A complete content brief should include everything from the goal of the piece and its unique angle to the target keywords, internal links, and CTAs.
Content Marketing | Jan 26
Elise Dopson on October 29, 2020 (last modified on November 3, 2020) • 21 minute read
You’re spending hours creating a blog post and optimizing it to rank well in search.
But you’re not finished yet. While your blog post may end up ranking on the first page in Google, it’s possible that you won’t get as many clicks as you’re expecting.
Why? The headline of your blog post could be to blame.
If the title of your blog post isn’t interesting or intriguing, a searcher won’t click it… No matter whether you rank in position zero (the featured Snippet), or position #9.
In this guide, we’ll talk about:
Chances are, you’re using SEO as a channel to promote your content. Blog posts tend to perform well in the SERPs (so long as they’re optimized), but how can you judge whether they’re driving maximum traffic to your site?
The answer lies within your click-through rate (CTR)–the percentage of people who see your result in their SERP, and click it to find out more.
(For example: If you get 100 impressions and 30 of those people click your link, your organic CTR would be 30%.)
However, CTRs that high are unusual. The majority of experts we surveyed said their average click-through rate for blog posts falls around the 2% mark:
Along with the obvious advantage of driving more clicks to your blog posts, having a high organic CTR has other benefits–most notably, the chance to improve your overall rankings.
Although Google has confirmed that CTR itself is not a ranking factor, any search engine has a goal to show the best, most relevant content for a user’s query.
If your blog post has a significantly higher CTR than other URLs for the same keyword, it proves to a search engine that your content meets that criteria–and therefore, should rank higher.
Still not convinced? Take a look at this data collected by Advanced Web Ranking:
Sure, this could be like the chicken and egg debate: Pages in position #1 are more prominent on a searcher’s page, hence why they tend to get a higher click-through rate.
But it’s sensible to assume that a good CTR makes your content appear more relevant to a user’s query–something Google aims to achieve with every search.
But first things first, what are good blog post titles?
Truth be told, you might have the best blog post and research done on a subject but no one is going to know this or read your post unless you have an intriguing title.
Ultimately, how you choose to title your blog posts should be based on your target audience and their search intent.
The most effective blog titles are the ones that are captivating, SEO keyword-friendly, and capable of providing value to your marketing target audience and addressing their pain-points.
As much as possible avoid using blog titles that sound cute and clever but are ineffective in helping you achieve your content writing goal(s).
Also, don’t forget that when your blog post is shared on social media or similar content distribution channels, your blog title plays a major role in getting people to irresistibly click and read the article.
Did you know that blog titles with 6-8 words receive a higher CTR than the overall average?
So, how do you create a compelling blog title? Here are 6 tips to guide you:
Your blog post headline should be compelling and at the same time meaningful. Considering that 80% of readers never make it past the headline, you have to prioritize it and make sure it hooks your readers from the very start. Here are some tactics that have proven to be effective:
Ultimately, your blog title should tell your readers what they’ll learn from reading your blog and what value will you provide to them with your article. How you present the value your article promises to deliver is what gets your readers to either click-through or to move on to another piece of content.
Keep your blog titles clear, concise, and free of irrelevant/vague words that don’t describe the crux of your article and are incapable of getting your target audience to read and/or share your article.
When brainstorming for blog titles, there’s an important question you need to ask yourself, and that question is: What’s the motivation behind my readers researching this subject on search engines?
With this in mind, you can begin to draft your title and include the keywords your users typically use in their search query.
Sometimes it takes writing multiple blog titles to find the perfect one. Perfecting your ability to write effective blog titles is not a race, but a journey, so stay consistent and enjoy the process.
Analyze your best performing blog posts and their titles, and try to find out which ones generated the most clicks and why. Are there specific trends you can identify, for example, when comparing 2-3 articles on similar topics?
This data is beneficial as it lets you know what to focus on when creating a title for your next blog article.
Now when you understand the importance of organic CTR for content marketing, it’s time to think about optimizing your headlines to rank better in search.
But of those that exceed the standard CTR of 2%, what is it that makes them so successful in the SERPs?
