How To Drive Blog Traffic: Write Great Headlines
The Secret To Driving Blog Traffic
The Secret To Driving Blog Traffic

The most important piece of copy you write for a blog post, an email or any other type of written communication is your headline. This is even more true now as the information overload of today’s Internet makes finding great content an exercise in headline browsing.

For example, I subscribe to the RSS feeds from about 70 blogs covering the alcohol, wine and spirits industry. Yet, I have a hard time finding good content within these blogs. Mind you, it’s not because the good content isn’t there. It’s because I also subscribe to 350 other blogs and make efficient use of my time by skimming headlines looking for an inviting post. Many people suffer from inbox overload and treat their email the same way.

The same theory holds true if you look for good content on social news sites like Digg or StumbleUpon. The posts that often make the front pages of those sites, thus receiving an influx of traffic, aren’t always posts with great content, but ones with sexy headlines.

RSS Feed Image - Spirits Blogs

Take a look at a snap shot of several posts in my Spirits Blogs folder from Google Reader. Scanning this list quickly, I see one post that might be worth reading, but it took me a second to find it. DrinkBoston’s “Locke-Ober – Best Boston Bars” at least teases me that I’m going to find out which bars in Boston are good. It turns out, Locke-Ober is a bar and the post is a review of it. After reading the post, I would respectfully suggest a headline like, “Drink At Locke-Ober. Teddy Roosevelt Did!” Or perhaps the more sophisticated approach of, “Why Locke-Ober Is One Of Boston’s Best, And Worst Bars.”

With the intent of being more constructive and less critical, the rest of the headlines are confusing or dull. “Islands of Scotland” doesn’t tell me what the post is about, really. I assume it’s a travel post and irrelevant to my whiskey interest. Turns out it’s a post about touring whiskey distilleries on the islands. I love Dr. Whisky, but “Malt Mission 2010 #379” tells me nothing other than he’s cataloging his posts in some numerical fashion that the casual reader doesn’t understand. His first sentence is very interesting, however:

“There is some real, old-fashioned, hand-crafted, family-run whiskey-making going on in the Hudson Valley.”

How about making the headline, “Old-Fashioned, Hand-Crafted, Family-Run Whiskey In … The Hudson Valley?” since those descriptions are more often associated with Kentucky and Tennessee distillers?

According to Brian Clark in his fantastic piece about writing magnetic headlines, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. With the majority of web readers skimming rather than reading and aggregation services becoming the preferred source for today’s news, the key to great blog traffic is your headline.

Here’s hoping the spirits bloggers take the suggestion to heart. You should too.

And in case you want some good spirits blogs to read in addition to the above, I recommend Accidental Hedonist, What Does John Know, Dowd on Drinks, The Chuck Cowdery Blog, BBQ and Bourbon and The Intoxicologist. There are a ton more and I’ll probably get some grief for leaving a few out. My most recent list can be found in my spirits blogs OPML file here. Download it, import it to your feed reader and your Spirits folder will have the good stuff.

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
  • The headlines or titles will have a big contributions to your blogs. That’s why it is necessary to be interesting.

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  • ecommercesolutions

    Loved your blog. A book may not be judged by its cover, but a blog is definitely judged by its headlines! Thanks for your entry.:)

  • i like the word magnetic title that you referred in this post which realizes the importance of writing good titles…thanks.

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  • well internet made it possible to reach the people and let them know about your product and services easily and withing minimum of time,, the textual, or video are great way, to blog post and upload and let you all customers know that what you have for them.

  • Thanks much for a cool read a great site!

  • I agree. Catchy headlines attract readers so writers must be able to play with words to catch the attention of readers but without sounding nasty or improper. Nice post!

  • I agree. Catchy headlines attract readers so writers must be able to play with words to catch the attention of readers but without sounding nasty or improper. Nice post!

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  • davidcarroll

    I think you are right on about the value of the headline but I believe the headline that attracts today is changing. I tend to think that folks hype-meter is so high today that it takes a little different approach to attract. One of the best headlines today is a straight forward short list on how to do something that your reader wants to know about. Very good post though.

  • Agreed, the headline is of huge importance….first impression is always important. But if the content of that blog post is poor, you will never see that reader coming back to your blog…even if you sell him the greatest headlines!

    • Certainly a fair point. Thanks for the perspective.

