Whether you’re enrolling in your first copywriting courses or you’re applying for your first job at a copywriting agency, you hear the same key lessons. One of those is the heavy weight your headline carries.
Without a solid headline, it’s unlikely the rest of your content will be read, even if it’s the most interesting piece of content that’s ever been published.
So, how do you write a clickable, readable, deliciously tempting heading?
We’ve got the inside scoop on 5 fundamental tips to help you create a great heading. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we?
Are Headlines Really As Important As Everyone Says They Are?
Yes. And then some.
While it may seem repetitive, it’s true that your headline can make or break your content.
If someone isn’t captivated by the headline or title, it’s improbable they’ll grant you reader-mercy by continuing to read the rest of your content.
Plus, when distributing your content, your metrics—specifically the number of shares—will reflect this if the heading is not strong enough to pull people in. And if no one is reading your content, what was the point in publishing it to begin with?
Your headline is, for a lot of readers, the very first opportunity to form an impression of your brand. If it’s dull and bland, they’ll associate the brand with those qualities, too.
With 8 out of 10 people reading headline copy on average but only 2 out of 10 reading the actual piece, there’s no escaping the fact that your headline is very much a make-or-break building block of your piece of content.
The goal of your headline is essentially to sell the reader on the rest of your piece. It’s really as simple and as complicated as that.
So, how does one go about creating sticky headlines? Let’s explore together.
Headline Tip #1: There’s Great Power In Simplicity
Which of the following two headlines would you rather read?
- New Pedagogical Method To Influence New Curriculum
- School Aims To Teach More Than Shakespeare And Algebra
I know which one I’d be drawn to most. The first headline is too complex, and when comparing it to the second headline, it’s obvious which one is simpler, easier to process, and quicker to digest. Plus, the second headline gives an accurate indication of where the article is heading.
Your headlines should avoid any complicated terms and jargon. An 8-year-old should be able to understand what you’ve written. So, keep it simple, short and sweet.
Headline Tip #2: If We Feel, We Read
Human beings are emotional creatures full of ooey-gooey, overwhelming feelings. A good marketer knows marketing tactics. A great marketer understands how people feel and how those feelings influence behavior.
This is no different when it comes to headlines. In fact, it’s magnified, as we have only a few words to instill some sort of emotional reaction.
Think about it. How many times have you been scrolling through Facebook to be met with a headline like “Gorilla Saves Duckling’s Life,” and you just had to click on it because the headline alone melted your heart?
Even the contrasting emotional pull will work. Depending on your audience, you’ll know what type of content and information will provoke a reaction. Say, for example, your audience revolves around teachers. A headline like “Teachers Earn 17% Less Than Other College Graduates” will provoke a negative emotion too strong not to click.
When mapping out your content, consider carefully how you want your reader to feel. That’s the dominant emotion you should be filtering into your headline.
Headline Tip #3: Drive With Curiosity Or Perks
A headline should be one of two things:
These two headline styles resonate differently for different audiences, content types, content goals, and purposes. But both of them are useful in getting people to click.
Knowing which type of headline works best for your content is crucial, as you can implement it into your content strategically, gaining a higher chance of the rest of your content getting read.
What Is A Curiosity-Driven Headline?
Curiosity-driven headlines provoke a sense of curiosity, mystery and intrigue. They tease you with the unknown and pull you into the reading more.
However, you need to be careful not to overstep into the land of clickbait, as often the two are confused. Clickbait is seen as a negative, unethical marketing tactic, and it’s not something you want your brand to be linked to.
What’s The Difference Between Clickbait And Curiosity Driven Headlines?
The critical difference between clickbait and curiosity-driven headlines is simple:
Clickbait headlines don’t deliver on their promise. Curiosity-driven headlines do.
A clickbait headline is crafted to boost the numbers, with little care for the reader feeling unfulfilled or angry for wasting their time. Curiosity-driven headlines win the click but also deliver on what they’ve promised within their headline.
If the headline was “Here’s How I Lost Weight By Eating Chocolate,” and the rest of the content explained how this was possible, the headline is curiosity-driven. If, however, the rest of the article didn’t mention chocolate at all and instead went on a rave about a new diet pill, it was click-bait.
What Is A Benefit-Driven Headline?
You’ve heard of the expression “features tell, benefits sell,” right? It’s for this very reason that benefit-driven headlines perform brilliantly.
A benefit-driven headline conveys the key benefit of the piece of content front and center.
“What You’re Really Buying Is A Bigger Bed For You” is a fantastic example of benefit-driven headlines. The advert centered around pet beds, playing cleverly on the amount of space a pet takes up on your own bed. The benefit is clear, and centered around the buyer.
The best way to use a benefit driven headline is to consider the main, deep benefit that resonates and matters most to your audience.
Notice, for example, in the headline above, it doesn’t mention the pet’s comfort. While this is likely to rank on the factors that matter to the reader, it still focuses on what the brand believes to be the reader’s primary pain point, using this to convey the key benefit and solution their product offers.
Headline Tip #4: Your Keyword Belongs In Your Headline
Keyword research can be the bane of many marketers or search engine optimization strategists’ existence. It’s time consuming, fiddly, and frustrating. But it’s necessary to optimize your content for search engines.
Your main keyword — whether that’s long-tailed or short-tailed — belongs in your heading.
It’s well known in the SEO space that your heading needs to incorporate your keyword without it sounding forced. It needs to feel natural and unstrategic. And most of all, it needs to be present.
The closer you can place your keyword to the front of your headline, the better. But remember that readability will always rank higher than SEO. So, if it feels robotic or forced in any way, try to rephrase the heading or reposition the keyword.
Headline Tip #5: Numbers Draw The Eye (Especially Odd Ones)
There’s no denying it. Numbers draw us in. Because it’s a different set of symbols than the rest of the content, it stands out.
Imagine, for example, a black canvas. You have one circle of yellow, and the rest is black. Where will your eyes travel? The yellow circle, of course.
Numbers have the same impact.
As it turns out, odd numbers work best in headlines. This is because they look less “convenient” than even numbers. In fact, the number 7 has proved to be the most effective number in headlines.
When in doubt, see if you can spice your headline up with a little numerical action.
Write Headlines Like A Pro
There are so many tips and guidelines to help you write a great headline for your marketing campaign. Implementing these five techniquest will help you polish your headlines, catch the reader’s eye and increase the chances of getting the rest of your content read.
When trying out any new copywriting strategy, it’s crucial to test it out. Only by monitoring the data and understanding the impact your headlines have will you be able to uncover the secret sauce that works for your demographic. So, make sure you split test.
Whatever you choose to explore, make sure you’re analyzing the results and using the findings to consistently better your headlines. Combine your desire to improve and expand your knowledge with the tips in this article, and you’ll be writing headlines like the pros in no time.
About the Author: Liz Slyman
Over the past decade, Liz has worked as a copywriter and digital marketing executive for a multitude of companies from startups to and mid-sized businesses to working as the VP of marketing for award-winning, platinum-selling artists. Leveraging an understanding of the nuance of language in marketing, Liz founded Amplihigher, a content marketing and copywriting agency, designed to connect consumers to companies in a way that results in next-level brand expansion.