Why should I care about writing good headlines?
The headline is your first (and perhaps only) opportunity to grab the attention of your audience and convince them that your article is worth reading. Without an attention-grabbing and click-worthy headline, your article, sales copy, blog post, web page, email, report or brochure simply won’t be read. If you haven’t put in the effort to write the best headline, every other step you’ve followed to create your content will be a waste of time and money.
Getting the headline right is the first step to increasing your conversion and boosting your traffic. This plays a vital role in securing that sale, attracting more customers or whatever other goal you want to achieve which led you to create your content.
Every good headline must be…
- Short: You have an instant to grab their attention. Don’t waste it on unnecessary words.
- Attention-grabbing: Would you waste your precious time on something boring?
- Relevant to your audience: One headline might be irresistible to one person and completely boring to the next. Consider who you are talking to and what they care about.
How to write an effective headline with zero creativity
Being creative on demand is exhausting, especially when you have a million other things on your to-do list. But what if we told you that to write a killer headline, you don’t have to be creative? Before you write your headline (and any piece of content), you need to know:
- Why people are buying your product or enlisting your services. Consider the reasons why people buy your product – is it to make money, prevent losing money, save time, etc? Your headline needs to directly appeal to that key motivator.
- Who cares? As brutal as it sounds, if your headline doesn’t make it clear who should care about your article, nobody probably will. Before writing any piece of content, you need to identify the inner monologue that consumers have about your product or service. Why this? Why them? And why now?
- What problem you are solving. Any great piece of content solves a problem – even if that is simply to entertain. Your headline needs to make it clear what problem your article will solve. In the crowded world of marketing, the more specific the better. You’re not going to capture the attention of everyone, but you want to make sure you attract those who are most relevant to your business.
5 formulas for click-worthy headlines, every time
Marketing experts have been analysing how to write the best online headline since the dawn of the internet. As a result, there are simple, tried-and-tested formulas which have been proven to be effective.
Formula 1: How to/learn how to/here’s how to
How to + action + keyword + promise
E.g. How to + learn + SEO + in 1 week
“How to” articles present a promise to the audience. They convey what’s in it for the reader, whether that is to learn something, solve a problem or get something they want. It’s important to be specific, as this will improve your clickthrough rate.
It’s also useful to provide a time frame for a sense of urgency. It may just be the extra motivation they need to click on your link.
Formula 2: Ask a question
Are you making these + topic + mistakes?
E.g. Are you making these major SEO mistakes?
Asking a questions draws people in by inspiring curiosity and critical thinking. It appeals to people who think they might know a bit about a topic already and challenges them to read on.
The exact formula and the question your headline asks will depend on the problem you are trying to solve. Tap into the inner monologue people might have when buying your products/services and address their key concerns.
E.g. How long does it take for SEO to work? or Why aren’t I number one on Google?
Formula 3: Numbers in headlines
Number + ways to + keyword + promise
E.g. 5 simple ways to find new customers in a week
Using numbers in headlines is so popular because it works. Listicles require minimal effort from your audience as they are you can quickly scan them to find the information you need. They break up large chunks of text, making them easy for the brain to read and digest. Numbers also provide a sense of authority and appeal to our brain’s desire for organisation.
6 tips for using numbers when writing headlines:
- Use an odd number, such as 3, 5 or 7. Even numbers are too neat and even to be believed.
- Use digits rather than words. This makes your headline easier to read and also reduces your character count, which is important for keeping your headline short.
- Place the number at the beginning of the sentence – e.g. 5 ways to get media attention for your start-up
- Use low numbers for simple products. This will create short, consumable articles which promptly provide the information they promised.
- Use high numbers for complex products. If you oversimplify a complex issue, it can work against you. Using higher numbers allows you the room to convey more useful information.
Formula 4: Quick and easy formula
The quick and easy way to + solution
E.g. 10 quick and easy ways to cut carbon emissions in your home OR Quick and easy ways to improve your conversion rate
People are always looking for simple solutions to their problems. Whatever your area of expertise, chances are what you do seems complex to someone else. Otherwise, why would anyone ever buy your products or services?
Use this knowledge to your advantage by making something look easy and simple. You don’t need to solve all their problems or give away all the tricks of the trade, but think of one element which you can help demystify.
Formula 5: Attention…(target market)
Attention + target market + solution
E.g. Attention: Small business owners. Here’s what your online shop is missing
The easiest way to grab the attention of your target market is to speak directly to them. Putting the target market in the headline instantly attracts their attention. It tells them that this article is relevant to them.
Instead of using “Attention:…” you can also use “Warning:…” or “Wanted…” instead.
So should I give up on being creative when writing headlines?
These formulas for writing headlines are tried and tested, but they aren’t the only option. When you are building a regular following, being creative and unique will always go a long way. However, these formulas are incredibly handy to mix up your headlines and provide quick solutions when you need them.