Sometimes, all you need to achieve breakthroughs in business is a good mentor. The path to growing a small business using digital marketing is never easy nor obvious. Yet, by following the guidance and advice of others, it can quickly become more clear.
Business owners these days have more advantages than ever when it comes to finding great marketing insights online. Whereas a few decades ago you’d have to buy books and attend talks in person, now mind-blowingly great advice is just a few clicks away.
To help you find the information and inspiration your small business needs to achieve greatness through digital marketing, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best digital marketing experts worth following. Their content and vision will help you cut out bad habits, embrace change and start engaging in strategies that grow your business reliably.
Neil Patel has a ridiculously great resume to add to his inspiring, can-do personality. He co-founded KISSmetrics, Hello Bar, Crazy Egg, Quick Sprout and countless other companies.
Reading his bio on QuickSprout reveals a fairly inspiring rags to riches story. Patel got where he is by learning through trial and error. He trained his mind to break down fairly complex marketing concepts people take for granted in order to repeat their success.
Now, on his blog, he does the exact same thing for his readers. Every post he writes gives deep-level insights without dumping too much on you at once. He also gives step-by-step instructions for how to use the world’s best marketing tools.
The only issue is that he can be a bit scattered, and his gung-ho business attitude means that he will bombard you with sales pitches to sign up for. But even still, his highly personable writing voice and capacity to break down tough subjects into digestible nuggets makes him every bit worth following online.
Like Neil Patel, Ann Handley has a jaw-dropping resume. She founded MarketingProfs, she’s a bestselling author, and she’s worked with some of the biggest names in tech and marketing on the planet.
But even more impressive are her writing chops. She writes with the passion and skill of a full-time journalist. Every one of her blog posts feels incredibly eye-opening. They also peel back the layers — not just the hows and whys of writing good marketing content, but also where the industry’s going and how we got where we are.
In other words, she offers not just great marketing advice but also an all-important dose of context. The subjects she touches on have equal value to big companies and small businesses just getting off the ground, so make sure to delve into her pieces on both her personal blog as well as her MarketingProfs author profile.
Kurt Elster’s got a magnetic personality and a way of boiling down marketing strategies to their core components. Reading his stuff is like putting on glasses after having fuzzy vision for years.
His main focus is ecommerce, which stems from his deep relationship with Shopify. He even hosts an unofficial podcast on the service. But he also can help business owners with their lead generation, marketing funnel, website design, advertising and more.
Best of all, he uses Twitter to actually offer helpful tidbits, not just dump links to his most recent blogs and events. Follow him to read things that make your head nod vigorously.
Founder of the highly successful Moz, Rand Fishkin nevertheless acts with the energy of an up-and-comer rather than an established name in digital marketing. His Whiteboard Friday series is an indispensable resource that helps business owners get perspective on tough issues of the day.
He’s also got an unconventional approach to marketing that aptly fits his odd name and even more unusual hairstyle. Yet, his advice works, and it makes tough marketing decisions incredibly easy to break down.
Barry Schwartz is the CEO and founder of Rusty Brick, but we know him best for his contributions to Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. Chances are that if you see a great in-depth piece on SEO practices and the latest search algorithm changes, Barry’s byline appears at the bottom.
His approach to marketing is focused on details and answering tough questions. At the same time, he isn’t above cracking a joke or taking a lighthearted look at the industry. Follow his work on Search Engine Land if you never want to be caught off guard by sudden Google algorithm changes or the latest shifts in best practices.
Heidi Cohen runs the aptly named Actionable Marketing Guide, and she’s also been a regular contributor on digital marketing sites like Business 2 Community, ClickZ and Social Media Examiner.
Heidi has a professional approach to complex marketing issues without getting too serious. Like Neil Patel, she breaks down every concept into its smallest parts so that nothing is overlooked, but she always remains focused and easy-to-follow. Her posts will have you taking notes and trying new approaches to digital marketing that could revolutionize your workflow.
Nick Loper is owner and founder of Side Hustle Nation. He really owns that “side hustle” angle, too. All of his advice and ideas are centered around one concept: you could be making more money if you channel your passion and energy in the right ways.
His advice relates more to structuring your business model and developing new income streams, but it also touches upon important marketing concepts. He also points out great resources that help business owners save time while earning more money.
