I hate this post. I do. My eyes were achy from rolling so hard by the time I even sat down to write it. But I HAD to because, as much as I feel like I just Peter Panned my shadow, (ok my soul), and handed it to Captain Devil-Hook, there is no question that these tactics work.
Here’s the thing: My mum, loves me to the ends of the Earth, which means she reads these posts. All of them.
*waves, shouts ‘love you mum’*
As much as I adore the fact mumsy reads them and tells me they’re wonderful. I’d rather like some unbiased feedback. I mean, mum thinks most things I do are good… amazing even.
Although now I think about it, she doesn’t know about the time I… 100% not finishing that sentence.
We all write for a variety of reasons: some blogs are therapeutic, some are started to meet the amazing community and others to build platforms. Whatever the reason, even if you start not caring whether anyone reads your stuff, something happens the moment you get, likes, comments that aren’t your mum, or your first spike in stats.
That’s what happens. The realisation that someone you don’t know, just read the words you wrote. For writers, that ignites the flame of desire. AND WE WANT MORE. More readers, more followers, more stats.
Writers’ get bitch slapped constantly with pessimism. This ain’t the ugly tree people. No need to smack us with every branch. But everyone does. They say stupid shit like:
“Well, you’ll never make it, how do you expect to get seen among the 4 gazillion books on Amazon?” Or some other eye twitch inducing crap.
It gets worse. Cause then they clamber on their extraordinarily high horse, look down their bitter hair crusted noses and say: “If you’re going to write, you should just write for yourself.”
Obviously, I write for me, it’s fucking hard work, why else would I continue on this insane path?!
But… If I pour my bodily fluids into stories, and wear the pads out on my chubby fingers then I bloody well want to be read. If you don’t want to be read why not stick to paper and save us the inbox bulge.
I ran an experiment last year. I hated every second of it especially because it worked, which meant I had to carry on. I changed the methodology behind my titles, just to see… Ok sure, I did a bunch of other stuff too, but the titles were the game changer.
I hate my titles. I don’t mind admitting that. They make my skin crawl cause of the thick coat of sleaze ball slime they produce. They’re all, Tips for this, or Tricks for that. UGH. So impersonal, fake and ‘markety’.
But I reasoned with myself, even if my titles aren’t what I’d prefer, all I need to do is catch someone’s attention. If they read my posts, they’ll know I’m not Mr. smooth talking, gimmicky sales tactic, buy my totally-super-crazy-good book about frogspawn that will help you sell 1 million books.
Nah. I’m just another foul-mouthed writer, who blathers on too much while trying to figure out this writing bollocks.
So I changed them, and I’ll tell you how in a minute, but here’s the math. If you want proof (because I usually do): since last January (2015), whilst I was still scratching my butt and looking for the right pen, I had barely a whiff of views but, after a year of headline grabbing tactics, this January I had over ten times my original count. So yeah. This works.
But how do you do it?
ONE – Collect Headlines Like A Hoarder
I talk about the fact I am an obsessive hoarder of words and sentences all the time. There are plenty of people out there who write better headlines than me and have managed to catch my skeptical attention to read their posts. That tells me one thing. I need to learn from them. So I collect their headline and store it away to study its structure.
TWO – Sign up to Jon Morrow
FYI I’m not promoting him because he paid me. I just happened to see something he did on twitter and decided to follow to see whether his stuff peaked my interest. The freebie he gave away for the price of my subscription was his guide to hacking headlines.
It’s good. Like really good. I mean, I didn’t actually read the contents…oops (shrugs, I don’t do detail, just ask my Myers Briggs profile). But I didn’t really have too. I got the picture from the contents table. He gives the methodology for each type of headline in the bulk of the PDF, but the contents page gives you the basic types of headlines. I picked and chose from there.
Check him out here his newsletter is ok, it gives a varying amount of information, but I warn you it is quite salesy.
THREE – Headline Analyser
I used it to analyse a few of mine, I got a B+. I don’t like B’s, I like A’s and the number 1. But I also wasn’t willing to carve off any more pieces of my soul to get an A grade headline.
