Want to succeed with social media? I know you do. Simple: write better headlines!

I must confess. I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover. I’m guilty of judging a person on the first impression. I’m guilty of judging a social media update by its headline. I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it.

It’s a fact. Good headlines get readers to click. If you are going to spend extra time on a blog post, spend it on crafting a headline that gets shared across social media.

How Much Time Should You Spend Writing a Headline?

Generally speaking, spend as much time as it takes. A good rule of thumb is half the amount of time you spend writing the blog post. For example, if a blog post takes you 60 minutes to write, you should be spending 30 additional minutes on the headline. That’s how important headlines are to your success with social media.

You can buy all the fancy optimization tools and gizmos to help you squeeze every last click out of every piece of content. However, your time is better spent crafting the perfect headline that stops someone in their tracks as they scroll through their social media feed at the speed of light.

Consider this:

  • 80% of readers never make it past the headline. According to some sources, on average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest.
  • Traffic can vary by as much as 500% based on the headline. The headline is our one chance to reach people who have a million other things they’re thinking about.

How to Quickly Write Better Headlines

Sometimes I just need to unlock the creativity in my brain. To jumpstart this process, I set up a free RSS reader to just show headlines. When I am stuck, I open up the reader, scan the headlines and start putting fingers to the keyboard.

The sole purpose of the RSS reader is so I can quickly scan the headlines. It helps me see how other bloggers are structuring their headlines. Additionally, it simulates a social media stream. I can identify what types of headlines make me pause and want to click.

Remember to write better headlines for search as well. Use a plugin that will help you make your headline SEO friendly.

Formula for a Great Headline

Typically, I create two to three headline concepts that I share with the staff. These headlines usually lead to several more versions. We narrow the options down to two. We brainstorm over instant message or a quick phone call.

Here is an example of the headline ideation for this blog post:

Idea #1: Effective Formula for Writing the Perfect Headline for Social Media Every Time

V2: Guaranteed Headline Perfection Every Time

V3: How to Guarantee Headline Perfection with Every Social Media Post

Idea #2: How to Quickly Generate Ideas for Excellent Social Media Headlines

V2: Guarantee Clicks with the Perfect Headline on Every Social Media Post

V3: Recipe to Guarantee More Clicks with the Perfect Headline on Every Social Media Post

The headline formula that gets results:

Number of minutes writing blog divided by 2 + (Number or Trigger Word +Adjective +Keyword + Promise) = A Great Headline

How Do You Know if You Got Right?

You never really know with a 100% certainty if you have written the perfect headline that will perform. However, I have seen posts where only the headline changed, and it generated 10x in traffic over the original post!

To help you write better headlines, read these five ways to check to see if you got it right:

  1. Review past success. We use Google Analytics. Our editorial staff reviews performance for each blog post. Patterns in the headline quickly emerge from the data.
  2. Split Test. Launch your blog post and share it on social media site one. Take your runner-up headline and share it on social media site two.
  3. Test Audience Segments. Segment your Facebook audience into different groups and test the response of different headlines.
  4. Repost. Replay the content in social media with a different headline later in the week or weeks later.
  5. Analyze: Use CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to see how your headline scores.

Rely on the data to help guide your decision process each time.

Now it’s your turn. Spend a little more time on each headline. The time will be well spent. What’s your headline secret?

Featured image by: The Marmot