Are you determined your next blog post, email newsletter or article will be your best yet?
It’s easy to spend an hour or two drafting and editing to reach 500 words of your own beautifully crafted content. It’s equally as easy to fail at the final hurdle with a headline that can only be described as a rushed afterthought.
With so much competition for eyeballs the success of a post, email or article can depend on the catchiness of the headline. You wouldn’t slave over baking a delicious cake but then hand over the task of icing it to your pet kitten. The decoration after all is what will make the cake drool-worthy. The same is true when headlining a piece of content. The headline is the first thing your audience read, so it needs to be the icing on the cake.
Follow these tips to attract your audience with a few carefully chosen words:
(if you want the easy way out skip right ahead to tip 10)
- Be familiar
Use words that are commonplace, simple and conversational. Don’t replace a simple word with a fancier alternative because you think it will sound impressive. Chances are it won’t. Plain English is relatable and relatable headlines drive clicks.
- Be honest
Choose a headline that conveys exactly what you’ve authored. It’s not cool to hook a reader with the promise of content that doesn’t materialise. Audiences want a trustworthy headline that summarises what they’re about to invest their precious time in.
- Be different
It’s likely your headline is pitched alongside others seeking the same eyeballs. So stand out from the crowd. One trick here is to draft multiple headlines and seek the opinion of a trusted friend on the most appealing. If none of them pop go back to the drawing board.
- Be numerical
Numbers in headlines work. It’s an easy way to convey to a reader what they’re about to dive into. And most don’t want to enter a rabbit hole that’s positioned as ‘A huge guide on how to do XYZ’. To a time poor, attention short audience numbers signal bite-size content. Take for example ‘3 easy ways to save money on fuel’.
- Be negative
If the research is to be believed negative headlines sell. Words like ‘never’ and ‘don’t’ are more likely to pique interest. Consider ‘Property selling mistakes you never want to make’ versus the more positive ‘Property selling mistakes sellers often make’.
- Be succinct
A long drawn out headline can be a turn off. Consider ‘Voted the world’s best economy airline’ versus ‘Here is the economy airline that was voted the world’s best’. Those extra five words, well they’re simply extraneous. And don’t forget headlines in Google search results have a 70 character cap (anymore and they cut you off).
- Be competitive
You wouldn’t put yourself forward for the 20km Olympic race walk without checking out your competition. The same applies to headlines. Look at similar pieces of content that rank highly in search results to learn the headline tricks from the pros.
- Be predictive
To stand a chance of ranking in search results include in your headline keywords used by your audience. Take a few moments to play with a few words in Google and see what it throws up. The suggestions, or predictions as Google calls them, are based on what people actually search for. Don’t ignore them.
- Be patient
As the old proverb says if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This needs little elaboration. With writing the more succinct the outcome needs to be the harder it is to piece together the right words. Nailing killer headlines is never going to be a breeze.
- Take the easy way out
The final tip for when it all feels too hard. You’ve crafted multiple drafts, phoned a friend, sought Google’s predictions and sussed the competition. And your prized content is headline-less. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater try a ‘Title Generator’ tool. There are a few tools around that let you simply enter your keywords and the generator does the hard work – for example the Impact Blog Title Generator from BlogAbout.
Go hard or go home
You have a split second to catch the attention of your audience. If you don’t go all out on the headline then you might as well give up hopes of your content cutting through. A few carefully chosen words should do the trick. Be creative. Be bold. Be concise.