Like, Jon Morrow, the analyser after a few attempts teaches you whats classed as good and whats classed as bad in your headlines. After a few more attempts, unless you only write drunk, you won’t need to use it as you will have the tactics nailed.
FOUR – Negative Headlines Work
There is something about humanity that means we just can’t help our ears pricking up at the hint of bad news. Jesus, watch the actual news. Can anyone remember the last time you saw a good news story on the news? I used to obsess over it. I don’t bother anymore. I pretend to at least start my day as a perky twinset and pearl girl.
(NB. Sacha Black is neither perky nor does she, nor will she ever wear, twinsets or pearls. Frankly, she’d rather cut her own liver out and eat it than be that person, (and she’s a vegetarian, so that’s saying something))
My point? Negative headlines work:
88 Mistakes to avoid when handcuffing your boyfriend to the staircase during role play
FIVE – Keep It Simple Stupid + Solve Problems
Keep it simple stupid is a phrase we used to use when I was in the Army Cadets as a teeny bopper. Once we reached a certain level of experience, we had to teach the other cadets. We went through an intensive ‘how to teach’ course, and the one thing I remember to this day, is that phrase:
Keep it simple stupid.
The point was, anything that needs explaining, needs explaining simply. WELL DUH. Sounds obvious, but it isn’t really.
Lets take this post. I could have written this headline:
7 key methods you need to use when constructing headlines to increase your blogging readership.
I fell asleep after methods, but the headline is technically correct. That is exactly what this post is about and ironically, that actually got a reasonable score on the headline analyser. But… I don’t write headlines for blog posts and neither should you.
I write headlines for Twitter and Pinterest. Why? Because they drive traffic.
Twitter – 140 characters – you got no choice but to be short, sweet and straight to the point.
That means less than 10 words, if you want to use Hashtags, go for less than 7.
Pinterest? Visual, short sentences with catchy designs that can be read in the blink of a finger scroll.
So how do I do that yet maintain the integrity of what the post is about?
Most writers are searching for answers. When I read posts on writing, or topics relevant to whatever latest illegal google search I’m doing its because I am seeking information or an obscure answer… for a character (scouts honour).
My posts? All solve problems in a round about way. I write them, because they solved my latest hair pulling out problem, so I share the answer I found.
This posts problem in less than 10 words? Trying to grab readers attention.
Bingo! There’s your title.
SIX – Word Construction & Emotion
Ok, this one I am less good at. The purpose here is to use premier league words. That’s a phrase my old school teacher used to say. He said the word ‘spectacular’ was a premier league word where ‘good’ was just a division one!
I got the point. Choose words carefully. Choose evocative ones instead of run of the mill.
What do I mean by that?
5 secrets to sniffing sherbet without mum finding out
The purple words are power words. Secrets is an emotive word. We all like secrets. That’s going to grab someones attention more than saying methods, or ‘ways’. The rest follow: no one wants to get caught – so without being found out is another power phrase.
There are other ways of using power words. Like being authoritative.
No one is going to want to read a post that follows this headline:
Using fertiliser is probably the best way of keeping your skin looking young
What? No. Fuck off, I’m not putting cow shit on my face for ‘probably‘ keeps the wrinkles away.
But if someone wrote:
Fertiliser Face Mask: the latest and BEST way to stay looking young
Well now, that… that might just tempt me to read on.
SEVEN – Numbers
Numbers in titles are like crack to readers. Honestly, I don’t know what it is about them. Oh and by numbers I mean the figure 10, not the word ten. When I did my stats analysis last year and looked at the top 20 posts, something stupid like 13 out of 20 had numbers in the title. If that doesn’t tell you something then I can’t help you!
Now the thing is, putting numbers in posts usually means a bog standard list i.e. 75 ways to make Tulip Pollen Cookies.
But it doesn’t have too. I try not to use lists in their most listy sense too often partly because I like the sound of my own voice but also in adding meat to my sinewy list bones, I actually learn about the subjects I waffle on about. 90% of my Monday posts have numbers in them, and guess what? Monday is my best day for views.
So, what tactics do you use for your post titles? What headlines have caught your eye in the past? Let me know in the comments.