Kill It With Your Topics

Everybody knows that you need to create a catchy headline. It’s what draws in your readers. It’s what is going to get you noticed first. It is going to tell readers right off the bat whether or not you are clever. So you know that you need to write a good headline.

If that was all that you needed to know, though, this post would be a whole lot shorter. When it comes to great headline writing, it is easier said than done. What you really need to know is how to write a good headline.

Sometimes, writing a good headline just comes naturally. You just have a gift. However, for many people, writing these is a little bit more difficult. For those, do not try to spend hours of your precious time crafting a title that everyone will love. Just use a few simple tips to get you where you want to be.

11 Ways to Create Great Headlines

There are thousands of ways to create a good title. (Or if not thousands, at least a whole lot.) But to get you started, here are 11.

  1. Copy from others (but not actually).

I feel as if I should start this out by saying, “Don’t copy other people’s headlines.” That is not at all what I mean by don’t copy others. What I am trying to get at, though, is use other people as your muse. What seems to be working for others?

In this tip, you aren’t worried about what you like – we’ll get to that, though. Here, all you care about is what is working for everyone else. Even if you hate a headline that XYZ person did, if it gets them tons of likes, reads, shares, follows, etc., then it must be working for someone.

Study the headlines of people that you know knows what they are doing such as BuzzFeed, Contently, and other successful sites.

  1. Figure out what worked for you in the past.

Unless you are new to the content game, you are going to have a lot of information right there at your analytical fingertips. If you want to figure out how to write a great headline, look at the ones you have already created.

Use available analytics to pinpoint your biggest successes. Even if your biggest successes are very small, you can still do this exercise. Now that you have the list, examine the headlines.

  • Why do you think this is the post that got you more hits than usual?
  • Are there any trends across multiple headlines?
  • Did you do something different with these than other posts?

Even if your best structure isn’t getting you where you want to be, this is still helpful. At least you now have an idea of what structure works. All that is left is to refine it.

  1. Use headline helper sites.

There are lots of sites that help you create a great headline. One of my favorites is portent.com. In this one, you enter your subject, and it creates a headline for you. You can use it exactly, tweak it, or refresh it for a new idea.

To show you an example, I put in the subject “headline,” and I got back these results.

  • Why Headlines Are Afraid of the Truth
  • Headlines in 12 Easy Steps
  • How Headlines Can Make You Sick
  • 8 Things Spock Would Say About Headlines

Now, some of the suggested headlines would be hard to incorporate into your post. Like why would headlines be afraid of the truth? Though if there is an answer to that, I would like to know it so maybe that’s a great headline after all. Anyway, while some would be hard to incorporate, that’s what the refresh button is for. Find one you like, and you don’t have to write it yourself.

  1. Create a list of headlines you have liked from others.

One of the best things you could do is keep track of headlines that you like and that work on you. Figure out why you like it, why it works, and how you can incorporate it into your content.

For example, here are three headlines that I love.

  1. It’s not an ostrich: Emu causes highway traffic jam
  2. 911 Call Reports Irate Cat Trapped Couple in Home, ‘Ripped’ Them Up
  3. Apple CEO says company paying Indians’ bullpen ‘ransom’

Now, in part, these caught my eye because of the content. But I actually saw lots of articles on the same story for each of these, but these were the ones I clicked on.

  1. Don’t create in a vacuum.

If you are having trouble with thinking of a good headline for your post, find someone who won’t have trouble. Don’t try to create in a vacuum. You will make things a lot more difficult on yourself.

There are lots of people you can ask for help.

  • Coworkers
  • Acquaintances
  • The person sitting next to you at the Starbucks where you are working
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Your audience
  • The experts
  • People you are interviewing for the post
  • Mentors
  • Yahoo! Answers

I could keep going. So with so many options out there, why are you struggling by yourself?

  1. Test things out.

Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan Were Failures

Did that catch your attention? Do you want to click on it? I did, and that’s because it is a good headline. It makes you curious about something. Which is another great tip, but one that is not on this list until later.

The reason I linked to that article, though, is because it goes to my next point. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you do read the article above, you’ll hear about how Edison and Jordan kept going after they failed and eventually ended up succeeding.

Follow that with headline writing. Test out different formulas. Some of them won’t work. Some will. But don’t be afraid to try.

  1. Play with their emotions.

Don’t write for a robot because robots don’t care at all about what you have to see. Write for a human. And you know what the biggest difference between a human and a robot is? Robots don’t have feelings.

Let your headlines play on people’s emotions and they are much more likely to click on your post. Writers Write created a list of 180 powerful words (though technically there are some terms thrown in as well) you can use in a headline to play the emotion card. The list includes all of the following.

  • Remarkable
  • Daring
  • Love
  • Surging
  • The Truth About
  • Understanding
  1. Give them some math.

Don’t give them any math. Nobody likes to do math. Probably not even mathematicians. However, do give them numbers.

The X Amount of Way to …. Is a tried and true formula that works. Hubspot has done several worthwhile studies on how to create awesome headlines, and said that one way to make your content “sexy” was to include the letter 10 in a numbered headline. So, throw some math numbers in there (shoot for 10 whenever you can) and get your observers more interested to be become readers.

  1. Know your audience.

Who are you writing for? If you know your audience, it will greatly improve your chances of knowing the headlines that will work on them. Think of it this way. Your grandmother might not be pulled in by the same headlines as your father would be just like you wouldn’t be pulled in by the same headlines as your father would be just as your child wouldn’t be pulled in by the same headlines that you would be, and so on.

Even when talking about the same subject, audiences matter.

Take an article on fishing spots. I’m going to write three different headlines all on this subject for very different audiences.

  • Retired men over the ages of 60: 5 Fishing Spots that Will Take You Back to the Simpler Life
  • People Looking for a fun way to spend the day: 5 Fishing Spots Guaranteed to End with a Catch
  • People with young kids: 5 Spots Perfect to Teach Your Child to Fish

I used the number formula on all of these because I want to prove a point. I could be talking about the exact same five spots in all of these. But how I crafted the rest of it will effect who I get to read it.

  1. Give them something they want.

Be a headline tease. For example, with the Jordan/Edison post above, you want to find out more because they give you just enough information to reel you in but not enough that you can figure out what happens without actually having to read.

  1. Use the right structure.

How you structure your headline matters.

  • Use action words.
  • Don’t be wordy.
  • Put your keywords at the front.

Don’t Stop with a Great Headline

So now that you know how to create a great headline, go out there and start creating. Just remember this very important rule. Don’t stop at the headline. A great headline is what draws a reader in, but the content is what makes them stay and come back for more. If you don’t follow your incredible headline with incredible content, you might as well have thrown up any old unappealing headline that wouldn’t attract anyone.

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