Studies prove that online readers don’t often read the full passage of text for any article or post. They scan for text including: headlines, highlighted words, bulleted lists and links.
Headlines can make or break your content. Consistently creating strong headlines is key to attracting and retaining users. Research suggests that 8/10 will read the headline copy but only 2/10 will go on to read the full article!
In this article, we’ll provide you with a range of classic and innovative techniques for headline creation. When you next get around to writing, you can be sure that your headlines will be catchy, relevant and memorable.
What’s the benefit of having a good headline?
Putting quality time into your headlines is important – great headlines convince your audience to respond and read your content.
Good headlines ensure that people click on your content.
Headlines inform the readers of your content’s promise and therefore, a good headline allows your reader to learn what they would gain from reading your content.
1. Make your Headline Simple and Straight to the Point
Simple, concise and straight-to-the-point headlines ensure that your reader can easily understand the value of your content.
As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.
Simplifying your content lowers the barrier to entry for anyone to read and understand it. You can use the Hemingway Editor to improve your writing readability and it additionally shows your current reader age level.
Ideally, you should aim for a writing grade of 7 with a readability above 70%. Passive voice ought to be below 10%.
These figures depend greatly on your content type and subject. If you’re writing a blog for a scientific journal then you’ll want your reading age to be around university or even PhD level. If you’re writing a blog on a subject that you need to be understood universally at all levels of English then aim for greater readability.
It’s not about oversimplifying your text so much that it lowers the professionalism of its tone, but rather just making it effective in its communication of your content.
2. Be Clear of Your Content’s Main Benefit
Use your headline to state the main benefits of your content, this helps people see and understand why they should invest their time in reading.
Words such as: “techniques, methods, how to, benefits, disadvantages” all show to your potential reader what format your content is and what questions it will answer. It’s important to indicate that your article contains information that is relevant and actionable.
It’s then essential that your article’s content aligns to your headline. Your introduction should directly summarise your article’s main motive and back up your title. This will ensure that readers have faith that they have something to gain from reading your article.
Plus, if you’re delivering on your initial promise this will help you to easily build trust and rapport.
3. Add Numbers or Symbols to your Headline i.e. (Use a numbered list)
According to the Conductor study below, number-based titles are amongst the most impactful.
They give us an easily interpreted expectation of what information we’ll get from the post. They also allow users to skim read the post for the key points that they’re looking for.These kind of posts are frequently referred to as “listicles”.
Conductor found that number-based headlines account for the majority 36% share of user preference for headline structure and word choice. BuzzSumo found the same – titles which contained “X reasons why” and “X things you” had the highest levels of Facebook engagement.
Plus you can use numbered lists or numbers within your headlines (a.k.a listicles) to boost your click through rate.
So why are numbers beneficial for your headlines?
Psychologically, people are drawn to numbers as they’re differ in form to text and that helps them to stand out within a headline. They can also encapsulate concepts that text can’t so easily. Numbers used in marketing phrases like KFC’s “11 herbs and spices” stick in the mind. For a headline though, numbers indicate that the article is numbered and easy to read.
Statistics and Facts help to build you as credible, authoritative source.
Hard facts are more effective than generalisations or opinions as they are backed by science and data.
They quantify how many points your reader can expect to learn.
Numbers are quantifiable – an article entitled “The top 7 tips for improving health” shows the reader how many different points they can expect to learn from your content.
3 Examples of Very Effective Buzzfeed Headlines:
18 Cheap Ways to Make Your Old Clothes New Again
7 Quick Ways to Actually Declutter Your Life
29 Clever Kitchen Cleaning Tips Every Clean Freak Needs to Know
4. Add Questions to Your Headline
If numbers don’t suit your headline then consider using questions. Deciding to use a question in your headline will depend on your subject matter. The first thing to note is that if you are using a question in your headline then it’s vital that your content actually answers it!
There are some definite do’s and don’t’s when it comes to effective headline questions:
Don’t: ask questions with an obvious ‘no’ answer.
Example: Can Planting a Tree in your Garden Prevent Climate Change?
Do: Inspire curiosity.
Example: Could we Successfully Slow Down Climate Change by Planting our Own Trees?
