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On average, eight out of 10 people will read your headline, but only two out of those 10 will read beyond it. To capture that 20 percent of people—and hopefully more—your headline must be interesting and engaging enough to incite the reader to either click that headline or continue scanning the page. Here are seven tips for crafting compelling headlines.
1. Illustrate the benefit a reader gets from reading on.
Most importantly for headlines, a reader needs to know they will benefit from taking the time and effort to read what you have written or to check out your product or service. Popular benefits for headlines include how to make a reader’s life easier, how to save time or money, or how to otherwise improve a certain aspect of life, such as fostering creativity or choosing organic foods.
This benefit must illustrate not only how or why your content, product, or service is useful but also why it stands out from your competition. Without a clear benefit, you will almost assuredly lose your reader to the endless other articles that promise the same thing you do.
2. Write list posts.
When it comes to blogging and feature writing, list posts are one of the most popular and common types of posts and articles. Whether it’s a listicle like BuzzFeed or a list of tips like this article, list posts seize readers’ attention, and if you get the headline just right, you’ll get them to actually read the post as well.
The format of a list post alone is important to maintain: the number of tips, followed by a word like “ways,” “tips,” “tricks,” or the subject or product you’re writing about, then followed by the benefit the reader will get after reading through your post. For example, you may write, “10 iPhone Apps to Better Organize Your Business” or “5 Tips to Ensure a Longer Night’s Sleep.” While common, writing list posts with this type of headline is a proven method for gaining a reader’s attention.
3. Use numbers.
Along with list posts, headlines that use numbers catch a reader’s eye. Numbers stand out from words, and starting off a post with a number, which is common among blogs and magazine covers, can generate a more positive response to your content or product. Also, obscure numbers, such as 17 or 99, often attract more readers and customers than the customary 10.
4. Use strong adjectives and verbs.
With so few words available to grab a reader’s attention, each word counts. Instead of words like “great” and “best,” pick out more interesting adjectives, such as “essential” and “effortless.” The same goes for verbs. Take what your English teacher said to heart, and find a stronger verb to use than “be” verbs, for example.
5. Use question words.
Question words like “why,” “how,” “what,” “where,” and “when” are all powerful words to use when starting a headline. They invoke both explanations and motives behind the benefit promised by the rest of the headline. They also subconsciously indicate this post will persuade readers after reading it, so if they are looking to form an opinion on a subject, you may be able to deliver the response that points them in either direction. Use either questions words or numbers to begin headlines whenever possible. Even better, use both if the opportunity arises.
6. Say something outrageous.
Besides technical tips like using lists, numbers, or question words, saying something outrageous lures readers to continue as well. You don’t necessarily want to lie outright, but magnifying the benefit to something more eye-catching pulls readers in.
For example, instead of a headline reading, “5 Ways [Your Product] Saves You Money,” you might write, “5 Ways [Your Product] Can Send You on Another Vacation.” This type of claim piques the interest of the reader, and while the headline may be exaggerated to a point, it gets the readers on your site or post so they can read why you might be able to make such a claim.
7. Include a timely news subject.
When news is trending, particularly in social media and the blogosphere, referencing that particular news story is another eye-catching tactic to include in your headline. Did the government pass a law related to your business? Did a similar corporation release a new product that complements yours? Did a celebrity end up in the news for a reason you could assimilate with your business? These are all ways to incorporate timely news subjects into your headline to make them more attractive to readers.
In addition to these seven tips, check out headline-writing guides, such as Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks eBook or Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines 11-part series, for more information. With all of these tips and tricks, you’ll be writing attention-grabbing headlines for your business blog and social media in no time.
Image by Peter Rukavina via Flickr