My fellow writers, it’s time we faced a very harsh reality. The smartphone is mightier than the pen, and there’s very little we can do about it.
We write for an audience who are spoiled for choice; overwhelmed by content on a daily basis that they can dismiss with a simple swipe of the finger if it doesn’t immediately satisfy their curiosity. That eloquent prose you delicately strung together to guide the reader to an end goal won’t get read. That call to action you researched and tested and swore by will never get to fulfil its duty.
Because your headline was a dud. One swift swipe and your content is exiled forever.
When it comes to digital marketing headlines really do make or break a post. It’s a safe bet that much of the traffic you hope to generate from a well written article will come from social media, and from Twitter to Reddit, headlines rule. So what can you do to maximise the chances of your article getting read? Here are 3 proven headline hacks that will help you in a pinch.
Forget words, start with numbers
Sounds counter intuitive doesn’t it? So called ‘listicles’ are all the rage across popular content streams like BuzzFeed and Flipboard and, despite the bad rap they often get, are probably one of the most effective examples of this particular hack. Rather than use a title like, ‘Top tips for getting found online’ why not say ‘5 ways of making sure your business stands out online’? People perceive articles with numbers in their title as being easier to digest, offering bite size snippets of useful information. With more people looking for their content fix while on the move via their smartphones, it’s little wonder that listicles tend to be the preferred format.
Specificity is your friend
With so much content to shuffle through on a daily basis, people want answers fast. A narrowly focused header with specific information will help to draw interested people in, something the ‘listicle’ mentioned above will help you master from the start. For example, rather than saying, ‘How to bake better cakes’ you might instead say, ‘5 ways to bake the perfect cake’ – it narrows the focus and people know precisely what they’re getting. One thing we also do here is place emphasis on the result. Nobody wants to know how to make mediocre cakes, they want to bake the best cakes and you’re about to reveal how it’s done. Be bold, be specific.
If there’s a secret weapon to writing headlines or any other piece of persuasive copy, it’s the word ‘you’. Don’t be afraid to talk to your audience directly. ‘4 ways you can improve your running style’ is a lot more compelling than ‘how to develop a better running style’. You can also take cues from the so called 5 W’s of journalism – What, Where, Who, Why and When – to help you be more direct and specific in your writing approach. Think about each of these things when crafting a headline title. Who is it for? What is it about? Why is it important? and so on, and try and answer these questions in your headline.
While not really hacks per se, there are a few additional rituals I go through to help me craft a compelling headline if I have the time. One of them is the ‘rule of ten‘. The rule of ten states that before a headline can be decided upon, there have to be at least 10 attempts thrown into the mix. Even the best writers will come up with rubbish headlines, but even if you think your initial idea is a good one you should write 9 more out of habit. I also think it’s important to break convention wherever possible. Why not pair up some things that don’t go together like web design and gardening, or turn a strong negative into a positive? Aim to surprise, and you might just surprise yourself at the amount of traffic your article generates.
If you’re stuck for ideas on what to write about, read this article on business blogging to get a head start.3 headline hacks that are guaranteed to get your audience clicking! Click To Tweet