Never underestimate the power of a headline

Headlines are often easy to underestimate. For many writers, journalists and bloggers I’d even go as far as to say it’s an afterthought. But sometimes we fail to realise just how powerful they can be to grab readers’ attention in such a way that they can’t wait to click through and read the rest of your article.

writing a headline

[Image credit: @deathtostock]

According to an epic infographic on the Hubspot Marketing Blog, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy. But only 2 out of 10 people will click through to read the rest. This means that half of the time it takes to write a great piece of content should be spent on the headline. Take a moment to take that in. We have some work to get to, young padawans.

So, how do you write a good headline? I don’t really know if I believe there is a ‘magic’ formula, but I do know there are some valuable tips to keep in mind when you’re trying to write your next kick-ass headline:

    • Keep it short and sweet. Anything that’s too long is bad. Nails, hair, queues, you name it. Even headlines. The perfect length for a catchy headline is 5-6 words.
    • Make a promise – and keep it. Remind yourself of that one thing your parents could always bribe you with to make you finish your food or study for your exams. Maybe they promised you ice cream. Maybe it was a trip to Disneyland. Then remind yourself of the disappointment you experienced when you found out they lied just to make you do that something.Well, that’s how your readers feel when you promise them something in your headline and you don’t deliver. It’s just plain rude.
    • Ask an intriguing question. Formulating your headline as an intriguing question will increase the chances of your readers clicking through to find out what the answer is. Just remember that the question in the headline and the rest of the body copy need to be related. Otherwise, you’re doing what I just mentioned in number 2.
    • Use amazing adjectives. But at the same time don’t get too enthusiastic with them, otherwise they lose their power. Some examples to get you started in the right direction: Effortless; essential; fun; free…  You get the idea.
    • Use numbers. People are visual beings. That’s why using digits in your headline rather than writing out a number in words, usually works. I don’t know why, but it does.
    • Avoid exclamation marks.  Avoid it like the plague… That’s if you want to keep your credibility. Nothing is more questionable and irritating than a headline that’s screaming at you!!!!!! How invasive. Obviously they have suitable times for use – and can be very effective in those times.
    • Ask yourself: “Would this headline make me want to read on?” That’s pretty self-explanatory, but probably one of the best tips to remember.