How to Get 53% More Readers for Every Blog Post You Write

You know from the 80/20 Rule of Headlines that the best way to get your writing read is to improve your headline. It can be a bitter pill to swallow when you realize that most people, even among those who subscribe to your blog, are not reading every post, but it’s not just you — it happens to us all.

So what was it about the headline of this post that got you to read this far?

Well, it’s not only that the headline makes a promise to deliver unique and useful information to my audience of bloggers. It’s also the way that it makes that promise.

The headline is very specific.

While certainly not the only method for writing good blog post titles, just about any headline can be made better by being as specific as you possibly can. Specificity increases credibility because specific details are simply more believable than broad assertions. Plus, a specific headline conveys more valuable information to a potential reader, which acts to draw them magnetically into the content.

Here are a few examples of ultra-specific headlines:

  • How I Made $19,931.42 Last Month With Google AdSense
  • In This Free 10 Chapter, 123 Page Ebook You’ll Learn…
  • Eleven Secret Techniques That Make Bloggers Money
  • Lose 36 Pounds in Only 7 Weeks
  • How to Shave 5 Strokes Off Your Golf Score in 3 Days

Of course, the single most important rule of ultra-specific headlines is that you need to be able to back up your assertions. And as I’ve done before, I break the rule in order to make the point (which is the true joy of writing a copywriting blog).

While I’m positive that being more specific in your post titles will increase the number of people who read your post, I have no earthly idea what the actual percentage will be for you. There are way too many variables involved.

So I really should have said:

How to Get More Readers for Every Blog Post Your Write

But that’s simply not as good a headline. :)

UPDATE: I had forgotten all about this Marketing Experiments test that showed that an optimized headline increased website conversion rates by 73%. This means that not only did overall readership of the content rise, but 73% more people took the requested action, due only to a modified headline. In the first case study, the winning headline simply used a specific dollar amount!

So 53% is likely too low just for increased readership. My apologies for underestimating. :)

For more on writing great headlines, check out the Magnetic Headlines series on Copyblogger.

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Comments

  1. You know, it’s incredibly tempting to be witty when writing headlines. After all, we all see it in newspaper headlines. But you have a point, if the headline doesn’t tell me what the post is about, it’s less likely that I’ll stop and click on it while wading through the hundreds of other headlines in my feed reader. There just isn’t enough time.

    Good post!

  2. I think bloggers can still get away with the clever and witty titles, but often they are less effective than you might think (I know, I love using those types of headlines, even though I know better).

    But, blogging should still be fun.. so I try to balance between the two.

  3. As always, an excellent article. I learn more here about good blogging than just about anywhere else on the web.

    Writing good headlines for my blog articles is something I struggle with.

  4. I’ve bought all in on the headlines. Just today I had an increase of 4 1/2 percent on headlines that people clicked as a result of your methodology. Numbers seems to indicated elitist blogaholism. Which tends to increase the activity levels.

  5. Yes and no. A snappy headline might get people who already watch my blog to read what I wrote, but it isn’t going to get more people reading my blog (seeing as, unlike newspapers, one can’t find it lying around on Starbucks tables everywhere).

    Unless I’m mistaken, people won’t link to a post because of its snappy headline. The content has to make sense.

  6. John, absolutely. A great headline won’t mean diddly if the rest of the post is bad. But so often I see really great content with an uninspired headline, and I know right away that the writing is not getting the level of exposure it deserves.

    Links are simply not going to happen if the post doesn’t get read.  That’s why a great post with a poor headline is such a disheartening thing.

  7. Well, thanks for this….I tend to get in a hurry to get a post up on my Family Travel blog (especially if I haven’t had time to post much, like this week) so I just sort of throw a headline up there. I’m going to try to do a better job.

    Can’t stand too many cutesy headlines myself since I’m a busy person and need to know quickly if a post is worth my time, but I do appreciate a witty turn of phrase that also tells me the post’s topic.

  8. I feel convicted.

    My headlines are notoriously boring yet somewhat specific… I’m going to roll this out and try it on for a while.

  9. I always start with one headline and end up with a totally different one. I’m learning to write sooner so that I don’t have to rush the headline change at the end.

  10. Great thoughts Brian. Headlines are tough, even for experienced writers. Want good headlines? Look at how the experts write those one page sales letters.

  11. Another informative article, Brian. Although you do have to be careful of your titles, too. I was recently invited to write for someone else’s blog. My second article was entitled “Tired Of A Half Percent On Savings Accounts?”.

    Someone linked to it on a bookmark site and I received a lot of traffic for the article – compared to articles on my own sites. But one person on the bookmark site accused the article of being “a press release with a misleading title”.

    In retrospect, I could have said something like “Tired Of A Half Percent On Savings Accounts? – Try Websites X an Y”. But that would have been very long.

    It’s an art to come up with “optimal” titles.

  12. Yep ~ You got me to click through to read immediately instead of later when I had more time. Now I’ve “made” more time!

    You know, the same headlines you are talking about are what you see on magazine covers. As someone easily compelled to snatch up that magazine to find the article toted on the cover with “that” headline – I forget how easily they hook me.

    They count on that and it works. It worked for you. What makes your blog unique is that you hold up your end of the bargain. I’m never disappointed.

    Why? Your posts are useful, concise, witty, irreverent and above all else authentic. Your headlines work!

