Studying at the David Ogilvy School of Blog Headlines

Crafting a quality post is not enough if readers don’t click to read it. When your post appears in social media, you need to have a bold, sexy Headline that will make readers stop their scrolling and click on your post.

You need to grab readers by the throat and make them not want to look away. Your blog headline must offer something the reader must have right now.

Your headline has to be irresistible. Best to study David Ogilvy.

Blog Headlines the David Ogilvy way

don-blog headlines, you love Don Draper in Mad Men, you’ll love David Ogilvy. He was the original “ad man,” and in 1963 he wrote a book called Confessions of an Advertising Man to explain his advertising philosophy and techniques.

That book is still required reading in marketing courses and has been quoted infinitely on the Internet. 

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” -David Ogilvy

If you Google “Blog Headlines” you’ll find a thousand posts devoted to how to craft a powerful title. Most of that advice is derivative of what David Ogilvy said in his book.

So, without quoting him directly, let’s cut to the gist of writing irresistible blog titles, according to Ogilvy.

  1. Use the headline to flag down readers who are prospects for the products you’re advertisingInclude nouns that name the buyers of what you sell, be it “kids”, “attorneys”, “businesspeople,” etc.
  2. Appeal to the reader’s self interest and promise benefits of what you are offering. Start with words like Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How to offer a solution to a problem. Then, of course, deliver it.
  3. Keep your headline current by adding the New, the Latest, the Trending. Free is good too. New things are always happening and being invented, and anything New is a perennial attention-getter.
  4. Use contemporary action phrases and hyperbole with positive connotations to rouse readers interestAmazing, Awesome, Easy, Quick, Revolutionary, Magical, Truth About, Value Of are all good choices. Also, emotional words like, Love, Friends, Family are always winners. As is Winners.
  5. With five times as many people reading headlines as copy, include the brand name. As a blogging blogger, I jump at the chance to use WordPress or Google in a headline as a way to name drop positive brand names that readers will latch onto.
  6. Include your selling promise even if it extends the length of the headline. Not surprisingly, longer informational headlines work better than shorter, snappier ones. Make sure you stay within Google’s 55 character maximum.
  7. People will read your story if you arouse their curiosity, so end with a lure. Make readers click on your post just to find out what happened. In a book, this would be called a page turner. In a movie, it’s a cliff hanger. Let’s call it a post clicker.
  8. Avoid tricky headlines that use puns, literary allusions and other obscurities. If a headline is too complicated or obtuse to understand, readers can’t be bothered to decipher it enough to read the story. Use plain language and be clever, but don’t be too clever or readers will feel played with.
  9. Never be negative! It might backfire into making people think you are saying what you aren’t. Avoid words like Aren’t, No, Not, Never, Nobody, Don’t, Can’t, and Won’t not only because they are not positive; readers may misread the contractions.
  10. Avoid blind headlines that mean nothing without reading the story, and most readers don’t. Readers that read on may feel disappointed or even cheated for being mistakingly lured into reading a story that’s irrelevant to the title.

The Blogger School of Headlines

If David Ogilvy had lived to witness the birth of blogging I wonder what he would have advised.

I’m sure he would have loved the idea of search engine optimization and the importance of keywords.

If you use WordPress SEO by Yoast, you know that your title must include your focus keyword or keyword phrase which you obtained from Google Search or Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Sometimes it’s hard to insert, but a keyword just has to be in your headline.

And to fit in the Google search results, your title must be 55 character or less or it gets the ellipse treatment.

Writing blog headlines has evolved into a virtual science complete with A/B test results, headline templates and sure-fire methods to craft killer headlines.

Here is some expert advice on writing headlines, which you can judge by their titles:

A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Titles from Hubspot

10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work from Copyblogger

10 Awesome Headlines that Drive Traffic and Attract Readers by Jeff Bullas

Top 10 Most-Shared Things From Upworthy’s First Year from Upworthy, the runaway Internet sensation known for their attention-getting titles.

Upworthy’s headlines are so widely known and mocked, the site has inspired a parody site to generate Upworthy titles.

What would Olgilvy write

Yes, it would have been interesting to know what David Ogilvy would think about blogging and content marketing. He died in 1999, as the Web started widening, but just as Web-logging was only beginning.

I expect if he had to write a headline about blogging, it might be something like,

25 Ways to Write Blog Headlines before Cocktail Hour

Now that’s a powerful title!

What’s your technique for writing blog headlines? Any favourites that grabbed you recently? Please share your tips!

[teaserbox title=”Learn More!” button=”Subscribe” link=”” buttonsize=”small, medium, large” buttoncolor=”white, yellow, orange, red,
blue, green, gray, black, alternative-1, alternative-2, alternative-3″ target=”_blank or _self”]Create 100To get regular tips on using WordPress, please subscribe to Blogsite Studio and you’ll get my free ebook, Create a WordPress Website.

Now that’s a bargain![/teaserbox]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.