Guest post by Peter Sandeen
You’ve heard it a thousand times, “The headline is the most important part of any text…”
And you’ve probably heard, “You only have a few seconds to capture attention…”
You’d think everybody has already understood that you must write great headlines that capture the readers’ attention immediately, right?
NOOooo… Most headlines are so boring I’d rather sit watching old ladies knit for several hours (and for some reason I’ve done that…) than read what comes after the headline.
What happens if you write anything less than a headline that can’t be disregarded? Nobody cares. Nobody clicks through. Nobody remembers you in five seconds.
But there are headlines that you just can’t skip. And here are five ways you can write them…
1. Ask The Right Question
You’ll notice that all of these headline ideas work best when combined with the other ones. That’s especially true with the question headlines.
Questions only work when they evoke emotions and curiosity.
- It has to be important to your readers. For example “Does Your Dog Pee on Your Sofa?” won’t interest people who only have goldfishes.
- It has to provoke emotions. For example “Is Your Daughter Aware of These Dangers in College?” will catch the attention of parents.
- It has to feel important. For example “Are You Making these Basic Mistakes in Your Copy?” may make your audience think, “no” and they won’t read more.
And most importantly, it has to make an implied promise about the value the reader will get from reading forward.
Questions work as headlines so well because we answer them automatically. It’s almost impossible not to answer a question you read.
And when you get the reader to answer you in their minds, they’re much more likely to see the value you can provide and keep reading.
2. Make a Huge Promise
If in doubt, make a promise.
That works in copywriting. It works in blogging. It works with Twitter. It works everywhere.
The purpose of the headline is always to make a promise, even when it’s not direct. But a direct promise is the easiest way to write a headline that works.
Just think of something that’s really important for your audience and promise to deliver it.
For example “3 Strategies to Email Marketing and How to Succeed with Each” makes a very clear promise of the value it’ll provide.
The “opposite” of this headline type, is coming up next…
3. Poke Them Where it Hurts
This is a relatively easy headline to write; yet it’s very effective.
There are two steps to writing this kind of a headline:
- Identify your audience’s common insecurity.
- Rub it in their faces with the headline.
Let’s say your site is about gardening. Maybe your audience shares insecurity about what their neighbors think about your readers’ gardens.
So, here’s what the headline could be: “7 Ways to Make Your Neighbors Stop Laughing at Your Garden”.
For struggling businesses, your headline can be as simple as “You’re Losing Customers”. That will get their attention.
If you hit a nerve – which you should – they can’t help but read on.
Just be aware that if the topic is too sensitive, people might even avoid feeling any more bad about it. …even if you’re promising the cure. So, “How to stop gaining weight, so people won’t think you’re a pig anymore.” would probably turn most readers off.
Don’t be cruel, but don’t be the Mr. Nice Guy either…
4. Be Weird
People are bombarded with messages – advertising, emails, tweets, and newspapers – all the time.
There are so many messages that you can’t pay attention to all of them.
Only somehow surprising headlines still manage to capture attention.
And you’ll get more attention if your headline is really weird.
For example “How to Seduce a Goldfish” is weird enough to attract attention.
Really weird headlines are not necessarily the best headlines, but if you can add a weird twist to your headline, it often performs better.
Or what would you think about this headline: “5 Ways to Write Good Headlines”?
Doesn’t really capture your interest, does it?
What’s Your Favorite?
I’d love to hear what’s your favorite headline (or headline type).
Share it in the comments and leave a link to your work if you want to brag with your headline writing skills 😉
And check out the free “101 Headline Formulas” eBook.
It doesn’t just give you formulas that don’t feel like formulas; it also explains how and why they work, where to use them, and what should come after each formula to keep readers reading to the end.
Peter Sandeen shows you how to get more subscribers and customers. He’s created a free 5-part video course about online conversion optimization, which explains in detail how you can use all the conversion points. And he writes a quickly growing marketing/business blog
Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.