headline

Confession: I’m addicted to tabloids. It’s embarrassing and pointless and I always feel a bit slimy after I finish reading them, but I can’t stop. I try, I really do, but as soon as I see that bright yellow headline screaming about the latest Hollywood scandal I can’t help myself.

Tabloids might be the redheaded stepchild in the magazine industry, but those writers know what they’re doing. While the entire magazine industry has taken a hit in the digital age, tabloids are fairing better than some of the more, shall we say, respected publications.

Why is that? Because tabloid writers know that their headlines are the most important pieces of their stories. They must be clever, catchy and a little bit catty to convince readers to buy the magazine.

The same goes for content marketers (Bet you never thought you’d be taking notes from a gossip magazine!). Consumers are inundated with content every minute of every day. If you want them to choose your content over your competitor’s, you’ve got to write provocative headlines.

Here are seven examples to kick-start your creativity.

1. Think outside of the box. People become desensitized to words they see all the time. To avoid consumers glazing over your generic headlines, create a list of punchy adjectives you can use to spice up your content.

Example: The ultimate guide to a mind-blowingly successful content marketing strategy

2. Get scientific. Readers are looking for expert advice, so using words that are associated with facts (i.e. study, report, etc.) is a great way to draw them in. Just make sure you can back up whatever you say.

Example: Report: Email marketing ROI up 432 percent

3. Make a promise. If consumers are going to fork over $3.99 (and a tiny piece of their dignity) to read a tabloid, they’ve got to know they’re getting something in return (like knowing the shocking secret behind Kim K’s post-baby body). You might not be sharing diet secrets, but you are offering your readers something useful, whether it’s a product review or industry knowledge.

Example: Increase social media engagement in 15 minutes a day

4. Be a tease. If you follow the Bikini Marketing Principle (which you do, of course), you know that you should share 80 percent of what you know and the desire for the remaining 20 percent will skyrocket. Write a headline that alludes to the most interesting piece of your content without giving it all away.

Example: The shocking fact PR agencies won’t tell their clients

5. Ask a question. There’s no easier way to start a conversation than by asking a question. The key to doing this successfully in a headline, however, is asking a question that readers can’t answer. This will encourage them to read your post to learn something new.

Example: Are you giving your customers what they want?

6. Create a step-by-step guide. This tactic is especially helpful in the marketing industry because it’s so versatile. You can create a guide for a marketing strategy, an email campaign or even setting up social media accounts to marketing solutions such as HootSuite or Google Analytics.

Example: How to set up Google Authorship in 5 steps

7. Go for laughs. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve clicked on simply because the headline made me laugh. What people don’t realize, though, is how difficult it is to be funny. You’ve got to balance a fine line between humor and cheesiness, but if you do it right you’ll be golden.

Example: Man arrested for intending to steal burrito

These are just a few types of headlines you can use to increase readership. You can get more ideas by reading headlines from the Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Details and, of course, tabloids.