8 tips for writing compelling headlines

In content marketing, a headline often determines how well your content is received. To draw readers in, try adopting these approaches.

Writing an effective headline is a tricky skill to master.

On average, only 20 percent of people who read your headline will read the article. A headline is an integral part of your content, and it must be given sufficient time and thought.

Your headlines must be creative, compelling and SEO-friendly. Here are eight tips to get you started.

1. Make it sparkle.

Millions of blog posts are published every day, which makes the competition for clicks intense. Few readers will click on a boring headline.

When brainstorming ideas, let your creative mind run wild and focus on coming up with strong adjectives and verbs. Work to entice the reader with your word choice.

2. Optimize for SEO.

Researching terms that are SEO friendly will maximize your content’s visibility in search engines. Ranking position is essential to generating a high volume of click-throughs in an organic search. Keyword selection plays a crucial role in determining your content’s success.

Make sure not to overuse these, though. To be enticing, your headline should look natural and clear. Pleasing the reader is more important than over-optimizing for search engines; Google will know when you are trying to game its system.

3. Be concise.

Don’t use eight words to say something that takes only five.

Google has a 65-character limit for page titles. If you want your content to be displayed effectively in search results, it’s best to abide by this rule. If you’re title is too long, it will be cut off with an ellipsis, which is likely to reduce the number of clicks it receives.

Consider how your headlines will appear on various social media platforms. Twitter has a 140-character limit, but that is reduced to 93 characters when combined with a link and an image. Headlines should be short, snappy and clear.

4. Avoid clickbait.

Clickbait describes headlines that are created only to generate a maximum number of clicks—often at the expense of quality and accuracy. You must honor your headline to keep readers happy, or you risk losing the trust of your audience.

It’s often better to be honest but mildly dull than to trick your audience with a misleading headline.

5. Put your audience first.

Your content must cater to the needs and interests of your target audience. If it doesn’t, somebody else’s will.

Once you understand your audience, headline writing becomes easier. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and think about the language they use and what they want to read. It’s better to shape your content—and your headline—around one specific audience than to attempt to please everyone with a broader headline.

6. Use an inviting image.

A powerful image will grab people’s attention and turn a “maybe” click into a definite click. A related image can boost the reception your content receives, particularly on social media sites such as Twitter. Buffer found that tweets with images receive 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites/”likes” and 150 percent more retweets.

7. Use digits.

Readers love listicles. Any headline that lists a number of tips, guidelines, lessons or takeaways is likely to succeed, because it makes a very specific promise. It quantifies exactly what readers will get for the time they invest in your content.

Listicles also help the reader to digest your information more easily. Your readers will be happy they clicked, as long as the content follows through and delivers a high-quality message.

8. Spend time on them.

The famed advertising exec David Ogilvy once said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as [they] read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Writing excellent headlines can be the difference between gaining a new customer and being ignored.

Jordan Sharp is a social media and content executive at Bumbl. A version of this article originally appeared on Bumbl’s blog.

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