If people are not giving your copy the time of day, you are not alone. On average, 80% of the population will read a headline but dismiss the main body of the text (Copyblogger). What can you do to maximise the chances of your copy being read? Follow this guide and turn those web surfers and newspaper page flickers into readers!
When to Write a Headline
Patience is a virtue
Before we get into the ‘how’, let’s talk about the ‘when’. Despite being the first thing you read, headlines should be the last thing you write. Why? Conjuring up a catchy headline is not a 5-minute job. Coming up with an engaging headline to sum up your entire article can be a time-consuming task. To avoid spending too much time writing a headline, throw yourself into the main body of the copy, get that polished off, and then turn your attention to that pesky headline. Trust me, focussing your initial efforts on the news content will reap the greatest rewards in the end.
How to Write Headlines
Contrary to popular belief, headlines don’t always have to be clever, witty one-liners. So, if you’re not a wordsmith, follow these tried and tested tips to transform your good headline into a great headline….
A Guide To Writing Tip Top Headlines
Spend a moment on social media and you are sure to come across a collection of tribal headlines. This increasingly popular form of headline appeals to specific groups of people based on anything from their profession and interests to their family and experiences. Typically, tribal headlines include the phrase ‘things only…’ and are incredibly sharable as they are highly relatable.
For a list of the most shared ‘things only’ headlines from the past year, check out Buzzsumo.
Good Headline: What it’s like to live with blonde hair.
Great Headline: 5 things only people with blonde hair will understand.
Good Headline: Funny facts from the 90’s.
Great Headline: 7 things only people born in the 90’s will find funny.
Hook people in by being current. What is happening in the news? What has gone viral recently? Is there an event coming up which you can tie into your title? If you take advantage of high-traffic hot topics, you have the potential to get your content seen by a large and potentially new audience.
Good Headline: How To Write Compelling Content.
Great Headline: Serve up some compelling content in time for Wimbledon.
Good Headline: Great cocktail recipes.
Great Headline: Great cocktails to drink while watching Eurovision.
Specificity in headlines should always be high on your priority list as it makes your content appear more useful, well researched and compelling. There is nothing more frustrating than a misleading headline. If you have chosen to read an article entitled ‘why you shouldn’t wear socks to sleep’, you expect to learn about just that.
To attract the reader, gain their trust and keep them coming back for more, tell them exactly what the article is about in your headline and deliver upon this promise. You can demonstrate specificity in a variety of ways: facts, figures, examples, descriptions, results etc.
Good Headline: How To Make A Mind-Blowing Hot Chocolate
Great Headline: How To Make A Mind-Blowing Hot Chocolate Using Only One Ingredient
Good Headline: How To Knit A Jumper.
Great Headline: How To Knit An Aran Sweater In 5 Days.
According to marketing analytics company, Moz, headlines containing numbers get 36% higher engagement. The Content Marketing Institute agrees with Moz, advising aspiring headline writers to use numbers. But, not just any numbers. The CMI recommends using odd numbers!
To maximise results still further, there’s another numbers trick you could try. While it may appear long-winded and a little overkill, research suggests that headlines with more characters reap the greatest rewards (Contently).
Good Headline: Quick ways to decorate your bedroom.
Great Headline: 21 quick ways to decorate your new bedroom!
Crazy Good Headline: 21 super quick ways to decorate your new bedroom to make you feel like you’re in outer space.
Good Headline: Disney quotes to live by.
Great Headline: 5 magical Disney quotes you can’t live without.
Crazy Good Headline: 5 magical Disney princess quotes you can’t live without if you’re going through a breakup.
From finding a tenner in your pocket to receiving a puppy at Christmas, everyone loves a surprise (the good kind at least)! Why? We’ve got our brains to thank for that. According to researchers from Emory University, when surprised, our brain’s pleasure centres activate and release a shot of dopamine, making the experience more enjoyable.
What can you do to surprise a reader and get the dopamine flowing? Be unpredictable, be original and be out of the ordinary.
Good Headline: Robot In Saudi Arabia.
Great Headline: Robot Granted Citizenship In Saudi Arabia.
Good Headline: Richard III’s Body Found.
Great Headline: Richard III Found Buried Under Leicester Car Park.
According to research, headlines which directly address the reader tend to perform better, particularly those incorporating the phrase ‘will make you…’ (Conductor).
Good Headline: Helpful exercises to lose weight.
Great Headline: Helpful exercises that will make you lose weight.
Good Headline: Books that you should read to get better at cooking.
Great Headline: 24 books that will make you better at cooking.
The 5 W’s and a H (why, what, when, where, who and how). Entice readers to read your copy with a headline that promises an opportunity for them to learn something new.
Good Headline: Don’t eat mangos- they’re bad for you.
Great Headline: Why you should never eat mangos.
Good Headline: Improve your copywriting skills.
Great Headline: How to improve your copywriting skills.
Love them or hate them, you rarely see a headline without at least one superlative. Sadly, we appear to be a world obsessed with the negative, as research on Linkedin indicates that headlines which incorporate negative superlatives (“never” or “worst”) performed 30% better than headlines with no superlative and a whopping 59% better than headlines which contain a positive superlative (“always” or “best”). Although I’m a lover of the positive, you can’t argue with results. So, if you’re thinking about writing catchy headlines, consider using a negative superlative.
Good Headline: The way to eat spaghetti like a pro.
Great Headline: The worst ways to eat spaghetti.
Good Headline: 11 comebacks for every situation.
Great Headline: Never get caught out- 11 comebacks for every situation.
Do you want to entice people to read your copy? Looking to increase your audience? Fancy improving your copy’s visibility? Get asking questions. By sparking people’s curiosity, you leave them wanting to know more, thus gently encouraging them to continue reading.
Good Headline: Fiona Ferry uses the streets of London as her catwalk.
Great Headline: Who is London’s latest trendsetter: Fiona Ferry?
Good Headline: Don’t eat chicken when it’s pink.
Great Headline: Is it safe to eat pink chicken?
Writing headlines isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you’ve got some news that you’d like to shout about but are tight on time or suffering from writer’s block, contact Progeny.