Blog Post Format: The Worst Thing You Can Do (Hint: You are Probably Doing it)

As a blogger, we strive to have a good blog post format every time we sit down to type.

We can agonize for days just to get that one post ready to drive traffic to our site.

If you’re anything like me, you can spend hours generating blog post ideas, or days pouring over resources, making sure it’s relevant and useful for your readers.

Blog Post Format: The Worst Thing You Can Do (Hint: You are Probably Doing it)

As someone getting paid to write, I don’t only want to provide awesome and engaging content for my readers and clients, but I want to make sure that my content is being read, shared and talked about.

With so many parts to crafting the perfect content, new bloggers can fall victim to making the worst mistake in their blog post format.

The blog post format template is like baking a cake – when you miss an ingredient in your recipe, you risk the chance of your cake sitting alone at the table with no one wanting to take a slice.

Similarly, when you miss key elements in what format is right for your next blog post, it doesn’t matter if you produced the most share worthy content because if you lack the one thing that could skyrocket your blog, you might as well be writing to yourself.

So what is the worst thing you can do with your format for writing a blog post that will wipe out any chances of your readers sharing your content?

Any one of these can be the worst thing:

But these components pale in comparison to the worst thing you can do on a blog post.

No, the worst thing you can do on a blog will make up to 80% of people not want to read your post ever again.

And what’s even more nail-biting is that many bloggers don’t even know they’re making this monumental mistake.

So it all comes down to the worst mistake. You’re probably itching to find out what it is, right? What could possibly be so bad that 80% of people wouldn’t even read your blog?

It’s Not Crafting an Attention Getting, Eye-Catching, Interest Grabbing Headline

Ah, the headline, you say. Well of course it’s your headline.

If you don’t already know, coming up with a powerful and alluring headline is one of the best ways to get readers coming to your blog.

And it’s one of the import ways to format a blog post the right way.

Headlines also help with your search engine optimization (SEO) when you include relevant keywords in your title. This will make it easier for people to find your blog posts, thereby increasing traffic to your site.

And the best thing about having a magnetic headline is that it greatly improves social shares. Just think about it –  you have to compete with everyone else’s tweets so you better make your blog titles eye-catching.

Many writing websites have covered the art of making seductive headlines. Copyblogger has an entire ebook on How to Write Magnetic Headlines. So does Freelance Writing.

What’s important to note is that there are many websites that have information on writing blog titles, but why are there still bloggers and even freelance writers failing to write irresistible headlines?

I’ll tell you why:

  • Because many believe if you’re not a copywriter, then you can’t possibly write headlines that hook your readers
  • Because many don’t know how to write persuasive copy
  • Because many treat their headline as an afterthought
  • Because even the best bloggers and freelance writers still struggle coming up with alluring blog titles to draw high volume traffic

So let’s figure out how to make an interest grabbing headline that will propel your blog onto the high traffic Hwy that is the internet.

Write Your Headlines With This Key Element

The one thing I learned over the course of writing multiple blog post titles and reading hundreds of blog posts, is in order to get readers to my blog, I needed to pique their curiosity.

People are intrigued by how to make their lives better, easier and more efficient. People are also interested in learning about a particular niche, career, item or hobby.

When a you can tap into your readers’ desires, you can create headlines that will pique their curiosity.

And when readers learn something new, they want to know more about it and will seek information to fulfill their curiosity.

So how do we create curiosity in your headlines? Try these 4 proven ways to writing effective headlines.

1. Use Numbers in Your Blog Title

According to CoSchedule, out of 1 million blog posts they analyzed, list posts were by far the most shared on social media.

What’s interesting to note is that list posts only made up 5% of their sample. This means, not many bloggers or freelance writers are utilizing list posts to drive traffic and shares. So it seems readers enjoy lists and they can’t get enough of them.

So why do numbers increase readers’ click rate?