Don’t: Instill instant fear.
Example: Does your Child use Hard Drugs?
Do: Offer educational insight.
Example: Recreational Drug Use and Children: What Signs do you Have to Look out For?
5. Add ‘How To’ to your Headline
Using ‘How-to’ as a headline phrase isn’t so different to using a list based headline, e.g. “15 ways to cook rice”.
Headline research conducted by Conductor suggests that ‘How-to’ is the 3rd most effective headline phrase after reader-addressing type headlines, e.g. “How you can make your coffee taste better” and number-based titles, e.g. “12 Best Methods for Writing Titles”. These types of headlines are all very similar and do cross-over with each other.
Example: “10 ways to Ride a Bike safely in Winter” combines ‘how-to’ and number-based headlines.
Adding ‘How To’ to your headline shows your potential readers that you’re able to provide a solution to a problem/need that they currently possess.
6. Use Emotionally Charged Words
Use words that spark an emotional reaction in your readers. Superlatives, which are words which indicate strong or high quality or potency, tend to grab our attention. Superlatives don’t have to be positives like ‘amazing’, they can also be negatives like ‘terrible’.
Some studies actually indicate that negative headlines perform better than positive ones. Ultimately, it depends on your content. If you are conveying a positive or constructive message, then stick to that tone and keep the messaging / copy positive.
You’ll notice superlatives in various blog posts across Reddit and Buzzfeed. Here’s an infographic that displays words used in listicle-type posts on Buzzfeed. You can see that the superlative ‘insanely’ features in the top spot whereas ‘struggle’ features a few spots below. These are both examples of emotionally charged words that are potent attention grabbers.
Create more engaging headlines by using this list of 380 highly emotional words. Also, be sure to check out SmartBlogger, that have built a comprehensive list of 595 power words that you can use to power up your headlines and sentences.
7. Inserting your Core Keyword into the Tag.
Adding your main keyword to thetag of your URL means that users can instantly see the relevance of your content to the title that they’ve just clicked on. This will reduce your page’s bounce rate as your main headline (the advertisement) is aligned to your content. Additionally it will also decrease the amount of users that pogo stick off your website back onto the Google Search Results Pages. Website stickiness is key, so ensure that you’re building a good experience for your website users. #WeLoveSEO.
8. Use Data To Refine Your Headline Creation Process Over Time
Tools such as BuzzFeed, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Instagram Analytics and Google Search Console empower you with content analytics. Use these tools to understand what content pieces and headlines are performing well and where improvements can be made.
For example, Buzzfeed’s analysis on 3 Word Phrases with the most FB shares shows what word combinations can dramatically boost your headline performance.
It’s possible for you to use Google Search Console and AdWords to view pages that have high click through rates (above 6 – 7%), understand what aspects of the headline and descriptions have caused these results and replicate it for your other core-service pages or blog pages.
Remember to continually test within AdWords, run multiple A/B split tests and within 3 – 4 weeks you’ll have an abundance of headlines and an understanding of how to drive improved click through rates.
9. Headline Analyser + Blog Ideas
Writing the perfect headline requires more hard work than you may have initially believed! Make sure to refine your headline and if at first you don’t succeed, try try again! To get you started heading in the right direction, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite headline analysing and blog post generator tools.
These will help you to create better, strong and more memorable headlines.
10. Example of Good Headline Templates
Top X of proven reasons to purchase
Here’s how [somebody] [does an action]
top X of innovative methods to easily achieve [solution]
X Best Methods of [fixing problem]
Want [insert reader’s desire/subject]? Read on to find out how!
Awesome/Insanely effective methods of [insert process]
Headlines are very important in any publication ranging from newspaper articles to blog posts, video titles, stories and almost any other media format. Crafting great headlines makes your existing content marketing efforts yield better traffic without additional inbound links. Fortunately, crafting effective titles isn’t exactly rocket science, it’s simple and very achievable. e. Start implementing some of our previous tips today and good luck with your new titles!
This blog post was created by Sam Jeans from Vidioh. Vidioh are a company that provide traditional printed brochures that plays video content. They do a range of products, from video mailers to video brochures and video business cards.