  • Most definitely agreed! I've heard it said that you should spend half your time on the actual content and the other half on your headline. A headline's power could be compared to the ignition in a car, or the hook on a fishing line. Not very big in comparison, but without it, you're getting nowhere.

    • Thanks, Blue. Appreciate the comment.

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  • toocreative

    I've been blogging for years, and this is a technique that I've sort of “organically” learned. I can't say that I always hit the mark, but I usually get pretty close every time. It's always fun to watch how some headlines perform over others.

    I've always found that people love a “secret”, or “mystery”. And I've had great success with list-based posts: 10 Reasons why Social Media for Business doesn't Suck.

    • Thanks for the thoughts. Always good to get feedback from someone who
      has had success with it. Thanks for sharing.

  • ismitt

    I always like reading about what kind of copy works. Writing is what I do for a living, and I know how the taste of readers is constantly changing, so I always like to be updated as to what presently catches readers attention. Please do keep writing about what kind of copy makes you click on that link.

    P.S. For other writers like me, take a look at this interview of John Carlton. He's been in the business for many years, and he packs really good wisdom.

    • Thanks for the link! I'll be sure to check it out. And I appreciate the
      comment/compliment. Honored you'd stop by.

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  • Well what i have observed is if your blog heading is unique and your are marketing properly so you can get good traffic.

  • Great post Jason.

    It's so true that the headline will make or break who reads your stuff. With so much information around us, we will skim over and click on the ones with the most intriguing headlines. I usually see headlines with references to numbers and lists work very well. Certain words will trigger that emotional response to find out more.

    Thanks again for the great post Jason.

    • Thanks George. Appreciate the comment.

  • crockstar

    This is really helpful! People often forget how important a headline can be and much as we've all been taught not to judge a book by its cover, first impressions are hugely important!

    I found this article just at the right time as I'm working on drafting a blog strategy at the moment.

    Cheers for sharing :)

    • Glad to help. Thanks for the comment.

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  • Great post. You are right, if the headline is not attention grabbing, most of us will never bothering clicking on the link itself, let alone read the article.

    • Appreciate the comment, Christian. Thanks for stopping by.

  • iancleary

    This is one area online that's similar to printed newspapers, with newspapers you skim through to find the eye catching headline or great image. Same with blog posts!

  • torstenheinson


    great article and not only true for headlines, it is also important for Twitter or even Google ads. Btw. finding the real good content is not only difficult for the liquor industries blogs ;-)

    • You're absolutely right, Torsten. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, even sharing
      links on Twitter – Great headlines drive traffic. Thanks for the additional

  • Jason

    I see the secret as going outside your industry and reading blogs of your hobbies and interests to and see which ones you read and compare their headlines to yours (as you have done here for us). That will help you to write better headlines and get more traffic. Many tend to stay in their industry to see what is going on when the real lessons and tools for learning many times lie where we step away from “work” and go and read leisurely.

    • Excellent suggestion, Suzanne. That's a big reason I subscribe to a lot of blogs in the industries of my clients. It gives me ideas on top of helping me stay on top of the issues relevant to them.

  • I know that I could use some help writing more captivating headlines, so thanks for the post.

    Have you found that post titles that start with “How To Do X” or “7 Ways To Do X” draw more readers in? Seems that post titles like this have increased significantly in the last couple of years.

    • Thanks John. Anytime you can write a sexy headline — call them tabloid headlines if you will — you're going to get more traffic. How tos, Top 10 lists, X Ways to do Y, etc., those are all proven attention-getters. To get really inspired for good headline writing, browse the magazines in the grocery check-out line. Guarantee you'll see those type headlines all over the mags there.

  • Jason – thank you for including me in your feeds! I just imported your list and found a few sites I hadn't been following. Your post made me stop and look back at my headlines. I've been so focused on SEO and getting posts to rank for specific keywords that I didn't think about how bland those headlines look to a reader; looking through my past 10 posts, 9 out of 10 headlines are only focused on keywords and extremely bland. Thanks for the wake up call.

    • Hey there, Girly Girl. Love your blog! (And I'm not just saying that. Heh.)

      Focusing on SEO is sort of a double-edged sword. You get better traffic and inbound links naturally by having headlines and content that attracts humans. You get better search traffic and rankings by having keyword rich headlines and copy that attracts the spiders. The nirvana of it all is balancing both well.