  1. List posts promise the reader something specific. People don’t like the unknown, so when you give them a concrete numbered list, they know when it will finish.
  2. List posts allow your readers to quickly scan the information. Most online readers don’t have time to read a lengthy blog post, so make it easier for them by tying in your list headline with numbered sub headings.
  3. List posts makes our brains oh so happy! There’s something about numbers that our brain’s are attracted to. Maybe it’s because we crave structure and organization and numbers help us achieve that. Or maybe it’s because numbers act like a red beacon amongst a sea of words.

I like using numbered lists in my headlines as it’s a great structure to follow and I find it creates more shares and engagement with my readers. Here are a few examples of my blog titles that uses numbers in the headlines:

7 Guaranteed Ways to Write Faster and Get More Clients

6 Foolproof Marketing Tips to Help You Become a Better Freelance Writer

5 Rules Every Blogger Must Know to Ace a Post Your Teacher Would Fail

And if you want to get even more readers coming to your blog post, use odd numbers. Studies have shown it helps readers hold their attention longer.

2. Use Negative Superlatives

Superlatives are great descriptors for your headline that can draw in more readers.

Positive superlatives like best, greatest, quickest etc.. can draw in readers, but using negative superlatives like avoid, worst, don’t etc… can bring in up to 63% more readers, according to Huffington Post.

Using this fear tactic plays on reader’s insecurities and almost signals an urgency to know the information. I don’t want that happening to me so I need to read this blog so I know what to do.

This blog post title, The Worst Thing You Can Do on a Blog… Hint: You Are Probably Doing It, uses a fear factor and a surprise element (did you know you’re probably doing this worst thing?)

Another negative headline I have on my blog is:

Find Out The One Thing That Can Ruin Your Freelance Writing Career

3. Make a Promise to Your Readers

When you have headlines with intriguing promises and deliver on those promises with your content, you’ll have happy readers gladly sharing your blog post.

Every headline should make a promise to your readers, meaning after they finish reading your post they will:

  • Gain some new insight
  • Be better equipped with this new knowledge
  • Easily adopt your tips to their lives or professions

Just make sure that what you promise in your headline is explained in your blog post. This is something I do every time I write a headline for my blog posts.

I want to make sure that I tell my readers that, yes, you will find out the 3 ingredients for a sweet blog post, or yes, you will learn these 7 writing tips and write faster.

4. Be Unpredictable

In the world of blogging, one of the ways to stand out is to be unpredictable in your headlines.

Even though studies have shown list headlines are popular and only make up a small fraction of all the blog headlines out there, you need to use more attention grabbing ideas and words if you want to get retweets and shares.

So don’t always follow the recipe to headlines that grabs people’s attention; instead, be creative with your titles and have fun with them!

With my headlines, I often write super long headlines. I know from reading print copy, short descriptive headlines are the most effective. But, I like writing long headlines because it’s something readers don’t always expect to see.

Ambiguous headlines, while not SEO friendly, are definitely more SMO (Social Media Optimization) friendly.

Just take a look at a few of Upworthy’s articles (Upworthy is a news site that generates viral posts):

When He Says, “I’m a Human Being,” I Tear Up, Too (over 1,000 social shares)

You May Find These Things Gross, But Wait ‘Til You See What They Can Do (over 2,000 social shares)

At First You Think They’re Just Playing Around. Then The End Happens (over 3,000 social shares)

So besides being ambiguous, what is Upworthy relying on to gain social shares and engagement? The curiosity factor and shock value.

I know when I read these headlines, I want to know what exactly are they talking about? This is a good way to add a little unpredictability in your headlines.

One More Thing to Add

You might think writing persuasive headlines is difficult and is something you feel you can’t do, but I’m here to tell you that you can write magnetic headlines in a cinch.

If you ever have a difficult time coming up with a winning headline, do what other copywriters, bloggers and freelance writers do – use a headline template.

There are many types of headline templates available and all you have to do is plug in what you want to say. Check out Coschedule’s headline ideas here.

Get Your Copywriter Hat on

I don’t consider myself a copywriter and neither should you, if you aren’t an actual copywriter. But what you can do is use copy writing strategies when writing your blog post.

