Let’s face it, you could write the most interesting article of all time, but if the handful of words in your headline don’t hit like they should, all your hard work can be ignored in the time it takes to scroll to the next link.
The fact of the matter is, the internet age just doesn’t have much of an attention span. It’s the job of a content writer to navigate an overwhelming sea of clickbait and fluff content in order to get eyes on his or her piece. One of the best ways to ensure your content gets seen is by learning how to write a solid headline.
There’s hundreds of tips out there, but below is Strunk Media Group’s top ten things to keep in mind when trying to write a headline that gets clicks without sounding like spam.
10. Think Outside the Box
In today’s day and age, you can find hundreds or even thousands of articles that are relevant to any specific topic. That’s why it’s important to be creative when it comes to headline writing. People are more savvy and desensitized to advertising today than they used to be, so you’ll have to work especially hard to get their attention.
Don’t be afraid to do something different. Depending on the platform and your content, you could even get a little controversial (but obviously not outright offensive). Be willing to take risks with your headlines. You could say things like “These 10 Headline Tips Kick SO MUCH ASS” or “10 Headline Tips That Will Make Your Readers Swoon.” As stated earlier however, the lengths you can go to will be limited to your target audience and platform, so be careful not to get too crazy.
People like personality, and that’s especially true when writing on a media form as void of human contact and emotion as the internet.
9. Ask a Question?
One of the most tried and true methods of getting people interested in what you have to say is presenting your headline in the form of a question they may be asking themselves.
Question headlines have the psychological benefit of leaving the audience in need of an answer. Think about it. If you were a content writer, and I asked you the question: “How Can I Create a Headline that Works?” naturally, you’d want to help me answer it (or maybe not, if you’re a jerk). This can be a powerful tool, because if you just so happen to have the answers in a conveniently listed article, you’d probably be inclined to share it with me.
This same logic applies when writing your own content. You want to give your audience a reason to click, and by asking a question in the headline and then subsequently providing the answer in your content, you’ve solved a problem. That leaves people satisfied which in turn, may even get your article onto more screens through peer-to-peer sharing.
8. Make Big Promises, and Deliver
Continuing on with the above point about satisfaction, one way to really satisfy your readers is to give them a reason to click. The best way to do this is by promising them that you’ll solve their problem (whatever that may be), and then actually making a serious attempt to do so in your article.
For example, if the headline of this article read “10 Headline Tips that Will Drastically Improve Your Writing,” that’s making a promise to your reader. You’ve ensured them that if they follow your advice, they will see an improvement in their writing ability.
Technically, that’s true because this article lists several tips that are proven to drive viewership. In addition, many of these tips are recommended by professional writing educators and other experts. There’s a reason for that. It’s because they work.
The key here of course, is that you actually deliver. Don’t create fake news by promising something like “Following These Headline Tips Will Immediately Result in Increased Wealth, Power, Vitality, and a Chiseled, Vascular Supermodel Body!” because that’s extremely unlikely to happen.
7. Include Real Stats and Numbers
People love cold hard data; especially when they’re trying to solve a problem. If your content allows for it, try to include accurate statistics right in the headline. Doing so will convince people that you know what you’re talking about, which in turn will get them to click on your piece.
On the topic of numbers, it can be extremely beneficial to include numbers (or more specifically, numerals) in your headline. This strategy usually lends itself to list-type articles, and for whatever reason, it has an uncanny ability to get people to click.
Headlines like “The Top 10 Most Helpful Headline Tips” sets clearly outlined expectations about the length, scan-ability, and variety of your piece. All of these things come together to give off a certain air of “convenience” which is exactly what people are looking for when sifting through online content.
6. Be Specific
At its core, the purpose of a headline is to offer a summary of your article. With that purpose in mind, you always want to be ultra-specific as to what your piece will be discussing. A great headline should clearly articulate the answer to the question: “What’s in it for me?”
