The humble headline. It is but 5-10 characters long and should seem obvious to write, however crafting the perfect headline can sometimes be the most challenging thing when it comes to content creation.
It also doesn’t help that on average, only 20 percent of those who read your headline will actually click on it to find out more.
This can be devastating for your business, especially if you have spent money, time and effort creating valuable content.
The truth of the matter is that most writers don’t spend time enough crafting their headlines.
Copywriting experts believe that writers should spend up to half their time crafting the perfect headline, especially if they are running it as part of an ad campaign.
David Oglivy, a popular copywriter once stated that he re-wrote the headline for the Rolls Royce ad nearly 104 times until he was happy with the results.
“On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy”- Oglivy
Another popular copywriter, Gene Schwartz has stated that he spends nearly a week crafting the perfect headline for this content pieces.
As you can see, creating the perfect headline does take time and a lot of effort. It also takes a lot of experience and trial and error in order to perfect the sequence of the wording.
We understand that most of you aren’t running Rolls Royce style campaigns every day, but if you put it in perspective it makes sense to turn your attention towards your headline.
For one, the headline acts as a gateway between your content being read or being skipped over and it also has the potential to increase the number of social shares and traffic to your site.
In fact, the co-founder of Upworthy conducted an extensive split test study and found that an excellent headline increased shares up to 500 percent.
Shares are so valuable to your brand as they help you to boost engagement and traffic, so the fact that a headline can have such a big impact should alert your business to its importance.
The good news however, is that crafting a headline does not have to be tedious or time consuming.
We have sourced some of the best strategies from some of the top content writers, copywriters and marketers around to help you get started.
Here is your guide to crafting headlines that will actually appeal to your audience and get opened:
The “Ultimate” Headline Formula
Imagine if there was a foolproof way to ensure that your headlines were always interesting and clickable. This may not be 100 percent possible, however the Ultimate Headline Formula could be the next best thing.
The Ultimate headline formula consists of a Number, Adjective, Keyword, Rationale and a Promise. It is these five components that make a headline not only engaging but also clickable.
Let’s break down each component to see how they work:
Number– When you offer some sort of quantitive data, it not only makes your posts appear more authoritative but it also helps your readers to get engaged. For example a title like- “Why 8 out of 10 Women Won’t Return Your Texts” instantly communicates a fact which enhances engagement. Compare this with “Why Women Won’t Return your Texts” and you can see how using numbers or statistics provides a different level of interest.
Adjective– we all know that an adjective is a ‘describing word’, but when it comes to crafting a perfect headline, adjectives allow you to tantalise your readers and get them excited about what they are going to read. For example, an article titled- “Gooey-Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe” or “Grandmas Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe” is probably going to perform better than “Chocolate Chip Recipe.”
Keyword– this is the technical side of the equation and will help your post to rank for a particular search term. Choosing your keywords are important, in fact you can read about choosing the perfect keywords here.
Rationale- this is the main value that is contained within the content and includes reasons, ways or even secrets. Think of the rationale as the main selling point of your headline. For example- “How to Generate 100 Leads In Under 5 Minutes Using Facebook” instantly explains what the article offers and how they are going to break it down for you. The “How” at the start of the article also alerts readers to what type of value they can expect.
Promise- this is what your readers will walk away with after reading your article. For example, using the headline above- “How to Generate 100 Leads in Under 5 Minutes Using Facebook” promises a very specific set of skills and tools that your readers expect to be fulfilled throughout the article.
For every article that you write you can break down these components and work out what each value is. Then you can play around with constructing the wording in a clever way to create your headline.
Even though this headline formula does simplify a few things, here are some tactics that will help you to better execute it, such as:
1. Creating List Posts
We already touched on how valuable a number or quantitive data could be when it comes to constructing your headline, but list posts also consistently seem to perform well.
This is because often readers know that the lists are going to be easy to navigate through and easy to skim through or read.
A study also found that out of 1 million of the most popular headlines, list posts were the most commonly shared, followed by posts that contained “You/Your” and “Free/Giveaway”. Here is the full list in order:
Most Popular Words/Phrases In Highly Shared Headlines (In order from Highest to Lowest)
- List Posts
- How to
- The Most
Another study also showed that 36 percent of readers preferred to read list posts, proving that lists posts really may be the way to go when crafting a solid headline.
Using list posts to gain attention is definitely not new, however as they increase in popularity more research is showing that longer lists tend to perform better.