Also, learn from the best copywriters and practice, practice, practice.

Check out my Video on copywriting headlines for you.

When it’s time to write your next blog post, put your copywriter hat on and think of these key questions:

  • How can I tell my story so that people can relate to it?
  • What powerful words can I use to convey my message?
  • How can my readers benefit from my blog post?

So, are you ready to start creating the best headlines you can?

These headline tips, to me, are the most important or the most popular in terms of getting social engagement. When you pique a reader’s curiosity you are guaranteed that they will click to your blog post and, if you have great and awesome content, will read it and share it.

Now it’s your turn: What tips do you use to make your headlines pop and create a buzz?

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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Yikes!! I’m guilty of doing the WORST thing! Lol But now that I’m writing for a few different blogs now I’m learning what you are talking about in this blog post. Now, before I write, I make sure to have my headline first. And then I work on creating valuable content. This was helpful, Elna!!Reply to Aaron
Yes! Thank you so much for these tips. My headlines are very dry and this helped so much! While reading your article I’ve already gone through and changed two of my existing headlines!Reply to Corinn
Hi Corinn! Glad to hear that! Headlines are super important and happy to hear you are taking action to optimize them for more engagement!Reply to Elna
Thanks Elna! These are great tips for writing headlines. I will surely use them in my next blog post! πŸ™‚Reply to Lenka
No problem Lenka! Glad you liked my post and the tips I provided. Sometimes I get stuck writing headlines and I have to go back and see which headlines are popular. It helps!Reply to Elna
Using this fear tactic plays on reader’s insecurities and almost signals an urgency to know the information. I don’t want that happening to me so I need to read this blog so I know what to do.Reply to
Headlines also help with your search engine optimization (SEO) when you include relevant keywords in your title. This will make it easier for people to find your blog posts, thereby increasing traffic to your site.Reply to
That’s true. I’ve been playing around with headlines for social media attention and headlines with keywords. Both do fairly well! ElnaReply to Elna
Thanks for sharing..! This is really article about writing blog post. Well, blog’s content updating is almost the important thing about blog. We, bloggers are not able to success without providing awesome content for our readers. I would agree with you, what we are wondering about is that how to make our blog content read, shared, and spread by readers. Honestly, I have read a lot about writing quality blog post what this is the most interesting tips about writing. Sure, to considering about how to format our content as online article format is really nice idea to dial with the issued of none attractive article. Using headlines great idea for attractive online readers, to killer headlines attractive readers’ attention and more reading of the content. Also, remarkable languages such as numbers and bullet make readers more sense about the articles. Thanks for sharing..! I really love this tipsReply to Kimsea
Thanks Kimesea! Yes, providing an effective headline will certainly get more readers to your blog! But there is a fine balance between have targeted keywords in your headline and making it popular enough for social media’s attention. I’m glad you found this useful. ElnaReply to Elna
Hey, great article, Elna. I read through some of the comment here and I’m surprised at how many people treat their headlines as an afterthought. It’s always the first thing I do, and dictates what my topic will become. Sometimes I’ve even started writing, but then began veering off into a slightly different angle, and I have to alter the headline. The title is my base. I enjoyed reading your post and am going to subscribe to your blog. Thank you!Reply to Jeanne
Hi Jeanne! Glad to see a new face on my blog! I also like thinking of a headline first before writing my blog post. My headline does dictate what I will write about most often than not. It’s rare that I just have an idea. It’s more like, I have a headline that I’ve got to use! Thanks again for coming by! ElnaReply to Elna
I love this post and I totally agree based on what I pin on Pinterest. I seem to always be intrigued by the numbers (lists) and the negative superlatives. I am going to work on this and see if my numbers go up. I am a brand new blogger (almost 4 months) and my numbers are increasing slowly but this may help to charge them to go up even a little faster. Thanks for the tips.Reply to Michelle
