Hit a Headline Homerun Every Time
This post was originally published in May of 2014; we have since updated it to reflect the most timely and relevant information.
If you’re a content creator, you know how difficult it can be to churn out new and interesting content on a regular basis.
All of the pieces have to fit, from the quality of the information you provide to the formatting you choose to the outlets you choose for publishing.
The creative process is a struggle for all of us, and because we still write even when we’re suffering from lack of inspiration, our content can come across as a little bit stale.
Few aspects of a writer’s work suffer from lack of inspiration more than the all-powerful headline.
Whether you realize it or not, a good headline is absolutely vital to your viewers’ willingness to continue reading.
In fact, 8 out of 10 readers only make it through the headline before they’re looking for the back button.
With those kind of odds, it’s no wonder that creating more dynamic headlines is so important for the success of your content.
So what are some secrets for creating better headlines, you ask? We’ve created this list for creating hard-hitting headlines that hit home runs with your readers.
1. Be Specific
Titles that are broad and vague have room to go in any number of directions, generally weakening the blog's pull towards readers looking for specialized information.
For example, the title "How to Eat Healthier" has a huge topic-broad umbrella, able to swerve in any number of directions:
- How Cutting Out Sugar Can Add 10 Years to Your Life
- Grass-Fed Beef is a Great Source of Niacin
- 7 Carbs That You Should Eat Every Day
- and so on
More specific titles appeal directly to a user's specific interests; if they're looking for information on driving engagement on Instagram, they're much more likely to select an article that encompasses that topic in the title, rather than a title that references much broader terms, like "social media" or "marketing."
2. Incorporate Action Words
One way to pique your viewers’ interest and keep them reading is to incorporate action words in your headline. Action words provide your readers with a nugget of motivation to keep going, that, yes, there is ultimately something in it for them.
Making a provocative promise to your readers makes the experience of your content personal; if they have something attractive or useful to gain from staying on your page, why not keep reading?
The key to building an effective headline based on action words is to know the needs or interests of your reader.
- What is useful to them?
- What do they want to know?
- Can you provide them with enough material to satisfy the promises you’ve made?
Knowing your audience will make it much easier to build headlines that cater to their desires and curiosities.
This blog article from PR Leap not only has action words in the title, but it is about using the best words possible to lead readers into your article.
3. Use Numbers
It’s no secret that the human brain is attracted to lists. We love them. We like to make lists for everything, and we like to see content broken up into lists if we’re going to spend our time reading it.
That’s why using numbers in your headline is a gold mine for the click-ability of your headlines. We’re already predisposed to love lists, and when we see a numbered list offering us information or ideas that we’re attracted to, it’s hard to resist.
Another benefit that numbers provide for your headlines is the assurance that your content has a beginning and an end, and your reader can estimate, with reasonable accuracy, how much of his or her time will be consumed by reading your content. When a reader knows he’s going to be given 6 specific points on a topic instead of a wall of indiscernible text, he is much more likely to continue scrolling and make a deeper connection with your brand and your content.
This blog example by Jeff Bullas, a notable social media enthusiast and an awesome blogger uses the mega list to entice readers to continue on into his article.
3. Create a Sense of Urgency
Another way to swiftly move your readers from considering your content to actually clicking it is by crafting a headline that creates a sense of urgency. You want them to feel that the information housed in your blog is time-sensitive and offeres value for them right now. For example:
- 8 Things to Do in Montauk This Summer
- 9 Essentials to Have in Place Before Buying a House
- Is Your Blog Suffering From These Critical Design Mistakes?
Urgent language, referencing a specific time frame (summer), a specific event (buying a house) or a specific fear (that your blog is badly designed) can help inspire your audience to click and explore your content more quickly.
4. Incorporate Keywords
It’s absolutely vital that you incorporate the keywords that your company is targeting into your headlines, otherwise your content won’t be recognized by search engines when your target audience searches for those keywords.
The art of creating snappy headlines that still incorporate your target keywords is tough, but brainstorming and constantly trying out different combinations of action words and phrases can help you arrive at a great headline that possesses your keywords and still provokes your readers to keep reading.
One thing to avoid when incorporating keywords into headlines is known as “stuffing,” a practice that involves repeating the same keyword multiple times throughout your title. While it’s vital to incorporate keywords, it’s also vital that you don’t overdo it.
This great example of a headline from Condomunity.com, which is included within a graphic, not only includes keywords, but also has great visuals that invite a reader to consume your information, if anything, based on the visual alone.
5. Avoid the Bait-and-Switch At All Costs
When a reader goes to the effort of clicking on a provocative headline, few things are more disappointing for them than being provided with a slew of unrelated information in the content body.
Don’t assume that a great headline justifies bad content; you have to be prepared to deliver on each and every promise.
In fact, your content should be even better than your headline so your readers will be encouraged to return to your site and continue enjoying quality work.
This headline was poorly written and misleading. In fact, the stats were for Facebook itself, not for the facebook button. Hubspot, who wrote about the headline in a blog pointed out that everyone makes mistakes occasionally - not only in headlines - but in every area of their inbound marketing program. The point was to learn from them and move on.
6. Types of Headlines That Work
Here are the best types of headlines that work for blog content and an example of each:
The “List” Headline
Choose a list of 5 things, 10 things or go for the mega list. Statistics show that a well-researched mega list is often guaranteed to produce lots of traffic to your site.
Example: "101 Ways to Improve Your Blog Writing Skills"
The "How To" Headline
Everyone needs to know how to do something. How to start a business, how to write a better headline or just how to change a flat tire.
Example: "How to Influence Your Readers to Share Your Articles on Social"
The “Get What You Want” Headline
This type of headline provides readers with a promise that you are going to tell them how to go about gettnig something they really want. Not unlike the "How To" Headline, this headline speaks to the vanity of human nature.
Example: "10 Ways to Make Money With Your Blog"
The “Best and Worst” Headline
You can accentuate the positive, or the negative here. However, using the negative and appealing to your readers' sense of fear is surprisingly a great direction to go.
Example: "The 5 Worst Things to Add to Your LinkedIn Profile"
The "Facts, Figures and Stats" Headline
As we stated earlier, humans love numbers. Give them something they can use during their next elevator talk.
Example: "The Latest Facebook Statistics for Business"
The "Predictions and Trends" Headline
Everyone loves to be the first one to be "in the know". Provide them with an educated guess about what's coming down the pike and they will read on.
Example: "Our Predictions for Google's Next Algorithm Update"
Think of your headlines as the reception desk for your content. They offer a first impression, get your readers through the door, and help them decide whether or not they’d like to stay. Writing a snappy headline that brings readers in, convinces them of your expertise and keeps them around to the end of your article is a feat indeed. With the right practices on hand, you can write better headlines and attract more visitors to your company’s website.
Since you've read this far, why not check out our newest eBook on SEO Skills - which are important in writing headlines.
If you have any questions, comments, or examples of outright hideous headlines, let us know in the comments. HAPPY HEADLINING!
Photo credit: elviskennedy via photopin cc