Keys to Writing Catchy Titles that Get Your Post Read and Shared
I am in the midst of the typical writer’s conundrum. I have spent time researching a topic to discuss, I’ve lovingly crafted what I think is a great post and I’ve edited that post to give it polish. And now I’m ready to publish said post that I hope will attract the attention of readers the cyber-world over to be shared and shared again.
But I need a great headline to spark your interest. After all, if my article doesn’t sound interesting, why should I expect you to spend your time reading it?
Headline Lessons from Newspapers
For generations, newspapers have relied on catchy headlines to sell papers. From pronouncing Adolf Hitler dead with just two words (“Hitler Dead”) to announcing the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy to confirming the safe landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, the world has learned much of its news from front-page headlines.
Writing for the web is no different. In fact, it may be even more important that your headline be catchy enough to stand out against all the noise online. You have spent valuable time writing an informative and interesting post. But what good is it if your headline is so boring that readers skip over your article completely?
A study by QuickSprout found that changing one word in e-mail subject lines increased click-throughs by 46%. Just one word in the headline made a big enough difference to incite readers to take action.
How to Write Effective Headlines
So how do you get your article noticed? Better yet, how do you get your content shared across the web? By giving your article, blog post or video a title that readers can’t ignore, you increase your chances of the article being read, passed along and quoted by others online.
Below are 5 tips for writing headlines that will get your article noticed online:
- Use Numbers Better yet, use odd numbers. Research has shown that we tend to remember lists better if they contain an odd number. If your post contains a list, such as the “Top Ten Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Your City”, consider adding or subtracting one item from the list to offer your readers 9 or 11 different restaurants to try. Chances are, it will gain more attention that way.
- Appeal to Our Emotions Grab your readers’ attention with a heading that speaks to our emotional sides. The two biggest drivers of behavioral changes are our desires for pleasure and avoidance of pain. Writing a headline that appeals to one of these emotions, even subliminally, will get your article noticed.
- Show Us the Benefits Readers are more likely to engage in your writing if your headline demonstrates the benefits instead of the features. So, instead of telling your readers about how your new product works, show them what it can do for them. Don’t just tell your readers that your new app saves them time, show them how much additional time they can spend with their families because of all the time they are saving by using your app. Communicating the value will get your article noticed. (Bonus points if you appeal to the reader’s emotions at the same time!)
- Tease Your Readers One of the reasons why sites like Upworthy are so popular is because the articles featured seem so intriguing. You’ve seen articles like “I Thought I Needed To Multitask Until I Learned About Single-Tasking. Now I Feel Multi-Silly.” pop up in your news feeds. And I bet you’ve clicked to read more, haven’t you? Dubbed “curiosity gap” headlines, these headlines pose a question in mysterious-enough way that readers feel they have to click the article to solve the puzzle. And they work. Upworthy generated about 75,000 Facebook likes for each article.
- Don’t ignore SEO Catchy headlines are great, but you can’t ignore the SEO factor when creating your headlines. Titles are just one component of successful content marketing. To maximize results, make sure you incorporate keywords into your titles when possible (but don’t go overboard!) and keep your headline to less than 70 characters. Otherwise, it will get cut short when your article appears in Google search results.
Try, Try Again
I once read that one journalist wrote 20 different headline options for every article. Having been a journalist, I know how time consuming that could be for each article that appears on one tabloid-sized piece of newsprint. But the advice is sound.
You do not have to use the first headline that comes to mind. Try writing three to five different versions of the same headline and see which one you like best. You might just land on that perfect title that will launch your blog post through cyber space and into everyone’s news feeds and blog rolls.
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