Headlines are read more that 4 times as much as the rest of your copy. While the term “headline” often refers to traditional ad copy, headlines can still be found across all digital channels and mediums. In this video, I’ll share how to create better headlines that will pull your audience deeper into your story.

Video Transcript:

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As I said in the set-up, we’re going to be talking about headlines, and really the importance of headlines. A lot of what I’m going to be talking about, you can get much deeper if you check out this book. This is Ogilvy on Advertising. Very, very, very good book. Anybody who’s in the marketing field, advertising field who wants to learn from some of the greats, this book will help you. Now, some of the data may not be up to 2020. This book was released in the late ’70s, early ’80s, I believe, but still the principles are true, and the principles still work today. I think that’s why a lot of us continually are testing and trying to make sure that we get the most out of our marketing, because we want to make sure that we see good results. And just because we can follow a trend doesn’t mean we’re always really tapping into the principles, the things that really matter, that drive people to take action.

Why are headlines important? Headlines are typically associated with ad copy, maybe more in the print world, where you’ll be talking about newspapers and magazine print ads and things of that nature. But as stuff has shifted online, headlines still play a big role. We see headlines in ads today still. This is our Google Ads, this may be our social ads, any of the creatives that we’re creating there, as well as the text in copy there. We also see them in blogs.

Blog titles, those are pretty much a headline. It tells the reader what that piece of content is going to be about. SEO titles, again, this can be seen as a headline. When you’re looking at the search results, what is going to stand out? What are the users going to see, and what’s going to cause them to take that direct action, the action that we want them to take, visiting our website? Social posts, same thing. Are we titling these well? Are we setting up the content well? E-mail subject lines, that can also be seen kind of like a headline. This is the first thing that the user is going to read before they take action.

Headlines are used across the board. Now, we may not always call them a headline, but they’re still a headline and the same principles matter. So, why are headlines such a big deal? If we look at the data, 8 out of 10 readers will read the headlines, but only 2 out of those 10 are going to read the rest of your content. As you can see, an exponential amount of your readership is going to come from your headlines, and if you don’t get someone to move there, they’re not going to read deeper into your content.

Now, a lot of things are being said about attention spans and people not being able to engage as much online. This has been study after study, as we’ve seen the proliferation of the internet as well as smart devices. I don’t know if it’s really that people don’t have as much of attention span, which I do think it has decreased, but I also think that we make a decision about what we’re going to invest our time in much quicker, because we have so many options, there’s so much coming at us, that we have to make the decision quicker of whether or not we’re going to invest more time into something. Now, when a reader is skimming, maybe through a social feed or the search results, trying to find the site or the piece of content that’s going to answer their question, they’re going to be reading those headlines. And if the headline doesn’t grab them, they’re going to move on. Even if that content would have been really great for them, the headline didn’t move them, so they didn’t click and they didn’t engage.

This is where, as content creators, as writers, as marketers, as advertisers, whatever we want to call ourselves, if we want to get people to engage with us, we have to have powerful headlines. There’s been a lot of research done on this, not just by content marketers, but by tools as well, like BuzzSumo’s and Copyblogger. CoScheduler has a really cool tool that you can use to help you make better headlines. But when we talk about headlines, there are some principles that we have to have in place if we’re going to create better headlines that are going to engage our readers.

The first one is promising a benefit. There’s been a lot made about why. Why do people do what they do? And I’m fascinated by that, but I think what’s more important when it comes to marketing and selling a products is, what can you do for me? That’s what the reader is asking. They have a pain, they have a problem, and that why is behind them, but that’s kind of the second question.

The first question is, what can you do for me? What benefit will I receive from reading this piece of content, from opening this e-mail, from taking this specific action? And our headlines should promise that benefit. We shouldn’t stuff it or hide it lower in the content. I think a lot of times we want to maybe hide our main point or be creative, but what happens is, we don’t specifically tell the reader what they’re going to get out of it, and because there’s nothing in it for them, they just move on. That’s a human, that’s a basic human need. What’s in it for me?

Now, the other thing is, don’t be afraid of longer titles. I think a lot of times we’re afraid of those. Again, short is better, smaller is better, crisp is better. And in a sense, yes, we want to make our design as straightforward and crystal clear as possible, but we don’t want to do that with the risk of losing out on the content. Longer headlines perform better. Longer e-mail subject lines perform better. Using a SEO title that actually takes up the full width, the full pixel width of the search results is going to do better. And it’s going to do better when you use that length to really describe the benefit for the end user.

As Google makes these shifts and updates, as we talked about in another video about BERT, how they’re shifting and know natural language processing and really trying to understand the query or the question that the user is asking, providing that benefit front is going to play a huge role. So we have to make sure that we’re doing that.

I’m going to jump to 4 here too, be specific. You’re going to have this longer length to use, so be very specific about what your article is about. Don’t be vague, don’t try to confuse or don’t try to be too creative, but be very specific. This is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to provide value. This is how you’re going to get more out of this piece of content, this video. Practical principles for creating better headlines. It tells you exactly what I’m going to do, I’m going to give you better headlines with practical principles.

Now, I’m going to rework and really work on that title, because I want to make sure that it’s good and it’s actually going to get people to engage. But as you can see, as you add that benefit, you use that length, it’s going to tell people what your specific piece of content is about.

The last thing is including your brand. If you have a brand that you want to distinguish, use it in your headline. A lot of times, companies do comparisons of themselves versus competitors, but what happens in those pieces a lot of time is, the audience gets confused about who is what, what the ad is for, what the piece of content is for. You need to really call your business out, especially if you’re doing branding and you want to build your brand. Make sure you use it in there. So for instance, how SMA Marketing can help you create better, more user-friendly headlines. Something like that, where I can actually put my brand name at the front or at the back, to where it’s going to engage. This helps create brand recognition, it also ties your brand to that promise. That’s another good psychological connection that you’re making there. And it can, especially if somebody’s looking for your brand or looking for a brand that they know in the industry, it can trigger that where they go, “Oh, I know that company,” or, “I’ve thought about that company, I’ve heard about that company,” and they can take that action off of that.

So these are some practical principles that we can do to make better headlines. Take time to create better headlines. Don’t just give it a headline and think, “Ah, this is good enough, it’ll work.” Really craft it, understand what the benefit of the content or the advertisement is to the end user, and then create a headline that’s going to allow them to engage with you so that you’re going to see those better results.

If you have any questions, please comment below. We would love to continue the conversation with you. Until next time, happy marketing.


Great Headline Tool: https://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer

Powerful Stats on Headlines: https://buzzsumo.com/blog/most-shared-headlines-study/