Michelle! You have a great site. You’re design element is superb. No wonder you’re in the invitations and program business. For a four month old blogger, you sure know your way around a blog! The biggest tips I can give you besides having a catchy headline to reel viewers in, is to socially promote your blog posts as often as necessary. You can also guest post on “mommy” sites or “mompreneur” sites and in your author byline, have a link to your products. Good luck! ElnaReply to Elna
Just saw your link to this on linkedin. I like this post, and I’m no stranger to the importance of a headline (I’ve worked with magazines since 2009). I agree with Mitch’s comment, but I loved your reply. It’s rare to see two individuals disagree with both candor and respect online.Reply to Laura
Well… first time here and I’m going to be slightly contrary. Ask Adrienne Smith about me; I’m harmless… kind of… πŸ™‚ Here’s my take on titles. I won’t disagree that it helps if they’re compelling. However, I have problems when I show up to a place based on a title that doesn’t deliver the content I expected. For instance, when someone puts the word “shocking” in a title yet there’s nothing shocking in the title, no matter how hard the writer’s trying to convince me it’s shocking. I’m bad at titles. I’m so bad that it took me more than 2 years to come up with a title for my first book, which always makes it hard to market. On my blogs, my titles are always about whatever the content is going to be about. Definitely not eye-popping but honest to a fault… at least I think so. Maybe I think more like a writer than a blogger or media master, where titles are a bit more subdued but, when it shows up in the story as the central theme, people step back, take that breath and say “Ahhhh, so that’s what it’s related to…” So, admittedly I stopped by because I saw Adrienne sharing your post on Twitter and I was compelled to stop by to see what the worst thing on a blog post might be. In the end you got me here… even though I disagree overall because I think there are far worse things on a blog post that would make me shudder. And your 2nd recommendation about negative superlatives… I’ll admit it works even if I hate it when it’s not quite true in most posts. These things will work; I just can’t see me doing any of them except #1, but only because if I have 7 points to make, it makes sense putting 7 in the title. Well, I guess I do #4 also, but predictability has never been my strong suit, except for the honesty. πŸ™‚Reply to Mitch
Mitch Thanks for your honest feedback! Social media is a whole new ballgame when it comes to marketing your content. Readers online are flooded with the standard “How to..” or any general title that explicitly tells you what your content is about. Of course, you can use a title that lacks an enticing appeal or emotional flare and still grab people’s attention. I won’t deny that, but it’s always fun to think of headlines that will have that umph and get people to read your content. In fact, there’s always a debate between having SEO or SMO drive your blog. You can have both of course, but Social Media Optimization (SMO) can be a big force to your success online. The “worst” thing on a blog post is of course my opinion and I hope I did my best at explaining why I think it is and how to work on that aspect so it’s no longer the worst thing. Headlines are a HUGE HUGE driving force to getting readers to your post and website. So I believe if you don’t deliver on your headline, you’d be lucky to have anyone read what you have to say. Thanks again for your opinion. I value everyone’s input! ElnaReply to Elna
Such an important topic, and so many people treat headlines as an afterthought. I always start my posts with a general idea, but once I start writing, I’m never sure where it’s going to actually end up πŸ˜€ Because of that, I usually create my headline last. I’ve started doing the Upworthy trick of sitting and writing 25 headlines – and usually by the time I get to the end, I’ve got a couple that just feel right.Reply to Kelly
Hi Kelly Yes headlines is an important topic for bloggers and freelance writers. That’s interesting that you say you write your headlines last. I always have an idea and then create a headline form that idea. From there I can form sub headings and plan my post out! To each their own! Whatever works, stick with it right? Thanks for leaving a comment! ElnaReply to Elna
