You won’t believe how important headlines are. This blogger tells you how to write the perfect headline.
You’ve probably seen headlines like this all over the internet. Now, I don’t know about you, but some titles and headlines are getting out of hand.
But, competition for views and attention online is fierce. And, according to statistics, 80% of people read only the headline of your articles.
It’s your job to create hyper-magnetic articles that readers feel compelled to click on.
Here are the facts, backed up (mostly) by science
1. Numbers Always Work
The internet exists for efficiency. If you’ve been following this series on copywriting, you know that people are looking for answers quickly. We want expert advice, broken down into chunks.
A list gives us exactly what we want. Fast. We also know we’re going to get a nice, easy structure broken down into bitesize pieces and scannable chunks.
Not only that, but it’s like eye candy. There’s something exciting about the number against the words that sparks attention:
“9 Reasons you’ll click this article first”
“Nine reasons you won’t even notice this one”
Your eye is drawn to the number 9.
Pro tip: Odd numbers work better than even numbers. Don’t ask why. It’s just science.
2. Be Hyper-specific And Promise Value
Remember, we’re scanning the internet for quick and specific answers.
Tell us exactly what we get if we click on your link.
The example below from HubSpot isn’t exactly sexy, but it is hyper-specific and promises real, actionable value. If you’re interested in this subject, you’re 100% going to click on this article.
Sometimes, you don’t need to be funny or clever. You just need to get to the point.
3. …But Reserve Some Intrigue
A certain level of intrigue can really boost your click-through rate. Leave them wanting more. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Hint at what’s to come, and make them desperate to read on.
This is why UpWorthy headlines are so devilishly brilliant. Take an example on the site right now:
You can’t help but click on that. What is the truth UpWorthy?!
This isn’t just great for articles and content. It works as a website header too. Check out Crazy Egg’s main title:
Or my very own Bitcatcha header:
What is making my visitors leave? Is my website strong enough? These headlines make your readers and visitors want to know more. It’s a headline that draws people in and makes them act. It plays on our natural curiosity.
BUT. There is one major caveat here. Always make sure the payoff is worth the intriguing headline. Otherwise, you’ll disappoint your visitors.
4. Use Delicious Super-words And Superlatives
Any good writer will tell you that superlatives are dangerous territory. They’re almost always wrong and they make for clunky writing.
But, damn, they make for powerful conversion rates.
The marketer inside me loves them.
I mean, which one of these are you going to click on?
“Here’s why the phenomenal iPhone 6 is the best phone you’ll ever use”
“Here’s what I liked about the iPhone 6”
Headlines and titles are your excuse to use hyperbole and over-the-top language. Because it works.
The brain connects with exciting adjectives. They jump off the page, and grab your reader’s eye. Try these words in your next title:
This type of ‘sexy’ language catches your readers’ attention while they’re scrolling through hundreds of articles. Be brazen. Be bold. Use curse words if you dare (they really work).
5. Connect Emotionally
Despite what I’ve explained so far, I firmly believe that good copy is more than just standing out and capturing attention. Good copy makes an emotional connection with the reader.
It inspires and empowers them. It moves them to click the link and take action.
So, go deeper than fancy words and clever number tricks.
The following example is powerful and bold. It’s perhaps the most emotional headline I’ve seen in a long time. I saw it and had to share.
It stops you in your tracks.
This is an example of using negative language in headlines. Turn to the dark side, and inspire rage, worry, or fear. It’s still an emotion, use it to your advantage.
In fact, negative headlines actually produce a higher click-through-rate. Try these:
“STOP! You’ve been losing hundreds of potential email signups.”
“The 8 things your doctor isn’t telling you”
“Are you sure your website is loading fast enough?”
6. Get Personal
The three examples above aren’t just powerful because they evoke fear or worry. They’re powerful because I’m talking to you directly.
Great copy works when it stops being words on a page, and starts being a real conversation. When it gets in your head and actually connects with you.
The easiest way to do that is address the reader directly.
What’s a better headline?
“Discover how you can create your very own website (It’s easier than you think)”
“How to build a website”
It’s simple psychology. Get inside your reader’s head.
7. Use SEO keywords
I’m hiding this trick right at the bottom of the list. Why? Because it should be the last thing to bear in mind when writing headlines and titles.
First and foremost, create a compelling title that people will devour and click on.
Secondly, inject the keywords that Google will discover and rank highly.
Make sure you have a strong list of keywords that define your website and product. Slot them into your titles wherever you can (and ONLY if they work with the headline).
Here’s a (bad) example of a super-SEO-optimised headline.
“The skiing equipment you need on the mountain this winter ski season”
Awful, isn’t it?
Here’s a highly clickable alternative:
“5 ski essentials you need to survive the mountain this season!”
You still pack in the keywords, but it’s much more reader friendly.
Get the content perfect first, then optimise for keywords.
8. Write The Deadline Last, And Write At Least Five
In fact, write ten, if you can spare the time. The more titles you write, the more you are forced to come up with something more unique and compelling. The tenth headline will often be the best, because it won’t be predictable or obvious.
Save the headline until the end of the content. That way, you know exactly how to sum up your article.
9. Break All The Rules
The best thing about copywriting is that you can break all the rules, and still get results. Upworthy ripped up the copywriting guidebook and wrote incessantly vague headlines that spread like wildfire.
Keep experimenting with new ideas. Test your click-through rates, and keep optimising.
I’d love to hear what blog titles react best for you and your website. Let me know in the comment section!