Writing great headlines
In an earlier post I showed why headlines are the secret to getting your message read and included some tips on writing great headlines.
Your headline is a promise – you’ll never guess what the purple squirrel did next
Your headline is the promise to your reader and is what entices them to stick around and give up their valuable time to read your content. If you don’t deliver on that promise you’ll disappoint your reader.
Your headline doesn’t need to be too clever and you should avoid creating click-bait headlines. Like the elusive purple squirrel you’ll be promising something you can’t deliver. Your reader, probably feeling cheated, won’t bother coming back. Neither will that squirrel.
Before you set about writing your great headlines, consider these 5 details
These 5 content writing tips will help you craft a great headline that not only grabs attention but delivers on its promise – keeping your reader happy and building your credibility in the process. Win-win!
1. The purpose of your message
Before you even start writing your message or article, take a moment to think about its purpose.
Your content needs to focus on something your audience wants to read. By providing valuable information that eases your ideal reader’s worries or fears, or fuels their motivations, you’ll persuade them to give up a few minutes of their busy day to read what you have to say.
This article for example is to help you get your message read by your target audience through consistent creation of headlines that grab attention.
2. What’s in it for them?
By thinking of what your audience wants you’ll be on the way to creating targeted valuable content and by default, great headlines!
What is the key benefit of the article? What will the reader learn? You need to convey this in your headline to tell the reader what they’ll gain by giving up their time to read your words.
How-to and list posts are brilliant as they instantly tell the reader what to expect and these posts work well online and in print.
3. Where will your headline be used?
Now you’ve got a clear picture of what the purpose of your message is and how your audience will benefit, you’ll need to consider where you’ll be using your content. Blog posts? Landing pages? Email subject lines? Direct mail?
If you are using promotional materials in any form you’ll need a headline of some sort to pull your reader in.
The use of your headline will determine how you create it. When writing headlines online, you need to think about keywords, particularly if creating a blog post or landing page. A tool like Yoast SEO in WordPress is great for helping you to focus your headline. Longer titles are shortened in search engines or on social media platforms meaning you risk reducing its appeal or meaning. Use less than 70 characters and test out different headlines for different platforms to see what works best.
There are arguments for and against long vs short headlines. The point is to get your audience to read your message, so use long headlines freely as short ones when you can. Just make sure they are lively and give a promise of some benefit of reading on.
4. Write your headline first to direct and guide your content
Write your headline first before you write anything else. This enables you to shape and structure your article around the key point. Staying focused in this way keeps your article on target to deliver on that initial irresistible promise.
5. Are you reinventing the wheel?
Before you sit for hours staring at a blank screen worrying that all of the good headlines are already in use, remember this: it’s rare for a headline to be completely original. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Copywriters use other work as a source of inspiration. This doesn’t mean just recycling someone else’s headline, but taking the style and making it your own. A good tip is to keep a ‘swipe file’ of headlines to get your creative juices flowing.
As Jon Morrow states in ’52 headline hacks’, the irresistible headlines you see on the likes of Cosmopolitan magazine are nothing new. Most of them are more than 50 years old and used originally by direct response copywriters such as Claude Hopkins. The language may be more modern but the essence is still there, used over and over again. Why? Because they work!
When reading any content from now on, take a really good look at the headline. Consider what it is about that particular headline that drew you in. Did it ask a question? Question-based headlines are more powerful than statement-based ones. Did it highlight a problem or arouse your curiosity? These are all fantastic techniques to start writing great headlines.
Once you start to think about headlines in this way, you’ll begin noticing a pattern that good headlines generally follow. Start collecting these headlines, use them as inspiration and apply them to your own work. Test a few out to see what works for you.
Do you struggle with writing great headlines that deliver? Get in touch to see how I can help.