Here are 25 blog post headline ideas you can draw inspiration from, ordered by CTR from high to low:
*Editor’s note: Unsure whether your blog content is getting a good CTR from organic search? Grab our Google Search Console Basics dashboard to find out instantly–and see whether your blog posts hit (or beat) the average.
How2CreateWebsite’s blog post titled “How to Create a Blog in 5 Minutes” has an incredible click-through rate of 45%.
Serg Exclusive thinks this is “because I did a lot of keyword research and identified the right long-tail keywords that could help me rank for this topic.”
“So the most important thing that will help people create a good blog post title is identifying the right long keywords instead of going for short keywords. Short keywords are really competitive and difficult to rank for.”
Faizan Ali thinks the success of this blog post is “because we are appealing to our audience’s emotional need for resolution.”
“Whenever we are writing a headline we make sure that we use the keyword in the title. This helps us in matching the intent of the searcher. If our title can resonate with the searcher’s intent then there is a high chance of getting a higher CTR.”
Ali adds: “Using power words in your title also helps and in our case we used “how to” since it was more appropriate to the content we were writing.
According to Osiris Parikh, the team at Counter Terrorism Group “used a very gripping title to draw readers into the content, and also focused the piece on a very pressing issue in which many people are interested in.”
“This proved to be a hit, with the post receiving somewhat of a higher CTR score than the site’s average.”
“For us, it really worked because we kept the title short, we’ve used power words “ideas” which made the user click,” says Rajnish Kumar.
“The URL was short, human-readable, and had the keyword in the URL. The meta description also had the keyword with the combination of why someone should click the link.”
Pulkit Gera explains: “To get a high CTR, I created several blog post headlines for this post and scientifically split tested them. The reason this title works so well because it identifies a common issue most bloggers face (using reliability to connect with people) and it promises to provide a quick solution.”
Gera adds that “split testing allowed me to remove other blog post titles which didn’t work so well.”
Some of the blog titles that didn’t make the cut were:
“While doing keyword research we noticed that Microsoft teams vs Slack had around has 2.3K search volume”, Md Mohsin Ansari explains.
“Once we determined the high intent keywords for our niche, we no longer had to follow the traditional inbound marketing pattern.”
“Since there are so many team communication chats applications out there, we’ve started this to perform an in-depth analysis of our competitors with their pros and cons from a customer’s perspective and tried to come up with a better, cleaner, and more user-friendly chat alternative.”
Josh Krakauer says this blog headline works because “it’s succinct. The full title displays in mobile and desktop browsers.”
“Next, it’s timely. No surprise, marketers and business leaders looking for insight into their social media strategy want the most up-to-date advice possible. Who wants to read recommendations on social media strategy from 2017? (Many competitors still talk about Google Plus, yikes.)”
“Affixing the date helps add assurance they’re reading a guide that’s relevant today—when they want the answer.”
Krakauer also adds that their team “tested another headline previously, and found the “proven” keyword resulted in a higher CTR, and differentiated from the more common “ultimate” and “best” typically found in guides. It expresses confidence and adds legitimacy.”
“Notably, while the post describes the resource as a ‘framework’, the top searched and clicked keywords are for templates,” Krakaeur summarizes.
This title gets lots of clicks because it uses a proven formula that is working well on my site,” says Marsha Kelly. “Odd number (101) + Keyword (microblading business names) + modifier with highly emotional words (Your + New).”
Kelly adds: “Content marketers should develop their own winning title formula based on their niche readers.”
Published on Beaconstac, Sneh Choudhary says: “This post ranks in the first position for the keywords:
Choudhary explains: “Initially, the title of the blog post was ‘Why 2019 is the year of QR Codes’ but after coming across blogs from Healthline and Ahrefs that advocated for titles that are in line with search intent, I modified the title to include that burning question ‘Are QR Codes Dead?’.”
“Leveraging search intent to write titles has been incredibly helpful. Marketers, agencies, or business owners who are looking to include QR Codes in their marketing strategies will first research if QR Codes are a good tactic and this is why this blog post has outranked all other websites.”