Hi! Loved this post, but still a little lost! I started my blog on wordpress just to have a place to write and share my writing. It wasn’t until I received a few positive feedbacks that I realized I could actually write! Now I call myself a writer because I AM writing and I want to BE a writer. My blog is not about selling a product or service, it is just about my own experiences. However, since I started selling Avon in June, I have written a couple of articles about my Avon products and added that category to my blog. Could you help me out? Would you mind going to my blog and reading a few posts then giving me some feedback about what I could have done to make the headline better? I would like for you to read one of the posts from the beginning of the blog, which was last Spring, then one or two of the most recent, so that you can see what changes I have already started making, and read one of my Avon posts, so that you can advise me on the headline and anything else you could offer about getting the Avon posts to capture more attention. Should I start a separate blog for just Avon? I do want more attention on the entire blog site because I want my name out there, to develop a following because I am going to be writing books. I am starting with a childrens book, will probably do at least one more childrens book and then a memoir and after that, I am still figuring out what to do after that. Here is another thing I need some input on, my memoir book will focus on how I was able to cure myself of Bi-Polar Disorder in spite of the fact that all the shrinks tell us it can not be cured. That is a LIE and I did cure myself and I had that verified by a professional. Now, i don’t want to write the whole story on my blog because I am going to write a book about it, but wouldn’t some blog posting about the topic get me some exposure that would help my book? What would YOU do? Thank you so much for even considering reading my blog and giving me feedback. I realize this is something you might get paid for, but at this time I can not afford this type of service, so I am hoping you will see fit to help me out, to help get a new writer on the road to success! Best regards, Susan HudsonReply to Susan
Hi Susan, Thanks for commenting on my blog! Much appreciated. I will definitely take some time to look at your blog and blog titles, but at the moment I’m swamped with client work (has to be done before Xmas). Congratulations on a book! I think your topic will hit home for many moms, women and men! I think blogging about some relevant topics about your book would be a great way to introduce your audience to what you will be writing! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Great tips! My strategy is to keep it short, witty and appeal to a few senses. This is particularly challenging with my social and political satire.Reply to Denrique
Denrique, That’s right, a lot of good print headlines are short and witty, but I’m learning that online, you can play around with your headline to draw in more people. Using a shock value or a warning ramps up views as well! Feel free to use the headline template and generate some smart blog titles to suit your audience!Reply to Elna
I really loved this post and all of it’s tips. I see too many posts that only provide “filler” information or completely lack depth on the topic promised in the title. But I can I actually learned important tidbits in your post. You’ve got great insight and I’m very thankful for the information provided in this post, so…thanks! πŸ™‚Reply to Kiesha
Kiesha! Thanks for coming to my little ol’ blog and leaving a wonderful comment! It means so much to me coming from a fellow freelance writer! Good luck on providing wicked awesome headlines and don’t you love that template from Pauline! Amazing! ElnaReply to Elna
Although I am pretty good as a blogger, reading such inspiring posts is always a good idea. And yes, your headline did intrigue me to come to your blog! Good job! πŸ™‚Reply to Renuka
Thanks Renuka, Have a headline that hooks the reader right off the bat is a great way to draw in new readers. But to keep them interested you need to provide top quality content and I hope I did that! Thanks for commenting on my blog and I’ll be sure to take a look at yours! ElnaReply to Elna
When it comes to numbered posts, I read somewhere that uneven numbers do better and bring in more traffic than even numbers. Do you agree? By the way, your post title brought me in and I enjoyed reading your article. I might have to look into headline templates a little further for my own blog. Thank you for the tip.Reply to Silke
Hi Silke, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I really appreciate it. I actually just headed over to your blog and left a comment! Anyways, I actually did hear that, but I think the over consensus is that numbered lists (regardless of the number) does better than non-numbered titles. I will, though, update my post to include this tidbit! Thanks! I try to mix up my titles for my blog; sometimes I make numbered and sometimes I use a clever title to draw in more readers. I like using both types! Glad you liked my post! ElnaReply to Elna
Oh, you even found a study to support the uneven number theory. That’s awesome! Mixing up your titles is certainly a good idea. By the way, I saw your comment on my site and responded as well. πŸ™‚ Let me know if you would like to write a guest article some time about proper writing techniques. I’m more of a web designer and marketer than writer myself, and I’m sure my readers would appreciate your insights and writing style. Have a wonderful weekend!Reply to Silke
