It’s the dream of many writers — you create a personal blog on a passion topic. Then, you use that blog as a writing sample that helps get you hired for freelance-writing jobs.
Many writers have a blog on their writer website — maybe you’ve got one here on your NAIWE site? The hope is that the blog posts will help you attract clients. Right?
The only problem is, most personal blogs fail to draw the paying clients. And the top reason they fail is the blog-post headlines.
Most post headlines are…let’s say…not exactly fascinating. Which is why most personal blogs have zero comments and zero retweets, too. There are other issues with headlines that keep readers from finding your content, too.
For your personal blog to get you freelance clients, that blog needs to have what marketers call engagement — posts need to get comments and social shares.
If you want blogging clients — or even harbor dreams of monetizing that personal blog — you’ve got to understand how to write amazing headlines that make people simply have to click and read your post.
Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to improve your headlines and turn them into attention-getters that attract clients. Here are my tips:
1. Three Little Letters
If you haven’t learned about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using keywords to get traffic yet, it’s time. Because post headlines that lack a keyword phrase that helps Google identify and send you interested readers are a complete waste of your time.
Seriously. Don’t bother writing. Nobody clicks, nobody reads.
What do I mean? Headlines like:
Beware the Red Flags
It’s About Time
Biodiversity: It Takes All Kinds
There are no keyword phrases in the above headlines.
If you’re wondering, single-word topic keywords like ‘biodiversity’ don’t get the job done, because they’re always too difficult to rank for.
“Threats to biodiversity,” on the other hand, gets 8,000 searches a month, my search tool tells me, and competition for that phrase is relatively low. That’s the sort of keyword phrase you’ll want to use in your headlines.
Get a viable keyword phrase into your post headline, and Google could send you a torrent of new readers.
2. Use Mystery Sparingly
As you saw above, many blog-post headlines keep readers completely in the dark about what the post covers. That’s not a good thing. Few people are going to click to investigate what-all this might be about.
On the other hand, a little mystery — where we know most of what’s going on, but there’s one unknown or hidden aspect — can be great. For instance, a popular post on my blog is How I Became a More Productive Writer By Doing This One, Simple Thing.
This is a ‘known-unknown’ structure. There’s a topic the reader can identify as something they know about (writing), followed by a mystery item — one thing we don’t yet know. That formula equals: I gotta click.
3. Promise a Benefit
Most blog post headlines fail because they don’t show what the reader would get out of reading the post. There needs to be some benefit to the reader.
Remember the old WIIFM acronym. Readers are asking, ‘What’s in it for me?” as they scan Google and contemplate reading you.
Your post headline needs to provide an answer.
A headline like “Threats to Biodiversity” fails, because it doesn’t communicate what I might learn that I could use in my life — how I could actually help the situation. I mean, I already know there are threats to biodiversity. Right?
By contrast, a headline like:
“3 Threats to Biodiversity You Can Prevent Today”
Now, that sounds like it has information I could take action on. And I want to read it.
4. Reader Identification Helps
If you can include the reader in your post headline, it helps attract the right readers. For instance, going back to my ‘How I Became a More Productive Writer’ headline… you can see immediately it is a post for writers.
It’s not for housewives who want to do chores more efficiently, or business executives who want to manage workers more productively…it’s for writers. When people see themselves in the blog-post headline, they tend to get interested.
5. Don’t Go All In
Many post headlines don’t get clicks because the reader learns what they need to know in the headline. There’s no need to read further. That’s a big problem.
I call these “all in” headlines, because everything I need to know is ALL IN the headline.
You don’t want this:
The Border Wall is Just Wrong
The reader goes, “OK, I get it. You don’t think we should build the border wall. Done. I agree (or don’t). Got ya.”
Where if your headline is:
7 Little-Known Reasons The Border Wall is Just Wrong
Now, I might be curious to read what your reasons are. Feels like I might learn something that might affect how I vote, or what Senator I call.
6. Not a Long Story
These days, blog post headlines need to be pretty concise. That’s because you don’t want them to get cut off midway in Google search results. Cutoff headlines tend to get fewer clicks. You want your whole headline to show up.
And yes, you should use a tool to check whether your headline (a/k/a ‘title tag’) is too long, if your blog software doesn’t show you character counts. I like the tool from Moz.
In other words, 5 Flight-Crew Tips to Avoid Provoking Flight Attendants, which as you can see in the checker tool, displays in full on Google.
Not this: Flight Etiquette: Five Flight-Crew Tips on How to Fly Without Provoking Your Flight Attendant. As you can see below, that gets truncated in a Google search result:
The drift is lost without the end of the headline, likely resulting in far fewer clicks.
Of course, I checked to make sure the headline of this blog post wasn’t too long, as well:
Creating more concise blog-post headlines is a great habit to get into, even if it didn’t matter for search — because blog posts should be narrowly focused. If you can’t write a concise headline about the topic, you probably don’t have your thoughts organized well enough yet to write the piece.
7. Make Blog Posts Easy to Write
Do you struggle with writing your posts? If so, here’s a tip: Write the headline first.
Too many bloggers write rambling screeds, planning to figure out the headline at the end. That means they’re free to wander off-topic.
Save yourself a lot of rewriting, and work on your headline first. Remember that your first headline idea is probably not your best one — and keep improving until you love the result.
Use Your Personal Blog to Get Clients
By writing stronger headlines, you’ll attract more new readers. Those focused headlines with keyword phrases in them will draw people interested in your topic — and hopefully, some will comment and share your post on social media.
Next thing you know, prospective clients may be checking out your blog and seeing it’s a busy place. Then, they’ll want to hire you to make that happen on their business blog.
–Carol Tice writes the award-winning Make a Living Writing blog and runs the Freelance Writers Den community. She is NAIWE’s content-marketing expert.