It’s easy to let your headlines fall to the wayside with all of the work that goes into an awesome blog post. Headlines often wind up as a quick afterthought. However, digital marketers should treat them with much more consideration. I’d even go so far as to say that your headline is arguably more important than the actual article. I mean, who cares how spectacular your blog post is if nobody reads it? In this article, we’re going to explore what makes a headline stand out and discuss 19 headline writing tips that will make your headlines pop.
Out of all the people who read your headline, only 20% will actually read the copy. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about email subject lines, blog post titles, ebooks, or webinars. You need a captivating and sexy headline that your audience simply cannot resist no matter the medium.
Modern online article headlines are difficult – they need to be SEO friendly and need to be unique and attractive. The end product needs to be a click-worthy and irresistible headline.
You see upwards of a hundred headlines before you’ve finished your first cup of coffee each morning if you’re like me. This degree of oversaturation leads me to ask the following – what makes us click one story instead of the others? In short, it all comes down to the headline – the mystical string of words that will either make or break your article.
This article is going to attempt to answer the following – how do you craft an effective headline that will drive more traffic to your website?
19 Effective Headline Writing Tips
1.) Numbers, Digits & Lists
There’s likely some sort of scientific or psychological explanation, but headlines with lists mesmerize most readers. Starting your headline with a number helps your headline stand out. Just as we’re drawn to contrasting colors, we’re also naturally drawn to the juxtaposition of digits next to a string of text. Lists also give readers a crystal clear idea of what to expect in your post. A list-based headline also promises that your article is a quick read and scannable.
Examples of list-based headlines include the following:
2.) Define What the Article is About
Mystery and intrigue have their time and place. However, you can’t leave your audience wondering what to expect from your blog post. Your blog post headline needs to clearly convey what you’ll cover in the article – nobody will click on a vague headline.
- Bad Headline: String a Lacrosse Stick
- Good Headline: Beginners Guide to Stringing a Lacrosse Stick
3.) Demonstrate Your Value
Sales and marketing revolve around conveying your value proposition and explaining why your offer is valuable. In a sense, your headline needs to do the same, except in a more subtle way. You need to briefly explain why your article is worth reading to your audience.
The following is an excellent example of a headline that pushes the value proposition: How to Craft a Convincing Argument in Minutes.
The headline above promises a fast way to develop a convincing argument. Personally, I would definitely click through and read an article with this headline…but that’s just my opinion. Promising a specific result within a clearly defined period of time is a classic winning headline writing strategy.
In short, the key is to prove that you’re useful and that you’re providing groundbreaking information.
4.) Breed Distrust
Us humans can be a cynical bunch. We’ll often jump at a chance to read about how we’re being manipulated or deceived.
Here are a few examples:
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5.) Educate the Masses
In 1962 J.C.R. Licklider proposed a concept he described as a “Galactic Network.” Licklider envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access information. This was the first version of what we know as the Internet.
Fast forward to today, where the Internet’s primary purpose is still to provide global access to data and communications.
People use the Internet to educate themselves and learn more about topics that interest them. They want to learn how to build a pillow fort, where they can see a midnight showing of This is Spinal Tap, or how to eat a spoonful of cinnamon without gagging.
Countless successful headlines use the “how to ______” structure with some additional embellishment. However, starting all of your articles with “How to ______” gets very boring pretty quickly, so you’ll need to think of innovative ways to present a “how to” educational article, for example:
- 3 Best Methods for Stringing a Lacrosse Stick
- 6 Strategies for Preventing an Illegal Pocket
- String Your Own Lacrosse Stick: A Beginner’s Guide
- Teaching Your Team to Clear the Ball: Defense Training 101
Marquee headline keywords like “101” and “Complete/Beginners Guide” are great to include in educational posts. Using words like these puts people at ease and reassures them that your article will be in layman’s terms that they can understand.
6.) Readers Should Be EXCITED to Read Your Article
One of the primary tasks for digital marketers is to get people amped up about the product you’re marketing. The same applies to your blog posts, such that the headlines need to get your audience psyched to read what you have to say. Your audience should feel like a couple of kids getting king-size candy bars for Halloween.
