9 tips for writing magnetic headlines right away

Stop writing boring headlines and make them pop with these proven techniques.

Are your headlines alluring?

Do they entice people not only to come hither, but stay awhile?

If not, you may be missing out on a golden content marketing opportunity.

Online as well as in print, people look to headlines to decide if the accompanying content is worth reading.

In other words, if you can’t attract your target audience with your headlines, you’ve got a lot of content that’s going unread. Because of these high stakes, writing effective headlines can be challenging—but not impossible.

Consider incorporating one or more of the following suggestions into your headlines:

1. Use numbers

Research shows that blog posts with headlines containing numbers bring in more traffic than those without numbers.

Use numbers to illustrate what the article is about. For example:

Better headlines in 8 steps

Numbers can also give an indication of the length of the article—and potentially the amount of time required to read through it, thereby managing readers’ expectations.

2. Speak directly to the reader

Use words like “you” and/or “your” in headlines. Compare the two headlines below:

Better headlines: 8-step guide

Better headlines: your 8-step guide

The word “your” in the second headline helps to personalize the content, making the reader think (intuitively) that it is written precisely for them.

3. Use strong adjectives

I aim for simpler language where most writing is concerned, but not with headlines.

Take the word “better,” as in the examples above. It’s not a terrible word, but doesn’t have much impact either. Consider synonyms like superior, superb, premium and the like.

After all, why settle for a 25-cent word, when you can go for a whole dollar?

4. Make a bold statement

Pose an attention-grabbing opinion right in your headline; something that goes against conventional belief. For example:

Improve how you write headlines—because nobody cares about your content

A bold statement can also have the “huh?” effect. A person may see the headline above and think to themselves “Why the heck doesn’t anyone care about my content?” and read on … and that’s the reaction you want.

Only use this kind of headline if it’s bound to create curiosity in the reader. There is no point in stating a viewpoint everyone has heard before.

5. Appeal to the reader’s curiosity

By alluding to the content below the headline, you can make the reader feel they must read on. For example:

Do your headlines lack this critical element?

The reader isn’t going to know what “this” critical element is unless they read your content.

Asking a question can also pique a reader’s curiosity, such as:

Is sarcasm ever appropriate in headlines?

6. Stress the “urgency factor”

Words like “today,” “now,” “immediately,” and phrases like “right away” stress immediacy. To get people to read past the headline, you need to provide them with a reason to read your article immediately.

Why your headline writing needs a tune-up now

Today, you can become a headline superhero!

7. Appeal to deeply-felt sentiments: frustration, fear, desire

Show your reader that you understand their hopes and fears. You can present a problem as well as a solution, a problem and the repercussions of that problem, or appeal to what your readers want.

Why you’re not a good headline writer … and the price you pay for it

Are your headlines standing in the way of new business?

Get the respect you deserve: How to improve your headline writing skills

8. Be specific

On its own, a headline like “Get them reading now!” is ambiguous. Who is “them”? Is the content related to the issue of literacy?

A more effective headline may be: “Getting customers and prospects to read your content past the headline.”

9. Don’t be too witty.

Being clever with your words does not necessarily work. Consider “Getting your headlines write”—not everyone may “get” the inside joke.

And don’t forget search engines—if someone is looking for an article online about writing more powerful headlines, they’re probably not going to search Google for “Read all about it! (headlines).”

By taking time to craft your headlines, you will see a surge in reader traffic—and hopefully business too.

What tips and tricks do you use to make your headlines pop?

Lindsey McCaffrey is an Ottawa-based communications/public relations consultant, writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, call her at 613.290.0239, or email her at lindsey@lindseymccaffrey.com.


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