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Headlines have continued to serve a multitude of purposes since the dawn of printed newspapers. Back in the day headlines had to be eye-catching, yet reflect what the news piece was all about. Also, back then headlines could afford to be slightly longer than they are today. Fast forward to the age of Google, and the emphasis has shifted towards making headlines search-friendly. So, not only are they supposed to be eye-catching but include the intended keywords and be contained within Google’s character limit.
A few years later and today there is another shift in the way people use the internet because now most information is accessed through social media. So, a headline today needs to serve all the purposes above and yet be sharable and make people want to click on it because that’s the only way word of your article or blog post will get around.
So, what is a good headline today? Well, there are several key components we think that every headline should include. However, the fundamentals of headline writing haven’t changed drastically because they still need to be human-readable. The only difference is that today humans have shorter attention spans and are bombarded by hundreds of headlines each day. So, your headlines need to be very very good!
Below we discuss exactly how to write awesome headlines, and the good news is that with some practice anyone should be able to do it!
So, what’s the secret sauce for writing killer headlines? Well, it is to write many and let the public choose which ones they like.
If you’re working on a landing page, consider writing 25 different variations of the landing page’s main headline. A/B test them to find which are being clicked on the most and which happen to get the most shares. That alone will tell you which formula is working. It is essential to consider the fact that every audience is different. So, while some industries may require that their headlines be grammatically excellent, that may not apply to yours. So, don’t worry about grammar when drafting headlines. Also, don’t worry about the length so as long as it gets the point across impactfully.
It goes without saying that your headline accounts for up to 50% of a web page or blog post’s effectiveness. If the headline isn’t clickable and powerful, your content marketing efforts are never going to bear fruit. That being said adding figures to your headline is a surefire way to add the required impact.
Adding data and numbers into your headline is a great way to make it enticing to readers. There are several studies which show that headlines that have numbers generate up to 73% more shares on social media, and that translates to more engagement.
Numbers work like brain candy. Our brains are very receptive to numbers and so adding them to any headline instantly makes it alluring. The human brain likes to analyze and order information logically. When we see numbers like 9, or 3 it immediately lights up.
However, there are a couple of rules for using numbers in your headlines:
Our brains believe odd numbers more than it does even numbers according to the Content Marketing Institute. On average odd numbers like the number 13 has been shown to increase click-through rates by 20%.
We and many successful content marketers have used this technique to write great headlines, many of which have gone viral. The term ‘rationale,’ means an underlying reason for why something is done or is that way. For instance, if you want people to read what you’ve written, there should be a good reason for them to do so. Think why would anyone want to spend their time reading what you’ve written?
Here are a couple of rationales you might have run into when browsing the internet and had no idea why they were used so often:
We’ve also come up with a couple of examples for you which can be mimicked too:
The purpose of any headline is to grab a viewer’s attention. So, every headline needs to be able to grab the attention of the person viewing it. As human beings and people living in the internet age, we are constantly bombarded with things which are vying for our attention. Not to mention that all this bling has reduced our attention spans significantly in the past decade alone.
Today, the average person has a shorter attention span than a goldfish, at just 8.25 seconds compared to the beautiful sea creature which has a whopping 9 seconds! The headline should get their attention long enough so that they get to the first sentence of your article, blog or web page. If you’re able to accomplish this goal successfully, you’ll convert that reader into a customer.
Now before we go into any details, it is essential to understand the 4 U’s of creating attention driven headlines:
Now we get asked a lot by people who want to know how if the headline they have come up with is unique. Well that’s easy, fire up Google, and enclose the headline you’ve come up with in double quotes ‘“’. If the search results bring up headlines just like yours then it’s back to the drawing board for you, if not, then you might have a winner.
Another critical element to insert is a sense of urgency. However, this mainly works for headlines which are conversion driven. A sense of urgency gets a potential client or customer to act right away, because if they don’t, then they lose an opportunity. Adding urgency into a conversion-driven headline gets a visitor to act on emotion rather than logic. That needs to tie into creating a feeling of scarcity.
Mega websites like Amazon use both urgency and scarcity to sell products primarily in the gadgets category. If you look at an Amazon listing there is a reason why it shows the number of products left in stock and how much a discount is saving you. It’s a subtle way to nudge visitors to buy the product.
Here are a few examples:
You always want to make sure that the headline is useful. There is no point crafting a headline that’s unique, includes urgency and scarcity but isn’t helpful to the reader.
Common words and the use of adjectives that regular people can relate to can help bolster the quality of your headlines. Not only that, but it will encourage others to share your content.
A couple of interesting adjectives that should spice up any headline include: painstaking, strange, free, fun, effortless, absolute, essential, incredible, etc.
Here are a couple of examples:
The foundation of any winning headline is its structure which we refer to as its formula. A good copywriter uses a couple of different formulas depending on the type of content he or she is drafting.
While the formulas aren’t set in stone, they do give you a good starting point. After which you are free to tweak the resulting headline slightly to suit your needs.
Some bloggers start by writing their content and then drafting the headline. That way, they can give the headline a good bit of thought. However, you need to find the right approach for yourself.
In our experience some of the best headlines are written by people who specialize in writing fitness copy. They identify the problem, offer up a solution, and then finish off with a promise. For instance “How to Increase your Muscle Mass after 50 Without Weights?”
Here are a couple of phrases that you can include as any headline’s opening to instantly make it more appealing:
“Little Known Ways”: Loads of websites use this formula to write their headlines.
“Get Rid of a [issue] forever”: Everyone wants to get rid of a problem like belly fat, rounded shoulders, low traffic, a nagging wife! Though this opener is best suited for businesses in the fitness industry.
“Who Else Wants”: This style works mainly because it auto-generates the right answer in the mind of the reader. It converts well for many different types of products including webinars.
Here are a couple of examples:
What’s the point of using any headline formula if it does not produce the results you want? That’s where measuring the success of your headline comes in. Your goal should be to find what works so that you’re not wasting time.
Now there are a couple of ways to measure the success of your headlines:
Client Inquiries: You will want to measure the number of inquires receive over a period of 3 months. Even a few client inquiries mean that your headline is on the right track. All you need is to perhaps further optimize the headline and split test it with your existing one to see if it bears better results.
Share on Social Media: How many social shares have your headlines generated? Obviously, the more, the better. Though make sure that your social sharing buttons are enabled, because for this to work people need a quick way to share whatever you’re selling or talking about.
Number of Comments: Now this is very controversial because the comments don’t entirely depend on how good the headline is but that’s just another metric to consider. The headline draws people in, and so if there are more people drawn to your blog post, for instance, there will be more people reading it, and that should mean more comments. So, more comments are always better than little or no comments.
Writing a killer headline takes time, experience, and practice. Sure, there are ways to hack it, but at the end of the day you’ll need to put a lot of effort into producing something that works. However, the results you see from that effort makes it all worth it.