“While there are many gimmicks to posts with highest click-through rates this page performs not only as our highest CTR blog post but the second-best CTR on our entire site,” writes Alex Kehoe.
“The reason this page has such a high CTR is actually very simple and formulaic, the title itself is a very common search.”
“Integrating Shopify into WordPress is a very common pain point for eCommerce websites, so by choosing a directly important keyword to target the page will generate a high CTR with a very simple title explaining exactly what the article provides to the reader.”
“The main keyword [for this blog post] is obviously “Anniversary Ideas”, but by incorporating a number of adjectives, we’ve expanded the scope and relevancy to a larger audience,” says Gary Dek.
“A reader might want to find fund anniversary ideas, but is willing to spend money, so a post that only has the descriptor “cheap” might turn them off.”
Dek summarizes: “By increasing the relevancy to a wider group of readers, we also increase CTR.”
James Pollard thinks “this post has such a high CTR for two reasons.”
“First, it relates directly to my audience. The majority of my web visitors are either already financial advisors or looking to become advisors themselves, through an internship. Second, it has a lot of curiosity embedded in it with the “10 Things You Should Know”.”
Pollard adds: “If you’re a content marketer and you want a high CTR, I recommend creating a piece of content that’s obviously for your specific audience and then inserting as much curiosity as you can.”
The author of this post, Ryan Robinson, thinks it works because “compared to almost all of the other organic search results for terms like “how to start a blog,” my title begins with a number (eye-catching) and seeks to quickly give an expectation for how many steps are in the process of starting a blog—making it feel more approachable than other articles on the subject.”
So, why did it work? It’s because the author looked at the competition, as Sam Maizlech explains: “It comes down to what else was being offered on the market. Many similar sites would focus primarily on the guns and not the shooter which is where I saw an opening for viewership.”
“Instead of just reading about guns and wondering if it would be right for them, I took the time to break it down based on the owner and give them actionable advice.”
Maizlech adds: “I took a somewhat humorous or risqué headline and attached a clear and simple explanation of what I wanted to address in the article based on a lacking I noticed on other sites.”
Nico Prins thinks “there are three reasons why this headline has such a high CTR.”
“Firstly, the article is a list post, and list posts generally do really well in the SERPs. Secondly, the headline uses a clickbait formula. Words like ‘unforgettable,’ ‘amazing’ do well in the SERPs.” (The latter is a concept proven by the other successful blog titles we’ve mentioned here.)
Prins adds: “Finally, the other titles in the SERPs for this search term aren’t as interesting, which makes this article headline stand out.
Jay Kang explains why this blog post title example worked so well: “Once we capture the user intent and understand the exact keywords, we used the proper action words like “how to”.
“We also noticed there are two different intent phrases most people use when searching for this type of information: “asking for referral” and “recommendation”. Writing a title can be simple as adding actionable words, but also using the phrases users use to search for their answers.”
“The high CTR depends on the Google ranking and effective title,” says Yash Sharma.
“People use search engines to seek answers to their questions. They click on posts whose title is likely to answer their question. So, it becomes important to understand the intent of the keyword phrase that the user has searched for and make a title that closely resonates with the searcher’s intent.”
Sharma adds: “The title must be catchy. I have used a catchy title that has the user intent and emotional words like ‘which’, ‘better’ etc.”
Jason Lee explains how he crafted this blog post title: “there were multiple keywords for “butter in coffee” (their blog post’s primary keyword), such as:
“We took the lowest Keyword Difficulty to help us rank better for a specific phrase instead of the main top-level keyword,” Lee says.
“By adding the exact keyword phrase people used, along with knowing what keywords we can easily rank for, compared to the more difficult to rank keywords, we were able to rank better and get a better CTR.”
“By including specific numbers (instead of just a “complete guide”), we showed potential readers that this would be a one-stop-shop resource, saving them from having to look *anywhere* else for persona interview questions,” Krista Elliott explains.
“All too often, when we click on a blog, the information we get from it just isn’t enough to solve our problem. This title tells searchers very clearly that there is enough information (and then some!) in this blog.”
“I originally wrote this post about 6 years ago under the title “6 steps to close the loop,” says Jarie Bolander.
