Business readers are smart, they’re onto the click bait thing. They’re not browsing to fill their idle time, they’re looking for value. Your blog headline should deliver it.
You work hard to infuse your voice, style and creativity into your blog posts. Don’t throw it away with a broken promise.
If you write blog titles that blatantly exploit the hot-button emotions, clumsily try to pique curiosity, or promise something surprising, the most common response among your target B2B audience will be to ignore it.
You don’t see credible news media running headlines anything at all like Buzzfeed. That’s because trusted news sources want to keep the credibility they’ve worked so hard to build with readers.
In NPR Editorial Training, Eric Athas teaches from his checklist of traits for good headlines. Here are two take-aways I find useful:
Specificity vs. disappointment
It’s tempting to think that a clearly descriptive headline will make too many readers pass over your blog post – that some amount of mystery or vagueness will get you more traffic.
If all you wanted were unqualified traffic, then every headline you write would be like this:
Think of online business reading as a user experience. Your headline is a portal into a little part of that experience that you alone create. That experience leaves an impression of you.
Your reader interprets your headline as a promise about the post that follows. If your title is too general, you can’t blame the reader for misinterpreting the promise and therefore being disappointed by your post.
A more specific headline makes a clear promise with less room for interpretation. Readers know what to expect when they click your headline. Your post delivers on the promise. You’ve created a positive user experience associated with your brand.
And for those readers who scroll past your brilliant headline in LinkedIn or e-mail because they’re not interested in that topic today, at least they don’t go away with a bad taste in their mouth from yet another empty teaser. If they don’t go “click,” at least they won’t go “ick.”
Forethought vs. afterthought
Write headlines first. (Then write the last sentence, which is a technique I teach in my workshops for marketing writers.)
Of course you could wait to see how your post turns out before you write the headline. How often do you get a few paragraphs into a blog post, then have a great idea that takes it in a better direction? (It happened to me on this post.)
Writing a headline first seems like such a commitment. Don’t worry. You can change it later.
Before you start writing, brainstorm a list of 5 to 10 possible headlines. Here are a few of the ideas for this post:
Do business readers (a) love or (b) skip click-bait headlines?
Business readers skip click-bait headlines. What works instead?
Are click bait headlines attracting qualified business readers? The answer isn’t the least bit shocking.
Why click bait will only annoy your target audience
Headline Writing: Two Tips for Business Bloggers
Click-bait, or skip-bait?
Firefighters find 5 revealing headline writing ideas in this celebrity’s bedroom
You’ll need a collaborator to brainstorm with you. It can be almost anyone (it helps if they can read). And it can be quick, even tacked onto another meeting. But do structure it like a real brainstorming session and write down every idea, even the bad ones.
Brainstorming several headline ideas is really helpful in focusing the topic of your blog post. The questions your collaborator asks from a fresh perspective will expose the blind spots we all get when we write when we’re busy with other stuff.
Your best two or three headline ideas form a kind of mission statement for what you’re about to write. Ask yourself, which headline clearly describes the highest value I can deliver? And can I deliver fully on the promise it makes?
Don’t overlook subheads that accompany the blog title (the “deck” and “kicker”) and second-level headlines within the copy. Your company’s SEO tactics may require them. Best of all, they let you use not one but two of your top headline writing ideas!