For example, statistically speaking a post titled “100 Ways to Lose Weight” will do better than “2 Ways to Lose Weight.”
Of course, there are no finite rules when it comes to crafting the perfect headline, but this may help you to keep things in perspective if you are lacking some inspiration.
2. Creating Descriptive Headlines using ‘How To’
Along with crafting list style posts, “how to” posts also perform well. Most commonly speaking a How To post will fit into the following format-
How to + Action +Unique Benefit
For example- How to Drink 2 Litres of Water Per Day for Glowing Skin.
When you follow this formula, you instantly capture the attention of anyone trying to achieve the unique benefit. This is a great way to hone in on your demographic and really target your audience with valuable content.
You can also get creative with the type of benefits that you offer. Of course, having glowing skin is definitely a benefit but what about acne free skin or blemish free skin? Which headline would have more impact?
As you can see here, there are many ways that you can structure your benefits in order to better reach your desired audience.
When it comes to writing your headline, think about the ultimate benefit your readers could obtain, maybe even make a list and then pick the one that fits your target audience the most.
3. Telling People They Are Doing Something Wrong
When you point out that people are doing something wrong, instantly they become engaged and curious as to what the “right way” is.
Psychologically no one wants to feel like they are missing out or doing something wrong, so this is a sneaky way to take advantage of that.
To use this strategy effectively, feel free to also use the word “mistake” in your headline. For example- 8 Beauty Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making’.
Anyone interested in beauty may be compelled to read this article as they surely don’t want to make a mistake, however just the same way readers not interested in beauty may simply skim past it.
This is where it really helps to understand your audience. In order for this headline to be effective you have to know what your demographic feels uncertain about. Is it wrinkles? Is it eyeliner? What do your readers truly care about?
For example at King Kong, our readers are really interested in SEO, growing their online business and constructing high converting landing pages. All of these are clues as to where our audience wouldn’t want to make mistakes.
4. Question Headlines
Headlines that pose a question are also highly effective, especially on social media. Usually when you ask the right question a reader will feel compelled to click on your headline and read more.
Especially on social media, question style posts can be used to market a host of different article types. For example, one post titled- “A Renowned Psychologist Says There are 4 Personality Types Based on Colours. Which Are You?” went on to earn 3.6 million shares.
Even though this post title is long and complex, it asked a question that was able to peak the curiosity of a wide demographic.
When it comes to writing question based headlines, the most effective thing to remember is that you want your audience to feel like you are speaking directly to them.
For example don’t just ask them- “What Is the Best Weight Loss Method?” Instead, get direct and ask- “Do You Know The Best Weight Loss Method?”
5. Add Emotion
Emotions drive action, this is why it is so important to ensure that your headlines evoke some sort of emotional response.
When people feel either negative or positive after reading your headline they are propelled to take an action, but when they feel nothing at all they are likely to skip right past and never look back.
Creating emotional headlines does take some practice, but basically you want your audience to feel as charged up as possible about something.
According to research on 1 million popular headlines around the web, those that were ‘highly emotionally charged’ resulted in over 500 more shares than articles that were considered ‘moderately emotionally charged’.
If you are curious how emotionally charged your article headline is, the good news is that there is an online tool called the EMV Headline Analyzer that can measure your headline for free. Simply type in your headline and then receive your score.
While this score may not be able to predict how well your article is going to perform, it will help you to better understand which headlines may have the biggest impact.
6. Stand out from the crowd with a little complexity
Chances are you have competitors and people in the same field as you constructing very similar content. This of course is normal and nothing that can be helped or controlled, however you can work a little smarter to find out ways to stand out from the crowd.
One of the ways to do this is to create a little clever complexity to your articles. For example, instead of the headline- “How to Write A Best Selling Novel”, consider something else like- “How to Write a Best Selling Novel (In Just 3 Days or Less!)” or “How to Write a Best Selling Novel -And Maybe Even Make the New York Times Best Sellers List!”
These longer headlines go into a little more detail and provide a certain style that helps to draw in your audience.
Another way to use this technique is to name drop. For example, “How to Write A Best Selling Novel Like Stephen King”.
This headline uses star power to help get your audience engaged and to help them take notice. Just make sure that your article does deliver on its promise and includes some words of wisdom or techniques from Stephen King or whoever else your are name dropping.
Constructing more complex headlines is a great way to stand out from the crowd and there really is no limit as to how detailed you can make them.