Thanks! I will definitely consider guest posting about proper writing techniques! Thanks for this opportunity!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, You’re getting better and better. Your blog posts headlines are quite intriguing. You’ve definitely achieved what you’re trying to do because they make me want to read your articles. Plus, your articles are enticing and interesting. I can see you’ve been doing your homework and perfecting your craft. Well done. I know you will go far in the blogging world. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing a wonderful post. You made some interesting points for me to take on board. By the way, my headlines are usually birthed when I’m washing up, walking, travelling or a result of something I read, saw or happened to me. I don’t have any special methods for writing headlines.Reply to June
Hi June! Thanks for your feedback that I’m getting better and better! I love writing blog posts and coming up with unique and sometimes quirky headlines! My next post will be a more SEO key word type headline, but I feel it fits with my topic! Thanks for your kind words and good luck on making some awesome headlines! Looking forward to reading them on your blog! ElnaReply to Elna
Hi Elna Thanks again for another great post! I used to often struggle with my blog titles, taking hours trying to think of one. Similar to what you suggest with ‘make a promise to your readers’, what I do now is leave the title alone, write my blog and work back through it. By reading through my blog and asking myself ‘what has it explained’, I then can come up with a title. Thanks for the headline template too. It will be useful for blog title ideas and for alternative ideas for tweeting my blog posts. πŸ™‚Reply to Marcia
Hi Marcia, Thanks for commenting. I also struggle with blog titles, but I find that once I have an idea, I think of a few working titles, then look at some headline templates to see if I can get some inspiration. I normally make my headline before I begin to write my blog or even before I make an outline to my blog post. But, if it works for you, don’t change it! Looking forward to seeing some awesome headlines from your blog! ElnaReply to Elna
Hi Elna, I like using ContentIdealtor. I just plugin some keywords and you can get some great headline titles not to mention topics to write about. Great tips here! Passing this along! Hope you’re having a great week and it’s so nice to meet you :).Reply to Corina
Hi Corina, That’s a great tip! I’ve never heard of ContentIdealtor. I’ll have to check it out. There’s also a headline analyzer that I totally forgot to mention in this blog post (which means I will have to make a new blog post in the future!) It’s an Emotional Headline Analyzer. Thanks for passing this along! I appreciate all the likes, shares and comments from everyone!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Fab post! Numbered list posts are crack to folks lol….people are gonna click, comment on and share these posts. It’s like clockwork. Can’t help themselves. I am moving away from numbered posts for 2 weeks. On Wednesday I have a review, and 2 weeks ago I chatted about how Gollum can be your blogging role model….yeah I know, strange πŸ˜‰ But in a week I’ll get right back to a list style post and I’ll go high on the number side of things, because big numbers just flat out make people take notice. On the flip side, asking questions, making weird parallels – see Gollum, and blogging role model – and intriguing your audience through any means all will get you clicks. Just make sure to deliver on your post, and you’ll be golden. Thanks Elna! RyanReply to Ryan
Thanks I hope I delivered on my post? I think I did. Thanks for commenting Ryan! It means a lot to me! I like numbered posts myself and I have to make a conscious effort not to do a list title. That’s good that you are staying away from list posts for a bit. You can see how much engagement you get then! I like what you said about asking questions and make weird parallels. People like that. If only I could make a blog post with this title, “How my stint in jail made me the blogger I am today” or something weird like that! ha.. Okay, it’s bedtime for me. Enjoy your trip to NYC and can’t wait to hear about your talk at NYU! ElnaReply to Elna
This is a really good post with some wonderful tips! I find myself considering my headlines either last or not as important as the rest of the content when actually it’s the first thing that pulls a reader in! I will be sure to use these tips in my future posts! Emma | frillsanddoodads.comReply to Emma
Thanks Emma! I’m glad you found my article useful for your blog! I’ll be sure to check it out! I love playing with headlines! It’s fun to think of wacky ones, serious ones, short ones and super long ones. My husband, who is in ecommerce is actually better at thinking of great headlines. I need to pick his head one of these days! Thanks again for stopping by and leaving a comment. It really means a lot to me when readers appreciate my content and advice. ElnaReply to Elna