Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the paragraphs or even the pictures in an article that pulls a reader in—it’s the unassuming headline at the top. Only 1 out of every 5 readers will continue reading past an article’s title, so if you really want a reader’s full attention this is important real estate. As attention spans continue to wane with every new piece of technology and software update, it’s vital that you learn just what makes a headline resonate with your readers. Below are six tips for creating eye-catching headlines that will draw readers into your writing.
1. Choose Clarity Over Creativity
This might be a hard pill to swallow for copywriters who thrive on creative writing, but when it comes to headlines, simplicity always wins. For example, take a look at this blog post from Intercom entitled, “Why Email Isn’t Going Away.” Readers skimming the page will be pulled in by the question that this article poses—the answers it provides will intrigue anyone with a career. This title may not be flashy, but it is direct and does its job.
2. Create Curiosity
Incorporating a little mystery into your headline can help drive more people to your article. Celebrity news sites and web magazines like Business Insider have this down to a science. Imagine seeing the title “You Never Believe Who Ate Lunch With the President Today”—wouldn’t you want to click and found out who this lucky person is? It’s important to make sure your title sparks enough interest without actually giving away the punchline, so readers will click through. Some consider this form of article crafting “click-bait,” i.e. baiting the reader to click, rather than offering value. This is contentious since it really depends on the aim of your business.
3. Rely On Numbers
Have you ever heard of BuzzFeed? Their articles often go viral even though they have simple titles like “23 Real Struggles That Anyone with Jetlag Will Understand,” and “The 19 Most Romantic Things that Happened in 2013.” The reason that so many people click to read more is often because the numbered list draws them in. They also know what exactly to expect before reading. Added bonus: if Buzzfeed actually delivers on its promise, they also earn credibility with readers.
4. Harp On The Benefits
Short attention spans will require you to convince browsers to click on your article in the shortest time possible. One way to do this successfully is to show them the benefits they will receive from reading on. The best way is to put yourself in the shoes of your reader as you write your headline. Think about what they need, how they are frustrated and what your article can actually do to rectify these situations. For example, rather than a headline say “Weight Loss Advice,” make it “Five Foods that Boost Weight Loss.”
5. Make It Share-Worthy
Many articles go viral thanks to sharing on social media platforms. One way to make sure your readers share your content is to make sure that your headlines appeal to your intended audience—and their friends. This is important because, if the original reader finds it worthy of a share on their social media profile, you want to make sure that their friends will click on them too.
6. Quality Over Quantity
To that end, a final criterion for a good title is that it’s short in terms of word count. This is especially key for those new to headline writing, as a 10-word-or-less rule makes it easier for you to write something simple—and harder for your reader to miss the point. For example, would you be more likely to click “Learn New Ways to Make the Most of Your Twitter if you’re a Business” or “How Companies can use Twitter”? Our gut says the second one because it’s straight to the point and tells you exactly what you need to know.
Take a look at the title of this article. It’s just seven words, yet it encompasses several of the tips previously mentioned (numbered list, benefit to the reader, a little bit of mystery). This is the challenge and the fun in short headline writing: make it work, no matter what you’re trying to say. Luckily, with a little practice and a little guidance from these tips, you’ll be crafting eye-catching headlines in no time at all.
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