“It got decent traffic but when I used Ahrefs to see how I could update it, I found that closed-loop communications was what people were really looking for, so I change[d] the title.”
“I also try and get as many keywords in the title as I can that make sense. The original title was decent but did not really explain what closing the loop meant. By adding communications, it strengthens the title and readers could easily see why it was important.”
Cierra Flythe says this blog title example works because it “tells the reader everything they need to get invested in the content. With only 3 facts, it shows it’s delivering the right amount of information to not take up too much time.”
“Examples are what most people want to relate information to things they already are familiarized with. SEO rich words are always a must in blog titles. They matter just as much as the entire length of content.”
Summarizing, Flythe adds: “Pair examples, SEO vocab, and a numeral value of the amount of information delivered – and you have a recipe for success.”
Kyle Baker thinks “this post has a great CTR due to the topic, the high number in the title and the catchy title that helps inspire others.”
“This topic is particularly a hot button item at the moment and people want to learn more. The title only reinforces that.”
“At the time this blog post was written, “Mad Men” had finished its original run and was continuing to be popular to stream among viewers,” Giselle Bardwell explains.
“With the show centering in an advertising agency, and the uniqueness of some agency job titles, we merged these two ideas together to create a relevant headline that also answered a common question readers have.”
“This post has continued to generate traffic years later because it provides real insight into marketing agency operations through the lens of a well-known drama.”
Bardwell adds: “The best tactic we employed and would recommend is to form content around popular topics that a variety of people can relate to.”
“Aside from including a high search traffic keyword (logo color combinations), this title also includes a number—setting expectations for a list and the amount of information that normally comes with it,” Dawson Whitfield explains.
“Additionally, the use of the word inspire, especially in the context of design can help push a click—since designers and people doing design work are always in search of inspiration to get their creativity going.”
Whitfield adds: “With all three of these factors (search traffic, list format, and inspiration) the focus is on the customer’s intent and experience.”
“At the same time, the content of this post matches that intent with a great experience. We’re creating expectations in this title—which the post more than fulfills.”
“The organic search CTR for this post over the last year is 2.2%, and it accounts for nearly 18% of our site’s total organic traffic,” explains Dani Henion. “I believe it leads to so many click-throughs because it is short, clear, and plays on the average searcher’s intent.”
“For example, this post ranks #1 or close to it for the keyword “duplicate meta descriptions,” which has an average monthly search volume of ~260. Someone searching that phrase is most likely wondering if–wait for it–duplicate meta descriptions are bad for their site. This post is a natural selection for these searchers.”
Henion continues: “The position of this blog post in the SERPs is important, too. Because it ranks close to the top for most of its target keywords, it has high visibility and has a greater chance of receiving clicks.”
“No one can click through to your blog post if they can’t see it, which is why on and off-page SEO is vital for your blog strategy.”
Fancy hearing some good news?
You don’t have to put yourself under pressure to think of a creative blog post title.
You can use tools to help optimize the ideas you’ve got into a snappy headline that will drive clicks from organic search:
“As per CoSchedule, users read the first three and last three words in a title. It is also helpful to have the keywords integrated in the beginning of the title.”
Janice Wald agrees, saying “according to CoSchedule, “proven” and “that will” are emotional words and “boost” is a power word.” That’s why Wald ran with the title “8 Proven Ways to Write LinkedIn Posts That Will Boost Your Influence.“
Alex Kehoe of Caveni Digital Solutions LLC thinks “the best tool to create high CTR titles is the Google Keyword Planner, find keywords that are informational, are a problem that can be fixed, and write about the solution.”
“By using this tool, you can see if their query matches your blog title, and if not, adjust it to better target your ideal customers.”
*Editor’s note: Keep track of your Google Search Console data, and visualize your most important metrics in one place, with our Google Organic Search Performance dashboard. It’s a great way to track (and improve) the CTR of your content:
As you can see, the click-through rate of your blog post is something you should be keeping an eye on, and constantly working to improve.
Draw inspiration from these blog title examples and there’s no reason why you couldn’t smash the 2% mark!
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