Here’s a tip that comes form my old journalism days: use the “blank paper test” for blog, email newsletter, or social media headlines.

What is the “blank paper test?” It means you should take your headline and write it on a blank piece of paper, then ask yourself: Does this headline make sense? Does it make you want to click? If so, it passes the “blank paper test.” The best way to explain this is to give some examples. To start with, let’s imagine we’re writing a blog post for a garden shop about new perennial plants that are in stock. Consider the following two headlines, each on a blank sheet of paper:


Which of those two headlines are you going to click on if you see it in an email newsletter, on Twitter or in Google search results? The answer is probably No. 2.

To summarize, the blank paper test forces you to view your headline as a piece of Internet content that is separate from the context of your website. The text of the headline has to be written with enough context to grab people and make them want to click.

Sometimes people get cute with headlines, which can work in a printed piece like a newspaper or magazine where the headline is right next to the copy. But clever doesn’t always work online. For example, what would you think if you saw this headline:

What if instead you saw this:

If you have a clever phrase in mind, try pairing it with a sentence immediately following it that provides the needed context.

Next time you sit down to type out a blog post, pause to consider the “blank paper test.” It will help improve your click-through rates and drive your SEO.