      Make sure you're using a blog engine or plugin (I recommend Thesis Theme for WordPress) that allows you to write two headlines – one for people and one for the spiders. Then make sure you have your keywords worked in the natural flow of the copy so it doesn't sound awkward and spammy. Those are pretty good parameters to go forward with.

      Glad you might swing by and read my stuff from time to time, too. Cheers!

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  • Great post Jason, thanks for the insight and i will definitely be working these principles into my writing.

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  • Headlines are in effect text banners – a great headline can help a bad story but a bad headline can bury a good story.

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  • thanks for this. I've been working on mine more and more

    • It's certainly something that you can practice and play with over time. Glad
      I could help a bit.

  • Keep the good content coming! I'll be wise to where to go in Boston next
    time, fo sho!

  • Thank you for sharing your headline. Now, about that traffic….

  • Sexy headlines increase curiosity to take a look. That is a win-win for all.

    • Agreed. Thanks for the comment, Loren.

  • Great headline. Made me want to see the secret, and the payoff was that you were right!

    • if anything, I'm clever. Heh. Thanks for stopping by Warren.

      • clever you are.

        I've found that 90% time commitment on headline is so important, and rarely the case. Many put a few seconds on this as an afterthought.

        the smart copywriters spend most of their time testing headlines… is that clever?

  • Jason, thanks for the mention. I use a few strategies when writing headlines, including making them compelling and indicative of the content of the post. When it comes to my Best Boston Bars headlines, I decided to make them uniform — i.e. Best Boston bars – Bar X — because of my Best Boston Bar list. I know that the received wisdom is to have SEO in mind with every word you type, but I also view the posts on drinkboston as part of a bigger concept with its own conventions. Cheers.

    • Thanks for swinging by Lauren. I certainly understand the reasoning behind
      the Boston Bars series. Hope that didn't come across as too critical. Each
      individual headline is difficult to critique because there are dozens of
      reasons/motivations behind writing them. My points are more overall. Love
      DrinkBoston, even though I don't get to Boston nearly enough to justify it.
      Thanks for the comment!

      • No, not too critical at all. Good conversation here. Thanks for reading!

        • Keep the good content coming! I'll be wise to where to go in Boston next
          time, fo sho!

  • Headline skimming is almost like spirit sampling, isn't it?

    Good one.

    • Sort of. Only you can't get drunk headline skimming. Heh. Thanks, Mark.

  • Sometimes a great headline is how I get my inspiration. With Twitter becoming such a part of my daily routine, I often think in 140 character thoughts. These often make good headlines for a more in depth discussion about the who what where why and how. I would also suggest you keep your headlines shorter without editorial in them. Keep the editorial for the blog post.

    • Great points, Jim. I also recommend making sure the post delivers what the
      headline promises. Don't bait and switch. (Not that you reminded me of that
      … just something that struck me while reading through the comments.)

  • Jason, As a I begin blogging would you suggest writing the headline first and then the content or visa versa? I know that I do they same thing in Google Reader by skimming headlines and the “sexier” headlines are the ones I inevitable read.


    • I normally write the headline first, then the content, then gut check to see
      they mesh. I'm pretty sure Brian at Copyblogger has recommended writing the
      headline first, too. (Seem to remember a post about that there.)

  • Jason, I agree completely. We need to be concerned with both grabbing attention and informing with our headlines. You have such a small amount of space and time to get the reader roped in.

    One other thing I think is worth mentioning is SEO. Headlines are important because they often impact the post's URL (depending on the platform), the h1 tag on the page, and the text people tend to use when linking to you. All of these things have a lot of search engine impact. So having the right keywords is very helpful.

    So while search engines may not need to be your first concern, it's something people should keep in mind when writing up those attention grabbers.

    • Thanks Adam. That's why I like Thesis as a blog theme. You can write the
      sexy headline for the people and the tactical headline for the search

  • scotttownsend


    Great point. I can see where I need to improve.

  • Jason you right, I too think Headlines are the Key to success To Driving Blog Traffic.

    Thanks for the interesting post.


    • Thank you, Ortwin. Appreciate the content.

  • I think the crafting good headlines is as important as the content, We have to follow some rules as Brian suggests and we should decide the headline after writing the post.You are really good at getting at least 6 out of those 10 people to read the content…
    Thanks for sharing the quick thought here…

    • Thanks, Akash. Content will always be the most important factor, but in
      today's Attention Deficit society, you need that headline to draw the reader
      in. Thanks for the thoughts.