Your audience isn’t going to read your boring babble. You’re not on their summer reading list, so you have to convince your audience that your article is worthy of their time. You’re going head-to-head with countless other intriguing headlines, so you best bring your A-game.
7.) Don’t Be Afraid to Embellish
Top-tier blog posts aren’t afraid to shamelessly promote themselves, so embellish, exaggerate, and entice to your heart’s content.
Is substituting celery sticks for pork rinds a “secret” to losing weight? Not really, but you can act like it is in an article titled “The Super Secret Dossier of Weight Loss Tips.” Don’t hesitate to take a few liberties when you write your headlines.
A sense of urgency also adds some flavor to your headlines:
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8.) Craft an Eye-Catching and Unique Title
Attention-grabbing headlines are the ones that stand out from the rest of the crowd. Next-level headlines aren’t afraid to wander outside of the box. While it’s hard to achieve, the best headlines reside in the gray area between clarity and uniqueness.
9.) Think About Your Audience and What Matters to Them
Hopefully, you know your audience and understand their pain points. If so, make use of that knowledge when writing your headlines so that your posts genuinely speak to them. Knowing your audience lets you craft smart, strategic headlines that play off of your audience’s wishes and fears.
10.) Remember the 5Ws
You likely remember learning the 5Ws in elementary school:
The use of interrogative words helps you to ask questions and get answers. They can be used in your headlines, which will reveal what kind of information readers are expecting from this article.
Remember, the language surrounding these words should maintain a casual tone.
11.) Address Your Audience in the 2nd Person
Writing in the 2nd person is extremely awkward in most cases. However, it’s ideal for headlines since it grabs the attention of your audience by calling them out.
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12.) Disregard the Status Quo
Headlines that encourage controversy and discussion typically draw in curious readers.
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13.) Brainstorm Lots of Different Headlines
Some marketers suggest that writers should devote 80% of their time to writing headlines. Why? Well, nobody is going to read your copy unless you convince them to do so via a kickass headline. You need to set aside time to brainstorm a healthy collection of headlines. Are you stuck and don’t know what to do? Try writing at least 10 headlines, each with a different structure or with verb and adjective variations. Once you have an array of potential headlines, narrow it down to a shortlist and ask coworkers for their two cents.
You seriously need to sit down and brainstorm in order to nail down a snappy headline that will make your audience salivate. You might not hit that sweet spot until you’ve brainstormed a few headlines. Heck, chances are the first headline you come up with stinks.
14.) Use Powerful Adjectives and Verbs
As humans, we’re drawn to dark and violent language for some reason. Some powerful dark words that make for great headlines include:
Great headlines can include other viral words such as:
15.) Ask Questions
Asking your audience questions is a great way to draw them in, and punctuation helps differentiate your headlines in the same way that numbers do.
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16.) Use Keywords
Make sure to use topic keywords in your headline. Doing so will help your blog post rank on Google’s SERPs. Furthermore, incorporating keywords in your headline informs your audience what the post is about.
17.) Limit Your Headlines to Roughly 70 Characters
If you want your headlines to look clean and crisp on Google’s SERPs and prevent them from being cut off, make sure you limit your headlines to 70 characters. The search result below meets the 70-character threshold.
18.) Don’t Forget to A/B Test
A/B testing is an essential practice for just about every marketing activity. So, how do you conduct A/B testing? It’s actually pretty simple:
- Take two headlines that have the potential to perform well
- Schedule two Tweets to be sent out with the two different headlines
- Send the Tweets one hour apart and keep both tweets well within the AM/PM period – 11 am and 12 pm for instance
- Whichever Tweet performs better earns a place as the permanent headline for the associated blog post
19.) Complement Your Headlines with Relevant Images
Headlines are a big deal. In many cases, they are the only way to introduce your article to the world. However, many social platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, make it easy to add images alongside your linked headlines. This is great news because images are wicked powerful and can do a lot to boost the success of your headline. Remember, you can’t use any old image to compliment your headline. The image needs to provide a strong visual cue to the topic of the article.