Your headline is the most important line of content in your web page. 80% of your readers will read only your headline, and 20% will read the rest of your well-written text. So write lots of headlines before selecting the best one!
Your headline must be useful to your reader – it should promise a specific benefit, or inform, persuade or challenge the reader.
Keep your headline short, simple and specific. Use active voice. Use powerful, attention-getting words.
Headline power words
Here are some tested power words that work to pull your readers into your content.
Avoid hype. Words like “ultimate” and “extreme” have lost their meaning, through overuse in ads, promos and the media. Back up your headline promise with credible facts in your content.
Bloggers, journalists, copywriters, editors – all have had to learn to write attention-getting headlines on a deadline. Study their methods and keep a “cheat sheet” of powerful headlines from the top newspapers, magazines and blogs to inspire you and spur your creativity when you’re in a hurry.
10 surefire methods to write compelling headlines
Headline tip 1: Tell a story
Stories offer an irresistible lure to readers to find out what happened next.
Crazy And In Charge – Time
Headline tip 2: Use a numbered list
5 ways to make an egg
9 no-nos when writing ads for health products
The number adds specificity to what you want to convey and makes your headline look more authentic.
Headline tip 3: Ask a question
Tap into the kind of questions people ask during conversations at the office water cooler, at the bus stop or at the supermarket, when talking about things that concern or interest them.
Quickly follow the question with an answer in the opening sentence or paragraph that further invites the reader into the content. Then structure the content to flesh out the opening sentence.
Here’s an example:
Headline: Who’s raising our kids? Parents or TV? Source
Opening line: With startling statistics about American youth and media consumption along with low rankings in education, one may ask, who’s raising our kids? Parents or the TV?
The headline expresses the frustration every parent feels when they try coaxing their children away from the TV to do their homework.
The opening line uses keywords that draw the reader into the rest of the content. It mentions:
- Startling statistics about American youth and media consumption
- (And how these affect) low rankings in education
The content then provides the statistics on TV usage and how it impacts children’s education. It urges parents to take action by switching off the TV and encouraging children to read more.
Headline tip 4: Give them useful information
Connect with a reader’s concerns and provide answers in your article.
Headline: “Why should we hire you?” Interview answers to tough questions. Source
This headline immediately flags the target audience – prospective candidates for jobs . It promises answers to tough interview questions - a compelling reason for them to read the text! The content goes on to say:
Intro: “Why should we hire you?” is another common interview question that can take you down the wrong road unless you’ve done some thinking ahead of time. This question is purely about selling yourself in the interview. Think of yourself as the product. Why should the customer buy?
Most interviewees are nervous about an upcoming job interview and want to be very well prepared. They want to avoid mistakes, get ready to field questions they could be asked, and present their best face at the interview – so that they land the job. The opening paragraph addresses all these concerns with key phrases and links.
* common interview question – The link leads to more interview questions to help the candidate be better prepared
* can take you down the wrong road – addresses a concern of the candidate – avoid making a mistake
* selling yourself in the interview – The link leads to an article with specific pointers on how to sell yourself in the interview
* The last two lines of the intro ask the question in every prospect’s mind and lead into the article.
Think of yourself as the product. Why should the customer buy? The answer to this question forms the meat of the article.
Here’s another example of a headline that promises useful information.
Looking for a good deal on an iPad 2? Source
The answer is provided in the very first sentence of the copy.
“It seems that Best Buy might be your best bet.”
Headline tip 5. Tell them about a mistake they could avoid
Tell your readers how they can save time, make money, make friends, gain reputation, build a career… so long as they avoid certain mistakes. Pinpoint those slip-ups and provide helpful advice that will bring success.
Take this headline for example:
Learn English online with Common-Mistakes – Your Free Resources to Better English. Source
Let’s break down this headline to see why it works so well.
“Learn English online”
The headline is specific and speaks to a targeted audience – one that wants to learn English. It tells the reader how the training will be given – online.
“with common mistakes”
It taps into a key concern for an English newbie – common mistakes will be a way to learn. It takes away her fear of looking like a dummy in a class with people laughing at her mistakes…these are mistakes that everyone makes. She knows she can learn on her own time, in her own space, online.