If you’re a freelancer, ecommerce retailer, investor or just a passionate self-starter, Nick can act as your coach and motivator to make more income.
Gene Marks is a remarkably successful journalist covering small business issues and the economy at large. He’s a regular contributor to the Washington Post, Forbes, Inc.com and many other respected publications. He’s also appeared as an analyst/expert on Fox News and MSNBC.
Through his columns, Gene takes on the trending business issues of the day. He also does a great job of analyzing current marketing strategies. He’ll tell you as business owners what works and what to worry about.
It also helps that Gene always has a fresh, inquisitive attitude in the mold of a true beat reporter. His humor and accurate takes will help you keep up with the pulse of modern businesses while helping you become a more effective business owner overall.
Melinda Emerson speaks from the heart and never pulls any punches. Her energy reflects the scrappy attitude needed to succeed as a small business owner in America.
Keep up with her “Succeed as Your Own Boss” blog for advice on digital marketing, management and just about anything else you’d need to know to make it as a business owner. She’s also an avid Twitter user, updating multiple times a day and always staying on top of the biggest trending topics.
We started with one of the biggest, most authoritative names in modern digital marketing, so we might as well finish off with one!
Jay Baer posts exhaustive pieces on how to master digital marketing techniques through simple strategies and best practices. He relies on deep research and experimentation to source his data first-hand, so you’ll rarely find hearsay or regurgitated facts on his Convince & Convert blog.
As an added bonus, he also posts occasional teardowns of marketing concepts business owners might take for granted. So read his blog regularly for a much needed reality check from time to time!
Growing a Small Business Using Digital Marketing Gets Easier With the Right People at Your Back
We cannot emphasize enough how transformative it is to stay well-read on digital marketing. By reading the latest studies and data, you can stop making assumptions and start making the right call. You’ll also stay up-to-date on changes and developments that would otherwise catch you by surprise.
Keep reading smart people, keep trying new things and keep giving your digital marketing campaigns your 100% best to make growing your business more achievable with every passing day.
And, since the majority of internet traffic is now mobile and the majority of mobile time is spent in-app, Facebook represents one of the best chances you have at getting views, shares, likes and new followers for your business.
If you’re a business owner wondering how to drive traffic to your blog using Facebook, here are eight airtight strategies you can use to get maximum visibility and a higher rate of readers with each post.
Make It a Habit to Share Every Post You Write
Make sharing every single post you create for your blog a habit. People are more likely to keep up with your content on the social platforms they already use compared to obsessively checking your blog page.
Consider each Facebook share as important as the blog itself. Think of the Facebook post as your store window. You want it to be enticing enough that people really want to go inside and see what else there is. You also want it to be intriguing enough that people who are just window shopping still remember your display and maybe even mention it through word of mouth.
Keep in mind that Google SEO best practices suggest not sharing each and every piece of new content you create. However, this rule likely applies to larger publishers who put out dozens if not hundreds of new blog articles a day. If, on the other hand, you only publish 1-2 times a day or less, you shouldn’t run afoul of the overpromotion threshold.
That said, if you are making new blogs multiple times a day, consider limiting the number of times you share your content. Pick just the juiciest ones to show the world.
But the good news is that Facebook’s options for “boosting” your post with an ad budget are truly amazing. Not only do you have razor-fine control over how much you spend, but you can also target specific user traits and demographics.
With just a limited budget per day, you can earn spots on the news feeds of people who will be most likely to consider your content interesting.
If, for instance, you create a blog post about “Best Places to Eat in Downtown Austin,” you can manually target people living in Austin, Round Rock and other cities nearby. You can even select particular age ranges, allowing you to pitch some of the best bar/restaurant/music venue places just to the 35 and under crowd.
Consider boosting a few of your most popular blogs each month as you start out and then move toward consistently promoting a higher ratio to get your posts the attention they deserve.
Think Mobile First
As we mentioned in the intro, if people are seeing your content on Facebook, they’re most likely viewing it on mobile. Make sure your post is optimized for smaller mobile screens, including limiting the amount of text you use in paragraph form.
Also, make sure any image you use doesn’t have tiny details that require zooming in. For instance, don’t share your entire infographic in a thumbnail size; crop out part of it and share that instead.
