A good headline won't make bad copy  more successful, but better titles help put great content marketing in front of the audience it deserves.

3 headline essentials for more content readers

to read

Wondering what makes a good headline? Most content writers do, too. Now that the SERP is becoming less visually oriented, it’s time to think about what is most important to readers as they scan search results for answers.

Search Engine Watch and Conductor teamed up to survey web users about what sorts of article titles resonate with them the most. Here’s what they found people respond best to in written content:

1. Numbers

The top answer is something the editors of BuzzFeed learned a long time ago: People like lists, or any kind of content that can be broken into discrete units. Headlines like “Five ways to determine if you qualify for a reverse mortgage” or “The top seven IT upgrades your office should make this year” are irresistibly clickable, and users can highlight the individual portions that resonated with them if the whole thing doesn’t.

2. “You”

It turns out people actually like seeing content tailored to their needs. Readers don’t simply want the word “you” in any headline they see. The main idea of a headline should make actually using “you” pertinent. So brands should consider headlines like “The essential infant care product you’ve never heard of,” when they’re targeting new parents.

3. How-to tips

As Brafton reported, how-to searches have been exponentially rising in the past few years, because users trust that Google can give them the in-depth resources they need to learn a new process or troubleshoot a task. However, it’s important not to simply preface headlines with “how to.” Content should be actionable and actually explain the process it claims to possess – and do it in a new or better way than existing publications.

Slapping a good headline on bad content won’t help you reach your business goals, but a bad headline can absolutely harm relevant, well-written articles.

So “How to understand tort reform” might not be a relevant result for frequent searches, but “How to file a medical malpractice suit” will probably yield many more relevant hits.

As a rule of thumb: Look at the rest of the results in a SERP and identify any  missing gaps. Then craft a piece that fills informational voids to provide users with the best answer out there.

A good headline won’t save bad content

Slapping a good headline on bad content won’t help you reach your business goals, but a bad headline can absolutely harm relevant, well-written articles.

It’s a competitive need to engineer titles as thoroughly as possible, but the headlines shouldn’t be the primary area of focus for content marketing.

Focus instead on finding the best way to position excellent blog posts and marketing videos you’ve already produced to make your great content even better. 

Alex Butzbach
Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.