Perhaps you’re reading this post because the headline caught your attention.
We make snap judgements when browsing the web: if a headline doesn’t catch our attention, more often than not, we won’t click through to the content.
According to a Microsoft survey carried out this year, the average person’s attention span is just eight seconds. By comparison the average goldfish’s attention span is nine seconds!
So how can you create catchy headlines for your B2B blog that get your reader on board quickly?
1) Write the headline first
Your headline makes a promise: this is what your content is about. It’s much easier to write the rest of your blog post, for example, when you know what you’re trying to achieve.
Copyblogger founder Brian Clark says: "Promises tend to be made before being fulfilled. Writing your content first puts you in the position of having to reverse-engineer your promise.
"…Trying to fulfill a promise you haven’t made yet is tough, and often leads to a marginal headline. And a poorly-crafted headline allows good deeds to go unnoticed."
A useful tactic is to imagine you’re sat next to your reader and they’ve asked you a question about a topic in your industry – but they haven’t got much time. What would you say to them to make them stay and convince them that you could answer their question fully? That's your headline.
2) Think about your keywords
A headline can be utterly spellbinding – but if no one’s searching for the words and phrases you’ve used it's unlikely people will benefit from it. Equally, if there’s a lot of competition for the keywords you’re using, it can be difficult to make a mark.
Why not dedicate some of the time you’ve set aside for blogging to undertaking keyword research? You can compile a list of the words and phrases that will work well for your business and use these to help you come up with content ideas.
However, it's important to strike a balance. We shouldn't force a keyword into a headline if it sounds unnatural; similarly, a well-crafted headline that won't rank in Google can still capture people's attention when shared on social media.
3) Aim to be useful
Our readers want to learn something they didn't know or find out how to do something new. So go ahead and use action words. Let them “discover”, “find out”, “learn” and many other things besides.
And let them know exactly what you're writing about, whether it's a niche industry topic or a current event. You don't have to give everything away, but make it clear what subject your content is addressing.
This will also help you to avoid falling into the clickbait trap. Clickbait headlines encourage people to click on a link by providing enough information to arouse their curiosity, but not enough to tell them what the content is about. This practice can annoy readers, who may feel like they've been tricked.
Last year, Facebook made a crackdown on clickbait headlines after conducting a survey in which 80 per cent of respondents said they preferred headlines that gave them a clear idea of what they were clicking on.
4) Harness the power of lists
This blog post relies on the allure of the list. List posts aren't a new idea - but sometimes the simplest things still work the best.
Lists appeal to us as online readers because they offer us information in bite-sized chunks. Your target audience wants content - but they want it in an easily-digestible and skimmable form.
Doug Kessler, co-founder of Velocity Partners, writes: "The listicle signals that someone else spent some time distilling something down for us so that we don’t have to spend that time."
A list headline signals to the reader that they will learn a set number of facts about a topic without having to invest too much energy.
5) Have a little fun
You want your headlines to be clear and informative, but that doesn't mean they can't also be humourous or light-hearted.
You might consider using alliteration or word play; perhaps you might use colloquial language or reference pop culture. If it fits with the topic you're addressing and doesn't affect your headline making a promise or being useful, then go ahead and try different things.
Why not think about the types of headlines that catch your eye as a reader? And ask your customers what makes them sit up and pay attention.
Creating catchy headlines takes practice, but the opening gambit can make or break a piece of online content. Headlines are key to drawing people in and encouraging them to carry on reading.
So why not make a promise you can keep, carry out keyword research, aim to be useful and consider crafting list posts and amusing headlines.
You've got eight seconds to make an impact...