When it comes to written content, the headline could be the first — and potentially only — impression you make on prospective readers. In fact, while 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, only 2 out of 10 will continue to read the article.
That is a pretty scary thought.
What this means is that the headline is one of your most powerful weapons when it comes to the success, traffic prospects, and positive ROI of your content. A compelling headline encourages readers to continue to the article, which could then produce actionable results for your business.
Prospective readers may do little more than glance at the headline. If it is too long, people can be inclined not to read it at all. Keep the title short and concise, and address the main subject matter of your article so readers have an immediate sense of what they could learn.
You have only a fleeting moment to hook people in with your headline. Consider how you could connect with your potential audience and entice them to continue reading.
You could pique their curiosity (“How I Made $1million with a Ball of String”), or appeal to their emotions (“10 Steps to a Happier You”), or perhaps make a joke about free cake to catch their attention.
At this point, I feel I should clarify: the cake is a lie. Sorry. Are you still there?
The goal of any piece of writing is to create a sentence that compels someone to read the next sentence, and the next, and the next. If your headline isn’t persuasive, your content is dead in the water.
The language and tactics used in headlines will naturally vary depending on your target audience; moreover, different copywriters and marketers will recommend different techniques.
For instance, some writers enthuse about “How to…” headlines, which make clear the subject matter, express a sense of urgency, and emphasis a benefit to the reader. Others insist upon using power words and phrases, such as “you/your”, “why”, “success”, or “simple steps”, which act as calls to action. I even read one article that claimed they received twice as many clicks on headlines with three exclamation points — not great great grammar, but it could be useful for certain marketplaces.
The key is to know your target audience, and to cater your language to them.
You may not be onto a winner with your first headline idea, so brainstorm some others. Write down ideas before you begin the article, and add more once it’s complete.
Analyse them objectively: Are there any unnecessary words? Have you used active verbs? Will readers get an idea about the content? You could put them to the test by asking people which of your choices compels them to read more.
Some content writers will brainstorm hundreds of headlines before they decide on the right one, but even evaluating just a handful of possible titles can help you learn how to narrow down the best option.
Writing a great headline may seem like a simple job. After all, how difficult could it be to write ten or so words? But the stakes are high and the pressure is on. Your readership numbers, conversion rates, audience engagement are all intertwined with your headlines, so make sure you’re getting them right.