  13. John is right about the headline not increasing readership for those who don’t normally read your blog. But, for those like me who use Bloglines or other aggregators where you can see the headline and the summary, it does make a difference. At least for me as a reader of 29 blogs in that aggregator.

    A specific (and/or humorous) headline is much more likely to make me leap from the aggregator to the blog.

  14. smartypants!

  15. But really, sometimes goodheadlines don’t have to be ultra specific.. hah look at me, talking back to an authority, anyway..yeah:

    There seems to be a trend of senselss advertising, that works.

    Motorola is one example, with billboards reading hellomoto, or razmoto .

    My latest post is titled, Fact:Soul Patrol.

    I believe i will get 100% of the people who read the title to read the entire post.

    1 point for unspecific?

  16. I’m with ming.

    I write headlines for one reason: to entice folks to read the whole article.

    I understand specifics but the real goal of a headline is to get them to continue reading.

    That means the headline it has to be interesting.

    If folks knew what I was really writing about I doubt they would read anything I write…

  17. Now guys, I did say it’s not the only way to write a good headline… but specificity is one very effective way.

    And Char, as we’ve discussed privately, you are a special case and should not change a thing about the “Chartreuse Experience.”

    Besides, you name drop in a very specific way, really. :)

  18. you noticed that, huh?

    you have write according to your audience.

    headlines included.

    nice post.

    i was just being difficult for ratings!

  19. Good headlines, if you’re in the business of convincing people, I can somewhat agree to. But the examples you give, disappoint me to be honest. This is an instrumentalist attitude that might work for some commercial areas (day-time shopping TV, to use an unflattering example), but simply scares a whole lot of people who look for quality, not quantity, even in their dealings ‘on the market’.

    I once knew someone from the US who described their life in nothing but numeric terms (distance to college, hourly wage at the coffee shop, number of bedrooms in their house, you get the picture). Not once did I hear how lovely their day had been, how interesting some book had turned out… Not an interesting person to know then.

    I fear that a headline that tells me exactly how much their authors earned over a specific period, will make me click away faster than a corporate lawyer runs from an anti-globalist convention.

    Could you agree with headlines that tell me ‘how’ something would affect me, instead of ‘how much’?

  20. Napfisk, actually what I’m saying is the exact opposite — that “how much” works better than just “how” due to the power of specificity.

    And it’s not just my opinion, it’s been fairly well-documented by decades of testing and validated by the only true marketing genius there is — the paying customer.

    The examples are fairly “salesy” because I took them from marketing pieces rather than say, newspaper articles. But looking at your blog (which is very good by the way) I see several opportunities to improve your headlines with specificity.

    Take your post “The Elite” that deals with the rather niche Web 2.0 world that we live in, which the rest of the world could care less about. You tie it in with the 53,651 meme (the number of TechCrunch subscribers) that got a lot of traction recently.

    So rather than “The Elite” how about this headline:

    “The Invisible 53,651″

    To me, that’s a compelling headline that specificly promotes the point of your post, the curiosity factor is high, and since I would have personally recognized that you were commenting on the 53,651 meme, I would click to read. On the other hand, “The Elite” gives me very little to work with, and if I’m busy, I might just pass it up.

    Of course, anyone can (and should) disregard this free advice if you don’t feel that it is appropriate for you and your goals.

    It won’t hurt my feelings. :)

  21. Brian you did it again (you rascal). Without a great headline a lot of great content can be easily overlooked. No doubt about it.

    I think I’ll test your theory on our blog today.
    I may cross the line by breaking one of your cardinal rules but I’ll cover myself by blaming you :)

  22. Okay, Brian, there’s something else to consider. I read all of your articles regardless of headline, but I read them sooner if they catch my eye. On the other hand, I always take headlines with a percentage or dollar value with a grain of salt because I know from experience that the blogger is talking about a very specific situation that I couldn’t possibly hope to duplicate.

  23. so in a way you are saying that you should mislead your readers with your headlines to get them to read the whole post…just like the above one… or is that your smart way of saying that “How I Made $19,931.42 Last Month With Google AdSense” is just another misleading headlines with figure 19,931.42 just as accurate as 53% in this post.
    btw thanks for clearing the issue related to actual number of reader in your last para, i am sure it must have helped a lot of readers , even if they had to read the whole stuff just to find out that the whole thing was just a hoax

  24. No Jack, I’m not saying that at all. In fact, I expressly said the opposite.

    Sorry you felt that the way I made the point was a “hoax.” You might need to step away from the monitor for awhile and take a break if a silly blog post gets you this indignant.

  25. As someone just starting out, I sure appreciate all the guidance here. Keep the feed rolling!

  26. I just started out and am trying to heed your advice. Let me know what you think!

  27. Great post Brian. After reading all the comments we all can conclude there are cases where specific headlines will work and others where they won’t.

    I run a blog for teleworkers, most of them are looking for very specific advice, tools and ideas. I think specific headlines would do the trick with them.

    Also, let’s not forget there are other kinds of headlines we can use, you’ve already written about them in older posts and I’m sure most of us have already read them here.

    And I agree, Chartreuse’s blog is a very special case. I don’t know in which category a headline like “The Music Business, The Drug Business, And Your Business (Or The Bizzare Connection Between Sandi Thom and My First ExWife Or How To Know If You’re Dreaming)” could be :)

    Regards!