sexy
Being accurate and transparent doesn’t mean being boring. If your blog post headline feels a bit dull, try one of the tips below for injecting some life into it.
Use punchy words: words like “daring” and “mind-blowing” can add some much-needed spice to a headline as long as you don’t overdo it
- “8 mind-blowing avocado recipes you need to try today”
Call in the trigger: words like “what,” “why,” “how,” and “when” can be great ways to begin a blog post headline
- “How to sell your home in just 7 days”
Signal the visuals: Referencing eye candy in your posts can help you attract readers. Headlines with the word “photo(s)” perform 37% better than headlines without it.
- “The most touching journalism photos you’ve ever seen”
Leverage negativity: negative words in a blog post headline are particularly good at getting people’s attention
Embrace listicles: people love posts based on numbered lists
- “8 everyday foods that can stop headaches in their tracks”
You’ll also find blog post headline formulas that incorporate many of these strategies. Here’s one that’s especially popular: number or trigger word + interesting adjective + keyword + promise
- “7 healthy breakfast recipes even your kids will love”
5. It’s optimized only for search or only for social
Ideally, you want to write blog post headlines that both Google and real people (remember them?) will love. This is no easy feat, though. That’s why you’ll find that some blog post headlines sound terrible when you try to optimize for both search and social to the same degree.
So what’s a blogger to do? Always prioritize social over search. After all, you can’t generate useful traffic if real humans don’t want to read your blog posts.
But this doesn’t mean that you should forget about Google. Maybe you can’t find a way to place your keyword right at the beginning of your blog post headline, but make an effort to get it in somewhere. And maybe you’ve crafted a great headline that’s longer than 65 characters. You don’t need to destroy it just to get it down to 65 characters, but you also don’t want your headline to look like a paragraph. Set some minimum SEO standards for your blog post headlines and then focus on crafting ones that a human can connect with.
Check out these examples of balanced and unbalanced blog post headlines (based on the keyword phrase “vegan cupcake recipes”):
- Optimized mostly for search: “Vegan cupcake recipes: why these 5 ingredients are a must”
- Optimized mostly for social: “Five magical ingredients your vegan cupcakes need”
- More balanced: “5 must-have ingredients in any vegan cupcake recipe”
All this for a blog post headline?
This detailed talk about the 6–12 words at the top of your posts may have you feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. How are you supposed to carve out enough time to incorporate all of these tips into your blog post headline? It’s true that it may initially take you some time and practice to figure out how to craft good headlines. But the good news is that the more you practice, the more efficient you’ll become. And remember, because good headlines can help you generate leads, spending time on them can help you shave off time you spend on other tasks. And who doesn’t love saving time?