A persuasive headline is the most important element of any written content item. Without it, the rest of your content may as well not exist.
When you write your next blog post, article, email, or even a script for a video or live presentation, make sure you spend adequate time fine-tuning your headline. Some leading copywriters have even suggested that you should spend 50 per cent of your writing time on the headline alone.
Here are 15 ideas that can help you to craft a headline that works for your content:
- Address the reader directly. Use the words ‘you’ or ‘your’ whenever you can. It reassures the reader immediately that the article is relevant to their specific interests. If you have clearly identified your ideal reader, you can be even more specific. For example, an article specifically for accountants about marketing might feature a headline such as ‘How to attract more clients to your accounting practice’.
- Include a number. Research has shown, many times, that including a number in your headline increases click-throughs. That’s why, in the headline for this article, I’ve written ‘15 headline hacks for your written content’ rather than just ‘Headline hacks for your written content’.
- Be specific. Readers trust specific details more than vague generalities – e.g. ‘How I attracted 27,000 Instagram followers with these 3 simple tricks’. Just make sure that your specific claims are true and are supported by evidence.
- Ask a question. Questions provoke readers’ curiosity. For example, instead of writing a definitive headline like ‘Content marketing is a proven method for promoting your business’, I might simply ask ‘Does content marketing really work?’
- Teach something. If your content item shows the reader a process for doing something, consider beginning your headline with the phrase ‘How to …’. This phrase has been demonstrated to work well, again and again.
- Promise something bold. If you understand the challenges and needs of your prospective readers, make a promise in your headline that can alleviate their pain or fulfil their desires.
- Don’t promise too much. If you set unrealistic expectations and your headline does not accurately reflect the body of your content item, you will immediately undermine any trust your readers may have had in you.
- Include SEO keywords. What’s your content item about? Consider the keywords or phrases that prospective readers might type into Google when they search for an item like yours. Then use those words or phrases in your headline.
- Link with news. See if you can associate your headline (and your content item as a whole) with a topical subject or even person. For example, if your item is about innovative business thinking, you might consider a headline such as ‘Learn the innovation secrets of Elon Musk’.
- Create a sense of urgency. Give your audience a reason to read your content item now, rather than putting it aside to read later. For example, for an item that promotes superannuation advice, you could write ‘Are you ready for the 30 June super changes?’
- Use simple, strong words. Keep your language simple, with strong verbs that inspire action, and with as few words as possible. For example, instead of a headline such as ‘Improve your driving expertise by utilising techniques suggested by Daniel Ricciardo’, you could simply write ‘Learn to drive like Daniel Ricciardo’.
- Repurpose your call-to-action. Most content items require a call-to-action (CTA) at the end – suggesting the behaviour you would like the reader to undertake after they’ve finished reading. For example, if your CTA is to ‘enrol in our course to learn more about writing headlines’, your headline might be ‘Why you need to learn more about writing headlines’.
- Use emotional adjectives. Adjectives like ‘essential’, ‘free’, ‘effortless’, ‘strange’, ‘fun’ and ‘must-see’ can help to draw your reader in on an emotional level.
- Edit. Don’t just publish your content item with the first headline that comes to mind. It’s the most important element, so spend time editing and tweaking until you’re happy with it.
- Test. If you end up with two different headlines that you like, it’s worth doing an A/B test to see which one works best with real audiences.
Do you have challenges in writing content for your business? Contact Momentum Connect to see how we can help.