How to Write Firecracker Headlines that Get Clicked

“Yes, I need to write better headlines!  But HOW do I do that?”

After I posted “Cool Kid” Secrets to Getting Social Network Traffic to Your Blog Posts last week, that was most popular response.

So, let’s chat about headlines today.  And firecrackers.

Think about firecrackers.  They catch your attention.  They’re loud.  They’re flashy.  They’re beautiful.

How can you make your headlines like that?

Here’s my process for writing headlines (everyone does this differently and step 5 in my process is the most helpful one):

  • choose my post topic and put a somewhat boring headline in the box to get started, like “tips for writing better headlines” for this particular post
  • work on the post while watching for any cool or catchy phrases or analogies that come to mind as I write
  • once the post is written I go back over it and review what the main benefit someone will get out of reading my post is (because deceptive headlines might get clicks but they’ll really annoy your potential readers–no one wants to spend 5 minutes reading my post only to find I didn’t tell you how to do what the catchy headline promised)
  • then I start brainstorming and run title ideas through my head
  • narrow it down to the one I want to use, then work on the wording, aiming for something short (I want it shared on Twitter!), simple, and catchy that includes a number (10 ways to, etc.) or “power” word (something that paints a visual like “firecracker,” an action word, or a bright descriptive) and the benefit
  • when I’m really stuck, or when my headline ideas just aren’t clicking, I pull out the always handy resources I’ve come across online (I’ll share them below) and use that to brainstorm around — this always gets me unstuck
  • pop the new headline into the headline box and re-read several times to be sure it makes sense and doesn’t include innuendo or double meaning, unless I intended it to
  • hit post and see what happens!

Most of my headlines take more than a minute or two to write… sometimes I sit with a good post for a while before I come up with the right headline.  Why put time into headlines like this?  Because no matter how awesome my post is, it won’t get traffic if the headline doesn’t get clicked!

My secret resource file for better headline writing:

Tomorrow I’ll share more tips for you on how to brainstorm and write headlines that get clicked.  You can subscribe to my blog via email or RSS reader to be sure you don’t miss it.  The box is up there in the top of the right hand column.

What’s the best headline you’ve seen (or written yourself) recently?

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  1. thanks for the tips michelle.
    i am always stunned that so many bloggers write directly into the blogging software.
    i usually use word or a layout program – especially if i blog about stuff that needs a lot of pictures, so i can see what i am talking about – so there is no need for chosing a boring headline before starting to write.

    and how do you know that the headline is like a firecracker … you or me might be attracted by it, but others might have a different option.
    just thinking
    helen bogun recently posted… Social Media Rocks (3)My Profile

    1. I usually just click the full screen button and write there. :)

      I think that comes with time, knowing what our audience will like. Just time and testing to see what works.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Are You Ready to Kill Those Boring Blog Post Headlines?My Profile

  2. Okay I admit, I liked my “Hot Air Balloons and Clean Desks” LOL Last year I used “Partly cloudy with a chance of Writer’s block” .. but for the most part, I do have trouble with headlines. thanks for the resources. I have them saved in my “Secret Stash” folder :) And #5 is definitely very useful!!!
    Kimberly ~ Gypsy recently posted… Hot Air Balloons and Clean DesksMy Profile

    1. Love the “partly cloudy” headline, Kimberly. Cool twist on a thought.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Are You Ready to Kill Those Boring Blog Post Headlines?My Profile

  3. Thanks for reminding me my headlines are boring … OK, here’s the test, my last post was: Awareness: change starts with awareness. Hmmm, yawn, yawn, how could I have made that more “firecracker headline?” I’m open for thought stimulating suggestions. I’ve subscribed to the follow up comments.
    Adalia John recently posted… Awareness: Change Begins with Awareness.My Profile

    1. Let’s see… some ideas that come to mind…
      * Do You Know What’s Going on Around You?
      * Do You See What’s Happening in Your World?
      * 5 Things You Can’t Do Without Awareness
      * 5 Reasons Awareness Is Key To Getting What You Want
      * Trying to Change is Useless Without This One Key Thing
      * The Missing Piece to Achieving Real Change
      * Is This Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Failed?
      * Do You Know the Secret to Achieving Change?
      * If You Want to Change Yourself, You Need to Know This
      * The One Reason Most People Fail at Change
      * Positive Thinking Isn’t Enough–How to Really Get What You Want
      * One Simple Way to Get Empowered and Be Brilliant
      * Most People Can’t Change. Here’s How You Can.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Why Blogging Might Be the Perfect Answer to a Business SlumpMy Profile

  4. That is the advantage of having your posts written well in advance. You have enough (usually) time to really come up with that killer choice!
    Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA recently posted… How’s YOUR vision?My Profile

    1. Excellent reminder, Roy. Add that to the list of advantages when writing in advance.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Find the Right Image, FasterMy Profile

  5. Great info Michelle thanks for sharing it with us.I could spice up my headlines some my self.
    Bill recently posted… Random TuesdayMy Profile

  6. You always have great ideas Michelle. Here are some headline tips from a veteran in the field of direct marketing, my mentor, the late Gene Schwartz. Think your readers will find his suggestions helpful as well.

    1. Awesome, thanks for sharing that, Debra.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Are You Ready to Kill Those Boring Blog Post Headlines?My Profile

      1. You’re welcome. By the way are you sure you’re not an undercover copywriter? LOL.
        (Hmm, Comment Luv gave me another error message :(

        1. Not a chance. LOL Yeah, we’ll troubleshoot that — I’ll email you Debra. :)
          Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Don’t Give Up, Don’t Shut Up, Just Keeping Showing UpMy Profile

  7. This is a great post and thank you for sharing your good ideas. I actually had this one marked as a favourite to go back and read again in Twitter (I have already given it a RT). I will definitely share it with my LinkedIn group and put a link to my Facebook Page Absolutely great stuff.

    1. Lesley, thank you for sharing this! :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Why Blogging Might Be the Perfect Answer to a Business SlumpMy Profile

  8. Hi Michelle,

    Great post!!!!! And you have been right! The headline needs a “boooooom” like a firework.
    When people visit your site or blog, you have 10 sec?! right? If they love your posts, they read, and they first read the headline or title. When they think, ohhhh yes its interesting, the people stray on your site or came back.

    This is important for interacting!!! and, it`s important to write NOT for search engines… it`s really important to write for real people.

    Sorry for my english, i would say sooo much, but my english is not so good.
    but i like your site, it`s great and interesting.

    with best wishes for you all from good old germany.
    have fun. Sandy :-)
    Sandy recently posted… Dating Abenteuer – Der BachelorMy Profile

    1. Hi Sandy, welcome! You may be my first commenter from Germany. :)

      We don’t have long to catch their attention–exactly.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Why Blogging Might Be the Perfect Answer to a Business SlumpMy Profile

  9. Headlines are the worst part for me when writing a blog post, followed by a relevant image and then the post itself! I thought my blog post yesterday was quite a good headline, Do You Check Your Spam For Ham?

    1. Great topic, Jo! I like that headline, too. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Why Blogging Might Be the Perfect Answer to a Business SlumpMy Profile

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