Headlines either pull your readers in or push them away.
Strategically crafted headlines can draw in even the most disinterested, skeptical readers. If your headlines are bland and uninspired, you could be losing potential clients or customers.
How do you write compelling headlines that attract readers? Here are seven tips to rope in readers with tasty teasers:
1. Craft ’emotional’ headlines that elicit positive, happy thoughts.
CoSchedule analyzed more than 5.5 million headlines that were entered into its Headline Analyzer tool.
CoSchedule combined that data with social sharing analytics and top content reports to understand which headlines work the best. The company found that emotional headlines that are positive and happy drive more shares.
Why is that? The anticipation of positive benefits and emotions motivates us to share.
When it comes to anticipation, our feelings play a big role in how we respond to our own curiosity.
In other words, most people anticipate happy experiences.
To write more emotional headlines, choose from a list of trigger words and a list of power words to charge your headlines with more emotion. However, make sure you have a balance of common, uncommon, emotional and power words. A structure with “emotional balance” will command attention from your readers.
To see some effective headlines in action, check out these seven emotional headline makeovers.
2. Keep them short, simple and specific.
Your headline should let the reader know right away what your article is all about. It should also be short and snappy.
According to CoSchedule, headlines that earn the highest number of click-throughs are approximately 55 characters and six words in length.
In HubSpot’s study of its most shared blog posts, the company found that headlines featuring numbers, years and fewer than nine words worked the best.
Don’t mislead or trick people into reading an article that is completely different from what the headline promises. Tease the story without giving it away. Just remember: No one likes the bait-and-switch.
3. Tell your readers what they’re getting.
Use headlines to explain that by doing X, you will get Y.
When you turn your headlines into explanations or answers to common questions, your readers will know exactly what they are getting before they read more.
For example, you know what you are getting from this article published by the Business Insider:
Readers seek out tips, tricks, rules and systems that help us make sense of things. Offer something of value in your headlines.
4. Use lists and “how-tos” in your headlines.
How-to articles are also enduringly popular. Analyzing articles published on LinkedIn, BuzzSumo found that posts beginning with “How to” had the most shares.
According to Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, how-to articles are some of the most sought-after, linked to and bookmarked content online.
5. Ask questions your readers are asking.
When the iPhone X was released, Forbes wrote this article about the differences between the iPhone X and the iPhone 8.
Questions prime our curiosity and stimulate the brain. Relevant questions get your readers involved and provoke more interaction. However, don’t ask a question that your readers can say “no” to.
If you use questions in your headlines, remember to at least tease the answer in your introduction to keep your readers interested.
If you’re not sure what to write about, use tools like Google Trends or BuzzSumo to see which topics and keywords are trending.
6. Make it timely by including a year.
HubSpot’s post about its most shared articles shows that headlines with years in them worked the best.
Including the year in headlines is effective because it conveys that the content is up to date, relevant and timely.
7. Keep your readers guessing.
A good headline keeps a little mystery.
If your headlines are ambiguous, or if you give away the punchline, your readers will likely not click. The trick is to provide a tantalizing taste of what your story has to offer.
For example, this article published by the Business Insider may pique your interest since we all went to school at some point:
Research shows that curiosity increases with knowledge. The more we know, the more we want to know.
Carnegie Mellon University professor George Loewenstein coined the term “curiosity gap” to describe the void “between what we know and what we want to know.” This gap produces emotional consequences, as we seek out new knowledge to scratch the mental itch. It creates a feeling of loss, which compels us to seek out that missing information.
Bringing everything together
Headlines are a crucial component of your content, but you still must have meaty, helpful information in the body copy to achieve success.
Clickbait headlines might get readers to click, but you’ll lose credibility (and possibly customers) if your articles don’t deliver the goods you promise up top.
Your headlines should show your article will provide what your audience is searching for. What is it they want to read or learn about? Which topics would be most useful for them?
That’s what should drive your content creation, and your headlines should mirror that audience-centric approach, too.
Matthew Royse is the regional marketing director for Freudenberg IT, a global IT solutions provider. A version of this article originally appeared on his Knowledge Enthusiast blog.