Are you struggling with writing catchy headlines? Part art, part science, learning how to write a compelling and engaging headline takes a ton of practice and hard work. However, with a little ingenuity, it is possible to write catchy headlines for all of your blog posts and marketing copy.
Why is it so critical? According to Copyblogger:
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.
Are you ready to up your headline game and write catching titles that encourage click-throughs and shares? If you are you must start with these three tricks:
Know your audience
Knowing your audience is an essential foundation for writing a great headline. If you have audience or customer personas created already, you should have a very clear idea of who your audience is
Knowing who is going to read the final piece, whether that’s a blog, an e-book, an infographic or an email newsletter is your very first step towards writing an engaging headline or title. Once you know who you’re talking to, you can move on to figuring out how to truly connect with them and write a headline that entices them to read more, click through, forward or share your content.
Catchy headlines … Draft an initial title
A rough title isn’t the same as your final title or headline. This is a working headline which keeps you on track as you write the piece. Refer to it as you create your copy to make sure your blog or article stays on track and is true to your initial vision of what that piece of content is about.
Finish your article
It sounds counterintuitive to write an article or piece of content before deciding on a headline or title but, this is a much easier way to work. Once you have your working title down, you’re free to concentrate on what you want to say. When that’s done, you have a finished product that you can build a title around.
Your catchy headline needs to genuinely reflect what’s included within the content. Otherwise, it’s simply click bait. With that in mind, it follows that you can only write a catchy headline that lives up to its promise when you have a finished piece of copy to review.
Too often the headline is the most neglected part of writing an article. People just gloss over it without taking much time to consider it. In their minds, it’s the cherry on top. No, friends; it’s not. The headline is the sundae.
I sometimes deliberate over titles for 30–60 minutes before settling on one that works. And I often go back and change them. This is what it takes to write a good headline.
If you need some help concocting catchier headlines, here are a some more simple tricks
There’s a reason why so many copywriters use numbers in their headlines. It works.
There aren’t any rules (as far as I know) regarding what numbers work best, but people typically only remember three to five points. That said, sometimes an obscure number like 19 or 37 can catch people’s attention.
Use an audacious promise
Promise your reader something valuable. Will you teach her how to learn a new skill? Will you persuade her to do something she’s never done before? Will you unlock an ancient mystery?
What you want to do is dare your reader to read the article. Without over-promising, be bold. Be seductive (in the most innocuous way possible, of course). Be dangerous. And then deliver what you promised.
Catchy headlines examples … make it sexy
Just because you have to be accurate doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to make your title pop. There are a lot of ways to make a title sexier.
Of course, all of this hinges on understanding your core buyer persona. You need to find language that resonates with them and know what they find valuable. (Haven’t created or refined your buyer personas yet? Download this free template to create your buyer personas for your business.)
Once you’re armed with the knowledge of your buyer persona’s preferred style, try testing out some of these tips for making your headlines a little sexier:
- Have some fun with alliteration. The title and header in this blog post, for instance, play with alliteration: “Foolproof Formula.” It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.
- Use strong language. Strong phrases (and, frankly, often negative ones) like “Things People Hate,” or “Brilliant” pack quite a punch. However, these must be used in moderation. As one of my coworkers likes to say, “If everything is bold, nothing is bold.”
- Make the value clear. As we mentioned above, presenting the format and contents to a reader helps make your content a little sexier. According to our research, templates tend to be particularly powerful for CTR: We found that adding “[Template]” to our titles got the most average views of all bracketed terms.
- Make it visual. Is there an opportunity to include visuals within your post? Make that clear in the title. Our research revealed that headlines featuring the word “photo(s)” performed 37% better than headlines without this word.
Short, simple, and direct
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long or short your title should be. It depends on what your goals are, and where your headline will appear.
Do you want this post to rank well in search? Focus on keeping the title under 70 characters, so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.
Are you trying to optimize your title for social sharing? According to our analysis at HubSpot, headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average. As for Facebook, headlines with either 12 or 14 words received the most Likes.
Additionally, headlines with eight words had a 21% higher clickthrough rate than the average title, according to the folks at Outbrain.
Use unique rationale
If you’re going to do a list post, be original. For example, consider the following:
If possible, never use things. Please, for the love of Pete, don’t use things. You can do better than that.
Use what, why, how, or when
These are trigger words. I typically use “why” and “how” the most, because I’m often trying to persuade or enable someone. Typically, you’ll use either a trigger word or a number. Rarely does it sound good to do both?
Use interesting adjectives
Here are some examples:
Headline writing rules … appeal to the “how-to” instinct
Most people want to improve their lives in some way. You can write a headline that focuses on these needs and wants we have and promise to fulfill them. Make sure the headline highlights the final benefit or result.
Do not include the process into the headline since it tends to sound like a lot of work. Target the result and reader’s real motivations.
For example, instead of How to start a full-time home job? Write How to make money while working from home?
Ask provocative questions
Questions get your readers involved. Using questions in a headline can’t be random or clever. A question in the headline should relate directly, and to the story, your post tells. In the case of products and services, you offer the question needs to tie into their major benefits.
Questions in the headline should make the reader answer with Yes!
- Do you want to know the top 5 mistakes most bloggers make?
- Your boss wants to see you in his office? Read this!
- What to do with your dog on a rainy day?
Writing compelling headlines … offer readers something useful
Create a headline with a command in it! Be direct, provide a benefit, and tell your readers what they need to do in a way that’s acceptable to them. These headlines aren’t conversational and have proven very effective. Commands make people ask “why.” So you have to command them to do something to get a benefit.
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Great headlines examples
Interestingly, a lot of your shares come from people who just read the catchy title. What makes the headline informative and intriguing enough for people to click and share? There are repeatable formulas for that.
Make your headline to stand out and make people click. Here are some great examples that will help you write headlines that make people pay attention, read more, and share.
Who Else Wants World Class Customer Experience?
A classic headline format that is built on social proof. By beginning with “who else wants” you show that people already do want.
X Secrets of Building World Class Customer Service
Another great headline formula is playing on your curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to know the secret? The reader assumes that they get access to inside information and this makes the headline work.
Here’s How a Small Business Creates World Class Customer Insights
Simple, straightforward, personal. Make readers recognize themselves by replacing [somebody] with your target audience. Make sure it is a benefit they want to achieve.
X Little Known Methods to Win at Customer Engagement
This headline is similar to the “secrets” and “how to” but works on the idea that if it’s little know, then you may get an advantage over the people who do not know.
X Quick Solutions to Learn the Customer Experience Game
Instant gratification! Most people want things to happen yesterday and headlines that promise fast results get our attention.
Now You Can Have the World’s Best Customer Service and a Very Profitable Business
These are two good things that have not been previously possible together. Who wouldn’t want the cake and eat it, too?
How to Have a World Class Service Culture Just Like Zappos
Identify what your target audience wants and combine that with the best example. You can also use a number in this headline to give a list of more than one way of doing things.
All You Need to Know About Gaining Customer Insights
This headline implies that there’s not much effort involved and intrigues people to find out more.
X Insightful Examples of Disney Customer Experience Designs
People love lists and great examples. Lists are easy to scan and read. Examples are the best way to convey the best messages. List of X best things works like a magnet if you know what your audience is interested in.
The bottom line
The examples of brand marketing are all around us. All we have to do is be open minded in how we look and how we apply the best lessons learned.
Now it’s your turn. What are the brand marketing ideas you have seen lately?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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