“Free resources”: Very powerful indeed! “Free” is the most powerful word in marketing.
The headline says that this is not about a one-time course or session, there are other resources the reader can tap into to learn better English.
Simple, credible, authoritative – this headline works! It tells the complete story. It taps into the mindset, concerns and emotions of a prospective English learner and offers a free online solution.
Money Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make Source
Top 10 Home Buying Mistakes That Can Cost You Source
The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in The Gym Source
Ladies, Don’t Make The Same Mistakes with Men! Source
Headline tip 6: State a startling fact
A headline that arouses curiosity draws the reader into the content.
- A healthy adult has just 206 bones in his body, though born with 300.
- Teleworking can save an average of $10,000 per year per teleworker.
Headline tip 7: Include a key benefit
- Save 25 percent on shoes this weekend
- Work smarter in 20-minute time-slots
Use trigger words to sell
If you are selling a product or service, use effective trigger words that compel response. These words work as sales triggers. You can use them to write content that provokes action and gets the reader to do something – like buy now, download, subscribe right away, contact us.
Include the benefit of your product or service in your title tag or in your description metatag so that it shows up in search engine results.
Reduce 2″ around your waist
Build new skills – get a certificate
Impress the boss
Headline tip 8: Tell them “How to” do something.
Headline tip 9: Offer something free
- Free resume writing tips that get you selected for the job interview
– Free home builder’s tutorial! Quality standards for your custom home
– Sign up for 10 gym classes and get this exciting video FREE!- Free advice to anxious brides
– Headline tip 10: Provide a solution to a problem
State the problem. Be specific. Provide a solution in the headline, to engage the reader in your content.
Try out different ways of writing the same headline, adding action words and emotional triggers.
A testimonial-style headline works well too. See the headline variations below for examples.
* Put an end to sleepless nights with this home-made remedy
* End sleepless nights with this simple home-made remedy
* Sleepless nights affecting your work? Home-made cure for insomnia
* Power your way to the top with this amazing “Guide to success”
* “I was a loser until I read this amazing ‘Guide to success’.
Now my boss actually follows my suggestions!”
Have fun writing your headline
Don’t let headline-writing become a big chore. Have fun with it. Juggle some words around. Write several headlines to get the best one. Experiment with humor and wit, which help engage the reader. But be careful – avoid the unintentional pun which could have a completely different and inappropriate meaning. It could offend your reader or lose him altogether because he doesn’t “get it” – your reference, your word play on a popular movie title, or pun. Or your line may be taken literally with a quite unintended meaning!
Here are some unintentional headline bloopers which actually ran in newspapers:
* Old School Pillars are Replaced by Alumni
* Miners Refuse to Work After Death
* Fried Chicken Cooked In Microwave Wins Trip
* Two Sisters Reunited after 18 Years in Checkout Counter
* Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Space
* Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
Just goes to show how important it is to read and edit your headline carefully!
The vital opening sentence – Keep your reader’s interest alive
Lead naturally from the headline into your opening sentence. Keep it simple, specific and targeted to your audience. Tell them what you’re going to tell them in your text.
For instance, the headline “Top 10 Home Buying Mistakes That Can Cost You” goes on to say “Avoid these blunders that home buyers commonly make”
Avoid cliches and generalities such as “Global warming is on the rise”… which make the reader tune out. John White says the writer should “edge the reader towards discomfort” in That Fatal First Sentence. Use active voice. Make the reader think.
Follow the tested headline methods listed above to write engaging opening sentences:
* make a strong statement
* make a bold claim
* tell an anecdote
* provide a solution
* raise a tough question
* use a startling statistic
To sum up: Use power words in your headline and targeted keywords to select and draw your audience. Use these 10 time-tested methods to write a headline:
* Tell a story
* Use a numbered list
* Ask a question
* Provide useful information
* Tell them about a mistake they could avoid
* State a startling fact
* Include a key benefit
* Tell them “How to” do something
* Offer something free
* Offer a solution to a problem
Use trigger words that sell – and propel the reader towards an action.