Most importantly, ensure your blog site itself is responsive and mobile optimized. If people click to read an article they see on Facebook and end up on a messy site, most will back out immediately and not bother reading the article in full.
Make Sure You’re Writing Great Headlines
80% of people who see your post shared on Facebook won’t get past the headline. Some will keep scrolling and not bother clicking or reading.
Others will start reacting to the post based on the headline alone. We’ve all seen it happen, and for your blog this can actually be a good thing. Great headlines have a way of getting people talking. While it’s frustrating to hear commentary from people who clearly haven’t read the article, the whole point of posting on Facebook is getting engagement.
So embrace hot takes and write good enough titles so that people who actually read have an incentive to dig further. We wrote a whole post on how to write great blog headlines for Facebook, but the gist is to use phrases that get people’s attention without being too clickbaity.
Most importantly, look to your own data for feedback on headline quality. Posts that have a low click-through rate clearly show that the headline wasn’t enticing enough. Posts with a high click or engagement rate did a good job at getting attention.
Learn lessons from past successes and failures and adjust accordingly.
Use Facebook’s Text Space to Your Advantage
Every Facebook post you create with a link has room for additional text on the Facebook post itself.
Don’t neglect the importance of the space Facebook gives you above the link! A lot of people will read that immediately after seeing the photo.
The text you add to your posts can lend context, provide a brief summary or reveal key benefits. In the example above, the restaurant not only connected the link they shared to the current weather, but they also explained that the link’s important because it was essentially an endorsement from a notable local publication.
Just remember that the maximum amount of content people can see without expanding is 480 characters. Avoid using chunks of text to get your point across. Try to be descriptive yet brief. Use any hashtags or cross-tags to other pages that are relevant to signal boost your post even further. Maybe even consider using emojis😁!
Images catch our attention, and they can also begin to tell the story behind your blog. With the right image, you can elicit emotion from your audiences before they even read a single word. Once they’ve been engaged in this way, your audience will be more likely to read the actual post.
Make images as relevant as possible to the content of your posts, though. Don’t just use an image because it’s eye-catching.
Also, limit the use of text within your image. A spare amount of text can be great, but too much can prevent your boosted posts from running. Check out Facebook’s own image guidelines for more details on what they do and don’t want.
A/B Test Different Variations of Blog Post Shares
One of your best tools for marketing is the ability to split test two different versions of the same blog post
For instance, say you wanted to promote a blog about how swimming pools add value to someone’s home. You can create one version that uses an image of a happy family. You can then create another version that uses a stock image of a pool full of money.
Now, show each version to roughly the same audience and see which one gets the more clicks!
Performing these experiments can help you get details just right for each blog post you promote. It can also reveal preferences for different demographics when it comes to post design.
Pay Attention to Facebook Insights Data, and It Will Show You How to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Using Facebook
At the end of the day, your own data is the best asset you have when trying to learn how to drive traffic to your blog using Facebook. Take notes on what works and what doesn’t, especially when it comes to what times you post and how frequently.
Also, A/B test post variations vigorously to find out how to get the biggest reaction from your audience.
Finally, make sure that the content you create is absolutely worth reading! Offer value, relevance and genuine quality to your readers. Otherwise, they may not want to click no matter how enticing the preview looks. You know the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me eight or more times….”
So you sit down to come up with topics for your next couple of blog posts and…nothing. You draw a total blank.
Sometimes business blog post ideas come hard and fast like a heavy rain. Other times you have a total mental drought on what to write about next.
Don’t sweat it! There are a couple of blog formats that can work well for just about any subject. Adding them to your repertoire can make coming up with your next blog post topics as easy as falling off a unicycle.
In fact, you can use this list to plan your blog strategy for months in advance. If you make some of these blog post types a recurring monthly series, for instance, you can know exactly what you’ll write about at least half the time.
So get out your notebook or spreadsheet and jot down the following eight great blog post formats that have a way of working well in just about any context.
(Note that the letter “X” stands for any number of list items you end up using. We’re also using [Topic] as a stand-in for whatever subject or focus you’re writing about.)
1. Best Practices in [Topic], X Killer Tips for [Topic], X [Topic] Hacks You Didn’t Know About, X Steps to Get Better at [Topic] Etc.
Why are lists so effective? Well, let’s list a few reasons.