Doing this will help your article stand out from a crowd of similar topics. A good example of this would be a headline that reads “10 Tips For Headline Writing That Will Improve Reader Engagement & Increase Clicks.” With this headline, you’ve clearly outlined exactly what you’ll be talking about and why it’s useful.
Conversely, an article that is simply titled “Some Great Writing Tips” won’t see any positive engagement. Why? Because that headline doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t answer any real questions or provide any degree of insight into the topic we’re discussing.
5. Be Brief, But Impactful
On the topic of reader engagement, one excellent way to achieve that is by being short, sweet, and to the point, but also injecting some real emotion into your headline. This can be achieved by including “impact words” in your headline, which are words that carry significant weight and vibrancy while still relating to your article’s point.
Instead of “10 Great Tips For Headline Writing,” try writing something like “10 Essential Tips for Headline Writing” or “How to Expertly Craft the Perfect Headline.” These examples indicate the topic of your article using only a few words, but they speak loudly and boldly to the degree of usefulness you’re piece will have.
4. Include Keywords Early and Often
Put simply, practically the entire effectiveness of modern search engines rely on proper keyword implementation. Keywords are how websites like Google find relevant articles to offer searchers. When writing your headlines, make sure to use a healthy amount of relevant keyphrases in order to give your piece a good visibility boost.
It’s best to limit your keyword usage to only a few relevant appearances. Keywords and phrases for this article include headlines, writing tips, and content writing, so a headline like “The Ten Best Headline Writing Tips For Content Writers” can be a solid option.
When following this advice however, beware of keyword stuffing. It’s an outdated method for ranking highly on search engine results and quite frankly, a headline that reads “HEADLINE WRITING – BEST ADVICE – GET RESULTS – TEN TIPS” is extremely spammy and off-putting.
3. Be Introspective. What Makes You Click?
There are few resources that can predict human behavior better than the human brain. That’s why it’s important to be introspective when crafting the perfect headline. Think to yourself, “What kind of headline would make me click?”
Keep a mental or physical note of the articles you click on while browsing, and then attempt to mimic those articles’ headline verbiage and style. We’re all human, so we all understand on some level what peaks our interests. Use this natural gift to help you with your own writing.
After all, it’s the 21st century, and we all consume massive amounts of digital content each and every day. On some level, we’re all experts!
2. Know Your Audience (And Your Content!)
In order to truly get the best results from your headline, you’ll have to tailor it to your target audience. This goes for your story as well, but it starts with your headline.
Try to write headlines that will appeal specifically to the individuals you are trying to reach. In the case of this article, my target audience is fellow online content writers, and that is reflected in my chosen headline.
However, I could just as easily have aimed this piece at writing educators like professors and tutors. In that case, a headline like “10 Headline Tips to Pass Along to Your Eager Students” would have served just as well. It’s all about striking the right chord with the right people, and the first thing people see is your headline.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
As with any other refined skill, practice makes perfect. Don’t expect to get everything perfect on your first try, but you should definitely dedicate some time to writing, and rewriting, several examples of headlines until you narrow it down to the ideal candidate.
Heck, of the (*pauses to count*) fourteen! different headlines I used as examples throughout this article, a good majority of them were developed during my own headline brainstorming process. Finally, I settled on the punny gem you see at the header of this page.
Is it an awesome headline? Sure! Is it perfect? No way! No matter what you’re talking about when it comes to writing, there really isn’t such a thing as perfection, so practice well and often. You’ll never know what new concepts just might “click” with your target audience.
Bonus Tip: When in Doubt, Go With the Pros!
If we’re being honest, learning how to write content from scratch can be a serious chore. If it all seems like it’s just too much for you, don’t fret! Luckily, there exist entire teams of marketers who eat, sleep, and breathe high-quality writing.
At Strunk Media Group, we’ll bring your company to the next level with a dedicated army of educated individuals who can do anything from writing proper headlines, to writing quality content, to designing and maintaining immaculate websites.
Give us a call or contact us today to set up a free consultation. You won’t regret it.