Crafting headlines is one of the most important content writing tasks you’ll ever be doing. Think about it: we use them in so many ways in our marketing, from blog posts to videos to social media updates, email marketing, content promotion and more. And all of these are tasked to do one thing: take the reader to the next step. That is the function of a headline, to get the click or compel the reader to go further.
There are a number of ways to make this work for you, and just as many ways to foul it up. Get too cute, too wordy, or too clever and you’ll find your message ignored.
In order to avoid that, let’s look at a few ways we can craft headlines that get the clicks!
10 Tips for Effective Headline Writing
1. Use Numbers in your Headlines
Promising a specific number of benefits in your headline works very well. “7 Ways to Spot a Yeti in the Wild” and “366 Places to Submit Your Best Content” are examples of these. Low numbers represent something your readers can get their head around easily, while a larger number indicates the comprehensive nature of the content. Always use numerals rather than spelling out the word, which will help you with?
2. Mind Your Character Count
Certain platforms have limitations on character counts that can determine how much of your headline will be visible. Google+ (like Google search) limits you to 60 characters or less. Facebook hasn’t got a limit, but shorter tends to do better. Twitter is 100 characters. When it comes to email, the optimal length appears to be somewhere between 28-39 characters, if you would like any of your text to show as a preview. Obviously, working your keywords, benefits, and hook into these is indeed an art!
3. Emphasize Benefits
Promising a benefit in your headlines that is both believable and attractive will get the click. This is where understanding who your audience is and what they are after comes in handy. Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them; don’t disappoint them!
4. Use Lists
Using lists in your headlines, such as “7 Tips for Losing Weight You Haven’t Consumed” are a proven way to get people to open. Of course, making sure you are emphasizing benefits and curiosity helps with this. Lists with 7 and 10 seem to work best, or odd numbers like “113 Ways?” These always appeal to readers pressed for time and looking for specific solutions or information.
5. Ask Questions
Arousing curiosity in your reader’s mind can lead to higher click-throughs and open rates. Questions can raise doubt and tension in the reader’s mind. Do I know the answer to that? Do I need to find this out? Am I that guy? Several caveats here, though. Be sure to answer that question in the copy that follows, as well as being certain not to pose a question that the reader will answer “no” to. This will stop them from proceeding.
6. Avoid Superlatives
Using positive terms like “best,” “always,” and others do not perform as well as you might think. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but actually using negative terms works better many times. The content company Outbrain did a study and found that negative terms performed 63% better than those that featured positive superlatives. When presented with the headline “See the Worst Ad Ever,” who wouldn’t want to click through?
7. Employ Power Words
There are certain words that influence the reader and infer a feeling that the copywriter is hoping to evoke. These are called power words, and utilizing them in your copy and especially your headlines will result in a far greater response to your messaging. For your convenience, take a look at this eye-opening (power word) list of 317 power words by Jon Morrow
8. Optimize for Search
Headlines often come with a piece of content that can and does get indexed in the Google search results. This is true even of content posted on social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and others. For this reason, you need to be sure and optimize for the search engines. Make sure your headline includes a primary keyword, and that your page title tag and description (if you have access to them) are crafted to rank well if indexed.
9. How-To Headlines Simply Work
Long a staple of headline writers, this one shows no signs of dying. Creating a how-to headline is easy, and fills a need your audience may have. The best way to do this is to combine it with a benefit such as “How to Install a WordPress Blog Before Lunch!”
10. Promise Speed
We all have lots to do and no time to do it. So does your readership. Make their life simpler (and get the click) by emphasizing speed in your headlines. Try using headlines like “The Quick and Easy Way to…” or “7 Tips for Lightning-Fast Blog Writing.” Everyone loves simple, easy, and fast, and you will love the click thru rates you get on these types of headlines.
There you have it, 10 tips for optimizing your headlines for greater click-through performance. Start using these tried and true tactics today!
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