They’re quick and easy to read, even if you’re just skimming.
It’s an engaging format that’s easy to get into. You won’t find huge thesis introductions or the like.
They cover a broad range of topics, ideas, practices, etc. efficiently.
They implicitly promise a certain amount of value. You’re not just getting one tip, you’re getting X of them!
They have variety. If you have a list of “10 Things You Need to Do to Feel Better at the End of the Day,” a reader can hate seven of the suggestions but still find huge value in the last three.
Of course, not just any list can fulfill this criteria when writing your business blog. The lists you write must contain actual value and usefulness.
That’s why blog posts that promise self-improvement do so well. Just reading the list of hacks, tips, best practices, etc. will suddenly make you better at doing that thing you wanted to do.
Try to distill or retool certain topics you want to cover into helpful lists. They strongly communicate that the article is worth every bit of the reader’s time. They also pack tons of value into a small space.
2. X Top Trends in [Topic]
Everyone wants to stay current. That’s one of the biggest reasons we go online and read content. We want to find out what’s new and exciting. We also want to avoid being left behind if the latest trends are going to soon become standard practices.
Keep your audience abreast of things happening in your industry with lists of top current trends. These post types work especially well with seasonal timing, such as “X Trends in Social Media for 2018” or “Brands Are Preparing for the 2018 Holiday Season Already Thanks to These X Trends.”
The beauty of the term “trends” is that it’s incredibly vague.
A trend can also be something relatively new, like how many businesses have started using live video broadcasts for behind the scenes looks, live announcements, Q&As and more.
Trends also include bold new ideas bursting onto the horizon. For instance, some small businesses have realized that they can be the first thing a smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home suggests if they focus their SEO strategies on voice search.
In a way, listing trends is similar to offering tips and hacks, but with stronger connotations of being timely and keeping up with the Joneses. You can also discuss hot new topics that get people’s adrenaline pumping.
Make a pledge to reveal current trends at least a few times a year, and you’ll help your audience stay hip and always on the cutting edge.
3. Roundup of Top Resources in [Topic]
Even if you wrote a blog every single day, you’d never have as much content or cover as many subjects as some of the best content publishers out there.
That’s why it’s ok to send people away from your website from time to time in order to give them the exact information they need. If you can point them towards an excellent resource, then they will appreciate the huge favor you’ve done them.
Sharing great resources also has the added effect of some of their prestige rubbing off on you. “Oh man, I didn’t know how many free classes there were for coding online,” someone might say, “but this business pointed me towards Codecademy, and I’ve been using it every weekend!”
Think of it like suggesting great films to a movie buff. They’ll be impressed that you knew something they didn’t. The better quality thing you point them towards, the more prestigious you become by association.
So what kind of resources work best?
Great blogs that take a more in-depth angle to topics than you do
Free sources of things like stock photos, how-tos, lessons, guides, etc.
Ways to do something cheaply, such as ordering replacement car parts yourself from a reliable online vendor
Lists of the best apps or tech tools to use that make their life easier
Explicit instructions, such as how Swim University provides infographics to help someone open their pool or balance their chemicals
Anything that uses humor or creativity to perfectly capture your industry, like how the Marketoonist nails the way marketers eagerly embrace technology they don’t quite know how to use properly
Great videos to watch on certain subjects, especially if you have a limited video content strategy
4. X Experts to Follow for [Topic]
No matter how smart you are, there are always people in your industry who will know more about something than you do. That’s totally ok! We can’t know everything, and even geniuses can be bested in certain niche topics.
Following the experts in your industry therefore makes perfect sense. They can fill you in on certain concepts, and they can also explore topics in your industry from angles you hadn’t considered.
Others may have a brilliant way of summing up complex issues in a few words. For instance, we adored this simple yet profound advice from Shopify Podcast host Kurt Elster on website design.
Following industry experts and insiders also critically keeps your audience up-to-date with the absolute latest and best-of-breed ideas within your industry.
Point your audience towards your favorite mentors, geniuses, and newsbreakers. They’ll stay better-informed on topics and practices, letting you dive more in-depth with concepts thanks to them being so well versed.
5. The Ultimate Guide to [Topic]
Every once in a while, it makes complete sense to delve into a topic like you would an in-depth manual or guide. Doing so gives your audience valuable troves of information.
