In today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard to grab the attention of consumers for a prolonged period of time. This is true in the world of marketing, and it’s particularly true in the world of online content creation. What does a sports blogger need to know?
According to HubSpot, 43% of people simply skim blog posts they. According to NewsCred, the average time spent on an article is 37 seconds. So, sports bloggers — and all bloggers, in general — don’t have much time to make an impression. That’s why creating an effective headline is crucial to the overall success or failure of an article.
The three aspects of a successful headline involves it being readable (to people and search engines), specific, and clickable.
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Back in the good ol’ days, it was easy to rank on Google by stuffing as many keywords as possible into the front of headlines. As one can imagine, Google’s algorithms have gotten much smarter, so that’s no longer a viable tactic.
Although having keywords at the beginning of blog post headlines is still important, it needs to happen in a way that’s natural and appealing to humans, too. If you’re writing a post about how ridiculous Cody Bellinger has been so far in 2019, the headline should have his name toward the beginning (if not at the beginning) of the headline, not the end.
Here’s a good example of a headline without keywords at the beginning and one that’s more readable.
Not-So-Great Headline: The 2019 season has been incredible for Cody Bellinger
Better Headline: Breaking Down Cody Bellinger’s legendary start to 2019
The not-so-great headline isn’t bad from a readability standpoint for actual readers, but the problem here is that the main subject — in this case, Bellinger — isn’t mentioned until the very end. If an entire article is going to be about a certain player(s) or team(s), it’s best to get them toward the beginning of a headline in the most natural way possible.
That’s not possible all the time, and that’s OK — not every single headline for a blog post will be completely perfect. However, it’s easy to overlook the effectiveness of a headline because a sports blogger is more concerned with the content within said article. That’s also OK — all I’m saying is to take an extra second or two to analyze the headline you’ve produced to see if it’s as effective as possible. And if you’re stuck, try Googling the subject of your blog post to help generate some ideas. For this example, type “Cody Bellinger” into Google and see what blog posts/articles pop up on the first page.
This is all important because even though we’ve been constantly told to not judge a book by its cover, that’s exactly what online readers do. If a headline doesn’t grab them in any certain way, they won’t check it out…even if it’s the best piece of content they’ll ever read.
There are plenty of more examples out there on the internet to display the makings of a great, good, or bad headline. A few of those examples can be found in my book.
While readability in a headline is important, it’s also crucial to be specific. The purpose is to pique a reader’s interest enough that they’re forced to click and read what a sports blogger has created. We can continue thinking about headlines as the packaging to a product or the cover to a book — if it’s not enticing or doesn’t evoke a certain emotion or thought, getting a reader to click will be impossible.
Two examples of being specific without giving everything away can be found on my blog, Chin Music Baseball:
The post about Davis was published in the midst of his historic hitless streak, so he was in the news quite a bit. Instead of giving everything away, this headline promised something specific (three sad tweets). This spurs a reader to wonder what exactly is included, and saying they’re tweets implies there won’t be a lot of reading taking place (remember, nearly half of all readers simply skim articles).
For the list article, there are plenty of questions that come from it. Readers can see Matthew Boyd is the featured image, but there are nine other MLB players who fit the same criteria. What exactly is the criteria, though? At the point it was published, the season was only two months old, so how could they have out-performed last year’s performance with two-thirds of the season left?
Both of these posts performed well because they told readers exactly what they were about, yet left enough mystery so clicking on it to find out was necessary.
As you can see, the three keys to a successful headline basically go hand-in-hand with one another. Producing a readable and specific headline will help it get clicked more often than not. But what else can a sports blogger do?
The whole point you started a sports blog in the first place was to share an opinion, so make it known! Not everyone is going to agree, and that’s kind of the point. As long as it’s backed up with evidence, you’ve done your job if it gets readers talking and sharing.
There are a million sports blogs and websites reporting on the news. As soon as something drops, a countless number of articles that basically say the same thing get published. This is the exact reason why I stay away from reporting hard news (and tell other sports bloggers to do the same thing). It’s similar to game recaps — readers can get them everywhere, so if you’re going to cover something, make sure point of view or opinion is different.
I’ll take another example from Chin Music Baseball. Instead of simply stating “Mike Trout signs record-breaking extension with Angels” in the below headline, I wrote the following:
This successfully reported on the day’s biggest news while giving a unique spin and taking a specific stand.
Another option — which I somewhat alluded to in the previous section — is this idea of creating list posts. It’s an easy way to be specific and take a stand while also keeping it mysterious enough to attract clicks. As mentioned in a recent post, it seems like there are two types of readers: those who like list articles and those who hate them.
The truth is that listicles continue getting published at a rapid rate because people click on them. According to ConversionXL, 36% of people prefer list-based articles, while the Content Marketing Institute has noted that odd numbered list article headlines outperform even ones by 20%. Those statistics are older, but the message gets across with regard to what readers are looking for.
So the next time you log into your sports blog to create a post, don’t just fly through the headline. Take a few seconds, do some research, and put in extra effort. Doing so will likely help you reap rewards well into the future.