Another good example of a complex headline is by Neil Patel, the owner of QuickSprout. One of his headlines read-
“How I Wrote for Fast Company, Copyblogger, MakertingProfs and Entrepreneur and Landed My First Nearly $20,000, Three-Month Client…in Less Than 120 Days”.
Talk about elaborate! This headline is definitely wordy but because it is uncommon to see so many words in a headline it could help to peak your audiences curiosity. This article also name drops some big companies and includes some numbers, making it extra effective.
7. Solve Problems Using Your Headlines
Most businesses and brands work to solve problems or voids in our lives and crafting a headline that takes advantage of this can definitely be effective.
Again, this strategy really requires you to understand your demographic and what void your brand or products are fulfilling. When you have a solid understanding of this, you can then craft a pretty strong headline that is sure to make an impact.
For example, say your target audience is very body conscious and likes to read about things relating to health and fitness. An article titled- “10 Simple Ways to Cut Calories at Dinner Time” is probably going to generate some interest, as is “How to Avoid Plateauing on Your Weight Loss Diet”.
When you understand the needs of your customer and work to solve their problems, it instantly puts you in a strong position as a brand.
If you want to experiment with this strategy, try using the phrase “simple/easy ways” or “simple/easy solutions” as this helps to showcase what you are offering and prefaces it by making it seem simple and easy.
8. Merge Headings and Subheadings into One
Subheadings generally expand on the headline and provide more information, but on certain platforms like Facebook, the subheading is likely to not show up when users are scrolling through their feed.
To rectify this problem, consider combining both your main heading and subheading into one catchy headline. For example: Lose Weight Over the Holidays: 12 Effective Diet Plans to Help You Stay on Track.
As a standalone headline “Lose Weight Over the Holidays” doesn’t really offer much detail, but when combined with the subheading- “12 Effective Diet Plans to Help you Stay on Track” it offers more information and insight as to what the article is about.
This strategy often works well as the vague heading can help to peak curiosity and the subheading can help readers to decide if they want to take action.
9. Social Proof
No one wants to feel as if they are missing out which is why social proof in headlines work so well.
For example, the website Pretty Vegan published an article titled- “Who Else Wants Vegan Lipstick That Works?“.
This article went on to get over 25 thousand shares on Facebook and nearly 300 shares on Twitter.
The key words in this headline which make it so effective is “Who Else”, as this conveys that other people are already using this lipstick and if you are not, you could be missing out.
When social peers have approved of a product, people are more likely to purchase and trust the product, especially if they have not seen or recognised the brand before.
Numbers also work really well in this strategy as they help to convey popularity, for example- “Find out Why 1 Million People Just Purchased This Razor.”
These 10 techniques are definitely a good place to start when it comes to creating a headline that is going to get you noticed or perhaps even go viral. But before you jump too far ahead, there is one more strategy that you may want to use to assess the effectiveness of your headlines.
This strategy is called the S.H.I.N.E method.
S.H.I.N.E, stands for-
After crafting your headline, ask yourself-
- Is it specific?
- Is it helpful?
- Does it create a sense of immediacy?
- Is it newsworthy?
- Is there entertainment value?
A specific headline is one that is clear, concise and offers a good indicator as to what the article is about. For example, instead of the headline – “The Best Way to Cook Steak” why not consider- “The Best Way to Cook Prime Rib”. This small difference makes your headline more specific and therefore, more appealing.
A helpful headline is one that offers value and makes your readers interested to find out more. For example- “How to Get a Good Nights Rest Using An Ancient Technique” helps to solve a problem that a good percentage of people face.
A headline that creates a sense of immediacy helps to inspire your readers to take action now. For example- “Discover the Diet that EVERYONE is Talking About” helps to emphasise that if they don’t read the article now they are going to miss out on this potentially amazing diet.
A newsworthy headline is one that has integrity but also offers some sort of beneficial or factual information. For example, “The Latest SEO Trends for 2015 Released By Google” offers the most up to date trends that would be relevant to a specific audience in a specific time frame.
An entertaining headline is very similar to an emotionally driven headline as it helps to create some level of excitement or a response. Including adjectives can also help your headline to be more entertaining.
Your headline is one of the most important factors when it comes to gaining traffic and boosting your social shares.
While it may not be easy to craft the perfect headline, it is something that you can definitely work towards and slowly build on over time.
Using the techniques explored in this article, see if you can rework some of your headlines and watch how your traffic or social media engagement surges.
Remember, your headline acts as a gateway between your content being read or your content being ditched. Work on making the gateway as appealing as possible and eventually you will start to see pleasing results.
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