Guides also serve as a one-stop source for whatever topic you’re covering. While that amount of depth can seem like a lot to cover at once, you can provide a hyperlinked “Table of Contents” to make jumping between topics easier.
You can also reference the guide directly within your future content. Rather than backing up to explain the basics all the time, you can simply hyperlink to your guide.
“Ultimate Guide” posts tend to get huge volumes of shares, and search engines adore them. If you provide the right structured data, Google may even feature your guide at the very top of search engine results in their knowledge box!
6. Statistics Roundup Post
Sometimes people want “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Whether they need a lot of fact-based information to make decisions, or they just want to reference stats in their own content, creating statistics posts offer bucketloads of usefulness to audiences.
As an added bonus, each time you reference a certain statistic for your industry, you can link to your stats rundown instead of the original source. This helps your posts stay fact-based and valuable while directing fewer people away from your domain.
7. Expert Roundup — Quotes & Thoughts From Your Industry
Rounding up expert commentary and opinions is like bringing all your favorite talking heads into one room for a conversation. You can frame a complex topic from multiple angles, or you can run through critical concepts list style alongside experts’ own input.
Consider making expert roundups a regular part of your posting schedule. They work especially well as a follow up to posts you’ve just written. For example, you can write about how to improve ecommerce sales through PPC campaigns one week, then follow up with an expert roundup on the subject the next.
8. Curated Posts and News Roundups
With the right approach, you can link to another post in a way that still brings authority to your own domain and business brand.
The key is to not just introduce the piece and say “click here.” Instead, give a thorough introduction along with a brief summary. Make sure to tie the post in with any recent blog posts you’ve written regarding the topic.
Also, give your own response to the piece itself at the end. Reflect on what it means personally to your business or how it relates to core concepts you hold dear.
With this approach, something as a simple as a post share can easily turn into a 500 word article with an extremely low likelihood of an SEO penalty.
You can even curate several posts in a row as part of a news roundup for your industry. Doing this once a week or once a month can provide great content for email subscribers as well as your regular blog readers.
Coming Up With Good Business Blog Post Ideas Doesn’t Have to Mean Reinventing the Wheel
All of the above post types use a standardized, structured format while still inviting plenty of room for your own personal flavor and creativity.
Don’t think of using these business blog post ideas as a crutch! Instead, they serve as a springboard for your own ideas to come forth.
Audiences also like knowing exactly what to expect when they click to read something, and these blog ideas definitely give them that.
So stay creative and true to your audience but don’t bend over backwards just to come up with new blog topics all the time. Using the formats above, you can feel like most of the work is done for you before you even write the first word.
Few business owners have both the time and skill with words needed to do their company blog justice. Business blogs need to look polished and represent the brand well, yet learning to write professionally is a trial-and-error process.
Considering all these personal limitations and high expectations, outsourcing blog writing makes perfect sense. But there is a right way and a wrong way to hire a writer. Many business owners commit hefty mistakes when offering someone the chance to take the reins on their business blog.
Here are six of the biggest of those mistakes. Watch out for them when hiring a blog writer to avoid frustrating setbacks and to ensure your blog is as great as it deserves to be.
Going With the Lowest Bidder
This is absolutely the most crucial mistake. Remember the maxim: “you get what you pay for.”
Hiring the cheapest writer you can find creates problems because it assumes the only goal for your blog is to have something published on it. In reality, you want every article published to fit a few criteria:
Proper grammar, spelling and syntax
An engaging structure that is as easy to read to completion as it is to skim quickly
A compelling voice
Research and effort during prewriting so that your blogs are informative and offer value
Able to capture the unique perspective of your brand or company
Hiring the cheapest writer guarantees none of these things. In fact, you are highly likely to end up with a non-native English speaker who is going to copy the first article they find on Google search …badly.
Have high standards in mind, and use them to make your budget reasonable. Keep in mind that a badly written blog can cause damage to your brand and marketing goals, making a poorly run blog worse than no blog at all.
Not Looking at Their Resume and Past Work
The best indicator of a writer’s strength is their past work. You will want to see a broad range of writing styles covering all the topic types you intend for your blog.
Some writers work better in an editorial format compared to a list of “X reasons why…”, for instance, so ensure the writer you have in mind is capable of creating what you need.
