Don’t judge a book by its covers.
That’s a common thing that normally tells people to focus more on the content rather than on the package.
But in the content marketing world, this phrase doesn’t work.
On the internet the packaging matters. It determines whether you get attention or not.
And in that aspect, headlines matter.
It’s the first thing people see in your content. It determines whether people will click or not.
The proverbial cover through which content is judged. But in content marketing people judge the book by its cover.
Once they click, the article introduction then determines how long they’ll stick around. So your intros ought to be catchy also.
But in this article, we’ll only cover the tips of writing high quality headlines which readers will click on while ignoring your competitors.
Tips of Writing Headlines
1. Research Your Competitors.
There is a reason why armies have inside men and spies during wars. They need information that will put them at a competitive edge against their enemies.
But luckily, in headline curation, you don’t need spies.
All content is available on the internet you can find headlines on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Use a tool such as BuzzSumo to find the most shared articles on a specific topic and look at the headlines.
Ask yourself how you can write headlines better than these headlines of viral content.
How can you improve them, make them more emotion inducing, interesting and thought provoking?
If your headline will appear besides the top 10 articles of Google search, what can you do to make readers see your headline and think
“Uuh mama! Gotta read this one first”
And to do this, apply the rest of these tips.
2. Be Specific.
Pretend that you’re on an elevator and the door is closing and you need to tell someone on the other side of the door about a story.
How will you do it?
By getting a clue of the most important information out so that you can grab their attention and make them interested in the content.
That’s the kind of mindset you need to apply when creating headlines.
Be straight and give the most important detail to help them make a decision fast because they don’t have time.
Readers don’t like uncertainty. They wanna know what’s in for them. Yet you need not to let the cat out. Just hint at it and be specific.
That way, they will know if it is useful or important to them and make a decision fast. If they want more, they’ll click.
Ambiguity begets ignorance.
3. Be Simple and Precise.
People use phones to access the internet, especially Googling and scrolling through social media platforms.
And most of them don’t have the time to read the unlimited content seeking for the limited attention and time.
With advancement of technology, platforms can now offer targeted content for readers. Google advertises to you based on your search history and Facebook avails content similar to the things you react on.
So to grab people’s attention, you need to be simple and precise.
If your headline does not make any sense to your reader, they will not spend a second on it.
So avoid using any acronyms. Acronyms are short forms of long words. Like SERPs and SEO as used in this article. In most cases they are not common knowledge for everybody.
Using acronyms in your title leaves out people who don’t understand or don’t know the meaning of the acronyms. Such people will move on to the next thing like they never saw your headline.
Also, avoid vocabulary. I know you wanna sound smart but to readers, you’ll just be another jerk bragging about your smarts.
Your headline will be disregarded by readers who don’t understand because they have no idea what you mean and think you’re being a smarta$$.
Your headline is the only part that reaches the most corners of this of the internet. It’s the biggest representation of your content. Make it specific and simple enough to your target readers and other people.
4. It Should Elicit an Emotion.
You want to evoke an emotion from your people through your headlines, because emotions induce a personal connection between them in your content.
People are looking for something interesting online to read about, watch, listen to and share.
Can you make them curious, surprised, sad or angry? At the very least, can you induce any form of emotion through your headlines?
Because apart from educating your readers, you want it to be memorable. You want it to stick in their mind besides helping them solve their issues.
The best way to do this is writing many samples of headlines. Then go through them or as a friend to review them and tell you what gut feeling they have when they read each of them.
5. Capture the Spirit of the Story.
Every article has a spirit whether it’s happy, sad, investigative, nostalgic, newsy; whichever it is, your headline must tap into the spirit of your story.
If you write a story with a voice which people can relate to, you need to use the headline to portray this voice.
For instance, when talking about the challenges that black people undergo due to racism, a black woman with first hand experience of racism could narrate her experience in a spirit that resonates with the black community.
To get the best click through rates for such an article, she would tap into the spirit of the story and use it on the headline using words that will evoke action from readers who relate with it.
