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inboundMed Blog

Writing the Best Medical Blog: Are your Headlines Smart?

Jul 12, 2016 5:30:00 AM / by inboundMed

headlines for blogs should be simple and intentionalThis image captures the nuances of a headline. It's simple, but eye catching, with enough depth of meaning to inspire curiosity. 

Believe it or not, a blog headline is not just a string of words, but several different components that join words and ideas to communicate your message at multiple levels. Headlines use language, color, dimension, simplicity, subtext, and tone to convey ideas, all important considerations for the medical practice blogger to keep in mind.

The headline works harder than we sometimes give it credit for. It's this critical blog element that mostly determines whether a reader will stay and read your post. Research shows that headlines have all of 8 seconds to achieve this!

If you don't prioritize writing your blog's headlines, maybe it's time for a change.

What does a successful 
headline do?

A successful headline is multifunctional in ways both apparent and covert. Your blog headline should:

Summarize

The most obvious thing a headline does is tell readers what the blog's about. Critical to an effective headline is accuracy. Readers won't trust your blog (or your practice) if you write headlines to lure them into blog content that delivers a completely different story than what they are expecting. 

connections between doctors and patientsConnect

Readers scan headlines to find information they can relate to. The language you use must be specific enough to attract their interests so they'll keep reading your medical blog posts. In this way, you can make the first of, hopefully, many connections with them. 

Motivate

The tone of your blog headline should be emotionally powerful by design. This doesn't mean you have to go overboard with imperatives, but your headline needs to inspire action. As many as 80 percent of readers don't read blog posts beyond the headline. Good headlines can inspire readers to at least save your posts for future reading, if they can't stop to read them in the moment.  

Optimize

The structure and word choices that compose a good headline can function like the wizard behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. If you make thoughtful, strategic choices, your "other reader" known as the search engine is more likely to find your blog post because of it, and rank it so that human readers—the patients you want to reach—can find it. 

Anatomy of a successful headline

Keywords

keywords are a blog's best currencyKeywords are a blog's most valuable currency. From a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint, they are what search engines "crawl" so they can catalog the content of your blog. When Google can find and cite your posts, readers can, too. 

You should constantly gather strong keywords into a pool to be fished from every time you write a blog post. Don't forget, keywords aren't just for catchy headlines; they should inhabit every place where text is involved in the composition of a post: the blog content itself, tags, URLs, subheads, and other places. 

In medical blogs, using specific keywords can also lend powerful authority to your content. See what works for the best medical bloggers; hunt these words down and take advantage of their power.

Length

Headlines can be too long or too short. In the famous word's of Goldilocks, what you should aim for are blog headlines that are "just right."

The best length, according to HubSpot, depends on your goals: 

  • For those who write headlines to "be found" in search engines, a length of under 70 characters means they won't be truncated in results. Will your readers click on links that end with "..." or are they more likely to click on links that are self-contained? 
  • If you want more "shareworthy" posts, consult the character count recommendations for social sharing from your favorite social networks. HubSpot reports that Twitter shares tend to increase for headlines that are 8 to 12 words in length, whereas Facebook followers tend to like posts with headlines that measure between 12 and 14 words. 

Word positioning

The rule is pretty simple: the first and last three words of your headline are going to get the most attention from search engines. Make those words count!

Clarity

Language arts teachers work hard to drive home the notion that specific language is best, and that vague words are "throwaway words." This is just another way of saying "use active voice," which means enlisting concrete nouns and active verbs while avoiding words that are abstract or passive. Doing this ensures your headlines will most clearly represent what your blog post is about.  

How to write a catchy headline

clever baby writing headlines

Here are some quick tips to help you master the fine art of headline writing: 

  • Use present tense; it creates immediacy.
  • Be smart about using puns; they can either help or hurt your tone.
  • Don't spoil things by giving away the ending in the headline.
  • Use words that generate curiosity among your readers.
  • Make sure the tone of your headline matches the tone of the blog post.
  • Think like your readers; use your headline to ask the questions they’re asking themselves.
  • Avoid clickbait. As more potential patients scrutinize the Internet for medical advice, they are becoming more savvy to the techniques that clickbait artists use to exploit their problems.
  • Write headlines that don't require context or which avoid subtext. Both can be offputting and send readers away from your blog. 
  • Use specialty medical terminology carefully. Sometimes plain language ("high blood pressure") is more effective than technical language ("hypertension"). However, using terms that are trending well in SEO ranks may sometimes be a better option.

Tools for headline building

A quick search online will locate more tools and services than you could possibly ever need to help you write stellar headlines. Here are few utilities to consider: 

Keyword liststools for headline writing

Before you even write a headline or decide on the angle of your blog post, you might consider searching your own keyword pool or diving into keyword tool utilities you can find online or inside your marketing platforms.

Keywords tell you what's most likely to be searched and can help provide you with the nuances you need to pen the most relevant headlines for your medical blog.

Templates

These might be playfully described as SEO MadLibs. They give you phrases and sentences that incorporate major "power" words wrapped around blanks that you fill in to customize the headline.

For instance, here's a single headline template that many medical bloggers might wish to employ:

"Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All."

  • If your practice is a sleep lab, your headline may read "Get Rid of Snoring Once and For All."
  • A podiatry clinic's blogger may pen this headline: "Get Rid of Foot Fungus Once and For All."
  • A medical practice focused on allergy treatments may choose a headline that reads "Get Rid of Post-Nasal Drip Once and For All."

Note: In every case, you need to make sure you can deliver on your promise!

Generators

Headline generators work like random-number and random-word generators, except they aren't quite as random. You choose the category of content you want to write a headline for based on pre-fabricated formulas grounded in emotional concepts and shaped by marketing algorithms. From these generators, you can have a great deal of fun envisioning the prospective angles of future blog posts. 

magnifying_glass.jpgAnalyzers

This online tool opens a search window where you can post your headline. It will analyze it for you and give you feedback on components, such as keywords, word count, emotional weight, headline type, and more.  

Final takeaway: Don't forget who your readers are

It's easy to get caught up in the content strategy, analytics outcomes, and techniques that SEO gurus employ to attract readers. After all, it makes no sense to write quality blog content and not use quality headlines to ensure that readers find and read it. 

However, you can spend a lot of time and energy obsessing about headlines in a way that can distance you from your initial objectives. 

Always remember, in the end, that you are writing your blog to attract new patients, to educate the public about your medical specialty, and to establish your practice as a community-centered thought leader. As long as you remember that reaching out to potential patients is your primary goal, you should be able to stay on focused in your efforts to connect with them.

Coming on Thursday: Using design elements to improve your blog's readability 


Sources: 

HubSpot
Moz
The SEM Post
Want to learn more about inbound marketing to attract new patients? Check out our free e-book below for more in-depth coverage of these medical content marketing efforts and much more. 

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Topics: blogging

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Written by inboundMed

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