You should also look out for a writer who is able to write engagingly in several different voices. They should be chameleons capable of mimicking your particular brand. At the same time, they should have consistent stylistic devices that make reading their pieces easy and fun.
Hold out for writers who can impress you with their past work and their overall versatility. As a final test, you should also commission a sample piece to ensure they can satisfy your desired writing approach.
Not Setting Goals and Expectations
The best writer in the world is going to struggle with meeting your expectations if you can’t make them clear.
Since no one can read minds, you will need to explain the purpose of your blog and what you intend to get out of it to the writer. These guiding principles will help the writer shape their approach to your blog.
For instance, if your goal is SEO and generating traffic from social media shares, then the writer may take a more “viral” approach. If the aim is to generate leads and develop brand awareness, quality information and a strong brand voice matters most. If the goal is to create a guide to complex topics in your industry or operate as a sales funnel, the overall strategy for blog topic selection and publishing matters as much as each individual piece.
Define your goals, and make them clear to your writer. At the very least, provide an overview of the type of topics you want to cover and what you intend readers to do next. For example, if you have SEO goals, provide a sample of keywords they can work into the writing.
Establish guidelines for how casual or professional you want the language to be. Give a range of article lengths. Tell them what elements they need to include upon submission to make your life easier, such as adding images or including a meta description.
Put all of these guidelines in a document, and ensure your writer has no questions. You don’t want them reaching out via email at the last minute just to get a piece done. If they have a document to refer to, they can self guide and make the process for both of you easier.
Going With a Strong Writer Who Can’t Match Your Brand Voice
Make sure that any writer you hire can adopt the approach and voice you want to represent your brand. A great test is to provide them guidelines for a sample article using excerpts from blogs you like and some loosely described ideas you’ve had.
If they can produce something that comes across as similar to something you’d write or close to a blog style you want to emulate, you know they’re a keeper.
Not Establishing a Set Workflow and Process After Hiring a Blog Writer
At the beginning of your relationship, you and your writer should know how the typical process for submitting blogs should work. Tell them the deadline for each piece. Tell them whether you want an outline or topic proposal submitted first. Explain how many revisions you might typically go through.
Setting guidelines for touching base is also critical. Even though some professional relationships can work well on autopilot, the last thing you want is for your writer to go AWOL on you. Yet, this can easily happen if they didn’t have clear expectations on when you wanted to hear from them next.
Your writer can also become frustrated if you change your process constantly or add on unexpected things like major changes between drafts. Try to work towards consistency.
Not Talking Strategy With Your Writer
When you hire a new writer, you form a relationship that can be quite beneficial to you both. The best way for this relationship to blossom is to have talk strategy, performance and feedback at key points in the year.
Try to schedule a call or meeting with your writer at least quarterly. Discuss your upcoming plans. Offer both praise and suggestions for improvement. See if they have any ideas you could work into your blog strategy. Make a goal to push your blogging to become better month after month.
Following all of the suggestions above ensures you don’t just find a great writer, but that you also develop a professional working relationship that gets better over time. If you can do all this, you will be much happier with the work from your writer and happier about the results they help your blog achieve.
In many ways, the headline is the most important part of a blog post or article. Headlines spark action. They can make people click. An eye-catching headline on social media can draw tons of comments — many from people reacting off the headline alone.
Headlines can also shape how people digest the message of a blog by creating context and expectations — all through a strong first impression.
But, most importantly, headlines tell us what we need to know in order to get invested. With so many distractions and options for reading content online, we need information that helps us choose how to spend our limited time.
The best headlines therefore serve as a promise to the reader about what they’ll get for their time. Never forget that a great headline acts like a bargain: “read this, and you’ll get something special or valuable or informative out of it.”
So how do you start to shape expectations and earn interest right from the headline? You can rely on a couple of tried-and-true formulas, as one option. You should also mull how accurately and succinctly your headline summarizes the central takeaway of your post.
To help you get started, here are three methods you can try in 2018 to write better blog headlines and earn more clicks, along with a few other tips.
Method 1: Distill Your Article Into a Headline by Gradually Dropping Your Word Count
This first method is time consuming and involves some hefty thinking, but after a few tries you’ll be able to do it subconsciously in seconds.
