In this guide, I will show you how to write high-converting headlines consistently - regardless of your content type and niche.
Many marketers will agree with me when I say that the headline is the first – and probably their only chance to make an impression on a prospective reader. For this reason, some writers spend the same amount of time writing headlines as they do to curate the content.
Advertising guru David Ogilvy agrees and says that headline is the most crucial element in advertisements.
John Caples seconds his statement by writing:
"If you use a poor headline, it does not matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read!"
Moreover, Copyblogger tells us that an average of 8 out of 10 people will read the headline of a copy, but only 2 out of those ten will read the rest.
Simply put, your headline serves as the game-changer for your content. If it fails to attract the reader – they will stop reading…period!
And with these headline writing tips, I will show you how you can excel in the art of writing headlines and gain the desired results.
So without further ado, let's dive in:
1. Study your Audience
Every marketing material that you write to acquire new customers starts with an analysis of the audience. Similarly, before you give the content a title, assess your target audience's needs, interests, and pain points.
Consider the main idea of your article as well. Are you aiming to educate the audience? Or is the blog piece for entertainment only?
In addition to matching the audience's interest, consider how they would talk about the specific subject. What kind of vocabulary would they use? Would they search using a conversational tone or be technical?
With the audience in your mind, play around with different titles, then compare them to determine the headlines which will work the best with your readers.
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2. Be Clear and Direct
One of the best techniques to remember when writing headlines is narrowing down to the topic as tightly as possible. Instead of playing around with fluff words, tell the audience clearly what he or she will get by reading the rest of your content.
Take a look at the above headlines by Wirecutter. Do you see how specific they are? Yes, they may not be unique but they do tell you exactly what the content is about without beating around the bush.
In their latest guidelines for Google Discover, the search giant also recommends marketers to avoid playing with words and using clear, fact-based headlines.
3. Create Urgency
Provoking urgency in your headlines is a powerful way to drive conversions. This is because you want the readers to take action and read your content NOW – rather than bookmarking it and possibly never coming back to it again!
As luck would have it, we humans are wired with a social phenomenon called the FOMO or the Fear of missing out! Marketers often use the same vulnerability to their advantage and make the readers feel that they are missing out on something valuable or the offer will not be available after some time.
A similar methodology can be used in the headlines to attract the audience and compel them to click on your articles.
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Ecommerce sites use the tactic frequently in their advertisements.
4. Use the Right Words
Not all words are created equal. Some words hold the power to inspire action without a lot of contexts. For instance, David Ogilvy published a list of impactful words that helped him in his writing.
In fact, we suggest adding at least one powerful word to your headline. However, don't go overboard with the words and stick to Google's word limit of around 60 characters.
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5. Address the Readers as 'You'
You all know what personalized market is, right? It makes the readers feel that the content is curated specifically for them. For instance, research has proven that email newsletters addressing the subscriber with their first name get more click-through than generic emails.
You can, too, try the same approach in your headlines. Check out how Forbes addresses the readers in some of their recent posts.
Some marketers tweak their approach by using the geographical location of their target audience in their headlines.
6. Harness the Power of Numbers
Interestingly, numbers have proven to be attention grabbers in headlines. Marketing mentor Debra Jason says that numbers are like 'brain candy,' and the human brain is more receptive to numbers than words.
Odd numbers have also shown to be more successful than even numbers, while the number seven outperforms the rest.
However, make sure to use the digit instead of spelling out the number. Numerals stand out better in headlines and take up less space.
See how some of these latest articles on the topic of SEO have numerals in titles.
7. Use Colon and Hyphen
Yes, it may sound silly, but punctuation matters, even in headlines. They help break up long lines of text and make the titles more readable. It will also help you communicate more information through your headline and further pique the readers' interest.
Take the example of below three headlines. Each one is targeting the same topic. However, you may notice that the last title fails to grab the attention as quickly as the first two.
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8. Give the Readers a Reason to Click
Provide the readers with a strong rationale – an inducement to click on the article. Show them the benefits you have to offer and why they should click, read, and even share your content through the headline.
Some of the common rationale words you can include are:
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Adding names of famous personalities is also a good idea to excite the readers.
Here, Forbes uses the example of famous James Bond traits that lead to workplace success.
9. Develop a Headline Formula
Rather than going through the whole headline inventing process, stick to one or two headline formulas that have been successful in the past.
For instance, Neil Patel follows the 'Who wants more' formula. One of his headlines, 'Who wants more traffic,' suggests that Neil can help you achieve your goals if you follow the information provided in his article.
Similarly, there is a SHINE formula outlined by headline expert Bnonn:
S – Specificity
H – Helpfulness
I – Immediacy
N – Newsworthiness
E – Entertainment value
Example: The Best Five Minutes (immediacy) You'll Spend Today (entertainment): The Latest Tips (newsworthy) From SEO experts (specificity) on Getting More Traffic (helpfulness)
To make things simpler, you can adopt the basic headline formula that is used by many experts. First, identify the problem, then offer the solution and follow with a promise.
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10. Don't Forget SEO
Despite everything else, keywords continue to remain the most important factor in creating headlines. After all, Google is the primary source of traffic for most websites.
When writing headlines, make sure to add keywords that match with the body of your content. To improve efficiency and increase the possibility of ranking higher in user search, your headline should include the primary keyword in the beginning.
11. Test Everything
Testing is a critical part of checking how your headline works with the audience. Many digital marketing platforms provide A/B testing tools so you can analyze if the headlines are resonating with the readers.
When measuring the success of your headline, don't rely on clicks only. Instead, look at conversion rates and how many people are sharing your content alongside as well. Keeping data of the headlines that work best will also help you develop a headline formula for the future content material.
When writing effective blog posts, it's important to give your readers what they want. And if you are unable to create powerful headlines, you won't have many people clicking them.
However, headline writing is a skill that takes effort and experience to master.
It's worth mentioning here that you should look to update your old content every 3 months to improve SEO. And that is a fantastic time to revisit your headlines along with other SEO basics.
Try these techniques and come back to tell us which ones worked for you. If you find yourself failing at the first attempt, don't worry and render a different approach. Ultimately you will find a formula that gets you the right clicks.