When brainstorming headlines, whenever possible, use words and phrases that resonate among your target audience. One creative way to do this is by tapping on their pain points.
6. Use a Target Keyword.
Every article has a specific target group of readers and problems in mind.
When writing you ought to know what people are searching for in regards to your topic, the problem that they are facing and how you want to solve this problem.
Having the target keyword in mind acknowledges what people are searching for and giving them exactly that by being ultra specific as I’ve mentioned before.
You therefore optimize your content by including the search terms and its synonyms naturally on your article. It’s called SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Use free tools such as Keyword Planner, Moz, keyword explorer and Wordstream keyword tool to perform search analysis.
Type in your potential keywords and use the search volume to compare how these keywords perform based on search volume and competitiveness.
If you’re writing for high domain authority blogs, or you’ve curated the best article possible on that topic, target high ranking or high competitive keywords.
While for new and low domain authority blogs, target less competitive keywords with little search volume.
That’s how you improve your chances of going toe to toe with your competitors and get the opportunity to outbox them with captivating headlines.
7. Make a Bold Statement.
Sometimes the only way to stand out and get attention is by making bold, controversial and opinionated statements.
Jordan Peterson, a simple Canadian Canadian university professor was unknown to many, until one day he made a bold statement in regards to freedom of speech and the rights of transgender people.
His opinion contravened popular ideology and he had law and facts to back his claims.
This is how his YouTube channel grew to millions of subscribers making him one of the most respected debaters and speakers in today’s society.
Using analogy, you can publish viral content using bold headlines that can grab the attention of people.
An outstanding opinion that contravens common knowledge and challenges their way of thinking is bound to attract clicks
But above all, you must substantiate these claims to make it worth it.
Bold statements are easy to come by when controversial topics are discussed
8. Include Numbers in Headlines
People are attracted to numbers, which is why listicles are some of the most viral content on the internet.
Because they are easy to process and digest.
We don’t have the time to read novels when seeking quick tips on the internet.
If you can present your information in the form of lists, then you are tapping into their ability and propensity of readers to grasp data fast and easy.
And having a number on your headline will encourage these people to read and click through your articles.
They like predictability, and dislike unpredictability.
It attracts people who want quick tips to solve their problems and items that they need to make their lives easier.
Promise that, deliver and let them go on with their lives.
9. Ask Questions.
I’ve talked about improving headline clickability by elicit reactions. But you know what achieves more, asking questions.
Questions induce curiosity besides appealing to human emotion. They are perfect in grabbing the attention of readers; they leave them wanting for more.
A reader will spot a normal headline and think maybe they don’t need the information at the moment.
But when they spot a question in the headline, they desire to know exactly what they’re missing out. Not later, but instantly especially if it’s on a topic they’re interested in.
And the only logical step to take when curiosity strikes is to click on that headline.
So use questions when you can to induce curiosity in your headlines and see how your headlines will perform with time.
10. Leave an air of mystery.
Besides questions, another great way of making your readers desire to read your articles is by being mysterious.
While you need to provide the most important information on your articles on the headline by being specific and simple, don’t always give the information they need most.
If you do this, then people will not want to read more because they already have the most important bit of it. So you leave them with an air of mystery.
For instance, take a look at this headline
Earthworms are more important than pandas (if you want to save the planet)
This example is both interesting and leaves you curious, especially environment lovers.
I’m positive you too wanna know how Earthworms are more important than panels. So check out the article.
Evidently, this headline has tapped into your curious mind and made you realize that while it might not be important at the moment, you need to know what’s in before you move on to the next thing.
Writing great headlines is not something that happens overnight.
It requires a lot of practice like 100 days of Headline Writing. It requires trials and tests to find out what works and what doesn’t.
It requires implementation of different strategies to find which system works best for your type of content.
If it’s hard to put all these tips into practice, at least have these three in mind
Elicit emotions through your headlines.
Tap into the curiosity mind of your readers.
Make it simple and specific
You can experiment on different headlines and see how they perform on your articles, especially using social media. Social shares are the best indicator of how well your headlines perform.
Get to work and Write better Headlines.