In fact, most of us already try to use this method when writing headlines, we just don’t think about it. Getting practice makes your approach more deliberate while teaching you how to skim your content for an accurate central takeaway.
The method works like this:
Identify a central thesis, argument, idea or purpose of the article
Identify two to four main sub-points or pieces of evidence for the main point
Use the above two items to summarize your article in less than 200 words
After writing your summary, edit it down to 100 words
Edit your 100 word summary down to 50 words
Edit your 50 word summary into a single sentence
Take your sentence-length summary and condense it further into a headline below 90 characters
See if you can condense the message into just a few words using less than 65 characters
Re-read your 200 word summary to see if you left anything important out, then come up with an alternative <70 character headline
Repeat steps 7-9 to come up with a few alternative options
This method may seem tedious, but it’s good practice for teaching your brain to recognize thought processes we take for granted. Translating a huge chunk of text into a short summary involves lots of mental processing, but we are able to do it in seconds thanks to our wonderful minds.
At the same time, our minds are trying to do a million other things when we write headlines. Using the above method keeps us focused on a central idea, and it can steer your headline writing back to a more logical place if you ever feel lost.
Method 2: Use Headline Formulas That Earn Tons of Clicks
Publishers like Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Bored Panda don’t earn millions of clicks a week by coincidence. They have blog writing down to a science, including the practice of writing juicy headlines that generate stampedes of clicks.
Based on research and performance data, here are a few of the most successful three-word headline phrases these publishers use to generate huge, highly engaged audiences:
will make you
this is why
can we guess
only X in
the reason is
are freaking out
X stunning photos
tears of joy
is what happens
Other common traits of popular headlines include:
Using numbers to imply a list (“10 Reasons Why…”)
Referring to the audience in the second-person (“You Won’t Believe…”)
Implying emotion (“This Hilarious Piece of Advice…”)
Lead with a strong, commanding action verb (“Take Control of Your Day by…”)
Now, when looking at these lists, some may refer to this data-based approach to writing blog titles as “making clickbait.” Those people would be correct.
Even though clickbait-ish headlines have become a punchline, they still work. A post like “Watching This Baby See Her Dad for the First Time Will Make You Smile” sets a concrete promise to the reader for what they’ll get out of the post.
Our cynicism towards headlines like these comes from the fact that we click on these posts only to feel deceived. E.g.: “No, #16 did not surprise us, Buzzfeed, because it’s literally the first thing we thought of.”
So, when writing headlines with this approach, make sure they still accurately reflect the actual content of your article. Which brings us to method #3.
Method 3: Compromise by Combining Headlines From Methods 1 and 2
Rand Fishkin of Moz offers a handy way to resolve the conflict between headline descriptiveness and viral appeal.
He suggests creating at least one headline using each of the above methods. Then, try to combine them.
Here’s an example:
Descriptive Headline: “Implied Consent Laws Demand Choice Between Incriminating Yourself and Mandatory Jail Time”
Sensational Headline: “This One Weird Trick Could Get You Out of a DUI, But You May Spend the Night in Jail!”
Combination: “Here’s What Happens When You Delay Your Breathalyzer Test in an Implied Consent State”
Now, an even better headline might read: “5 Reasons to Delay Your Breathalyzer Test in an Implied Consent State”. Why? Because they then know they don’t have to read the whole article to get the gist. They can just read the five subheadings in quick succession.
That particular headline requires the article to be broken down in list format, though, so consider the how you might use the structure of your article to create an appealing headline before you start writing.
A Few Other Tips to Help You Write Better Blog Headlines
Look up synonyms to replace weak words with stronger ones or multiple words with a single descriptive one
Use strong verbs
Avoid using “being” verbs like “is” and “are”
Use CTR to gauge how clickable your headline is; make note of high benchmarks to learn from them
If you have a high CTR but a high bounce rate for your content, that’s a sign your headlines need to more accurately reflect your post content
You can A/B test multiple headline options when creating promoted social media posts or email campaigns; study the results to find patterns for successful headlines
When in doubt, come up with at least five alternatives and ask someone for their input!
Headline writing is a tricky dance, but when you recognize what’s important, it becomes that much easier. Keep your audience’s valuable time in mind, promise them something great, don’t misrepresent the post, and study your own data to discover what works!