Headlines matter more than most people think. In one of the most quoted copywriting tips you’ll hear, advertising Godfather David Ogilvy once said:
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
In other words, your headline is a crucial sales tool – your pitch to the reader to get them to read your article.
We might not consciously be aware of the power of a good headline, but on a subconscious level everybody is – we respond to them each day on social media and in the press by clicking through and reading on.
Effective headlines persuade us to keep reading. And by ‘effective’ I don’t mean a trashy clickbait headline that pulls in a click at any cost – I mean a powerful compelling and honest hook that drives the reader to want to read the whole story, without misleading them. A clickbait headline might get clicks, but an effective & honest headline will get genuine appreciation and shares.
To drive home exactly how crucial a good headline is, consider this: would you bother to read an article if the headline bored, confused or annoyed you? Most people don’t. So really you need to spend as much thought on your headline as you do on the bulk of your article – don’t make it an after-thought.
Here are six ways to make sure each headline you write is your best headline ever:
1. Make it compelling
Draw out the most interesting aspect of your article and make that the subject of your headline. This is your first step – to pinpoint the hook of your piece and position it centre stage. You don’t need to shock or surprise the reader – compelling headlines can also be helpful, intriguing, or emotive.
2. Make your headline ‘one of a kind’
Give the reader a promise or a vivid mental image that other headlines don’t give them. Consider the length of the headline, the language, the tone. Humour can work well in the right context. One thing that always makes a headline stand out is the use of a statistic combined with an unusual adjective to add drama or intrigue to the headline. For example: “Two in three celebrities trapped in narcissistic selfie rut”
3. Be specific – or vague…
Some people swear by vague headlines, ones that leave a gap or a question mark that makes the reader need to continue to get the answer. Some go so far as to make the headline into a question, leaving the answer completely open and implying that the article will fill in the gap. Other writers believe that a highly specific headline is the key to making it effective, as it appeals to readers who want to know exactly what will follow in the article. Experiment with both and observe which elicit the higher click-through and share rates for you.
4. Get emotional
A headline that evokes emotion will naturally be more likely to convert a click. If there is one (and there nearly always is), suss out the emotional angle to your piece and incorporate it into your headline. The aim of your headline should be to evoke strong emotions such as annoyance, laughter, relief in the reader. For example: “Smug seagulls outwit new anti-gull bins”
5. Give the reader what they want – explain ‘how to’
There’s a reason why ‘How to’ articles dominate the SERPS; many, many people start their Google searches with ‘how to’ – so it makes sense to create content headlined accordingly, making it clear that your article will answer the searchers’ needs. Try a tool like Answer The Public to find out what questions your audience is asking, so you can create headlines and articles that give them solutions.
6. Be crystal clear
Never use tricky or irrelevant headlines with the aim of being mysterious, as it will more than likely backfire – most people read too fast to figure out what you are trying to say. Stick to a clear, easy to understand headline that people will understand on the first read.
How to get started creating your best headline ever
Don’t start planning your most epic headline ever on a blank page. I find that writing the article first (it’s bound to evolve slightly in the process anyway) is key to getting the headline right; you can then go back through the piece once it’s complete and start pulling out the necessary elements detailed above to create your brilliant headline.
Re-read your article to pinpoint the hook, promise the reader a solution, be emotive, make it as unique as you can, and make it so clear that a child could understand it. Even if you only achieve 2-3 of these elements it will elevate your headline and increase the likelihood of your audience going on to read the full article.Six tips for creating powerful headlines that deliver results Click To Tweet