Jun 9, 2017

3 Ways to Write Effective Headlines

by Digital Marketing Institute

“On average, five times as many people read the headlines as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” - David Ogilvy

In essence, Mr Ogilvy is saying, make sure your headline counts...

With so much content to consume and such little time to consume it, writing an effective headline is essential if you want to cut through the noise and grab people's attention.

A recent study shows that 55% of consumers read an article for 15 seconds or less. What's more, eight out of 10 people read an article's headline only.

It's clear that there's science to crafting an article that grabs and holds attention, and as mentioned, it all starts with the headline. Think of the headline as the foundation of your content; only it sits at the top.

If you're looking to improve your headline writing and add to your digital marketing skill set, these practical tips will have you grabbing attention and attracting visitors in a flash.

Begin with a working title

Before we delve any deeper, it's worth noting the 'four u's' that help make a magnetic headline writing, according to a number of prolific copywriters:

  • Your headline must be unique
  • Your headline must be ultra-specific
  • Your headline must convey a sense of urgency
  • Your headline must be useful

It's difficult to cover all four bases in a single headline, but if you can include at least two elements, you'll be onto a winner.

When crafting the perfect headline, you should always begin with a working title. Not only will this form the basis of your article, but it will give you something tangible to from which to work.

Many people confuse titles with topics. Let's clear that up...

Topics are general and could form the foundations of several different blog posts. For example, 'American politics' or 'Donald Trump are topics - jumping off points that you can take in several different directions.

Working titles are ultra-specific and steer the creation of a particular blog post. For instance, the topic 'Donald Trump' could form the following working titles...

  • The Meaning of Donald Trump's ‘Covfefe’ Uncovered
  • The Truth About Donald Trump's Twitter Followers

Once you've picked your topic and honed in on your subject matter a little more, write down a number of working titles before whittling it down to two or three potential headlines that you can work from.

This headline may well have started from the same thought process - and according to Buzzsumo, the article earned a total of 106.9 thousand social media shares over Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +...

Before you start to chisel out the perfect headline, you should always begin with a working title.

Make your headline accurate

Once you've decided on a definitive working title or two and the foundations of your blog post or landing page are starting to take shape, it's time to refine your headline.

Always aim to be accurate and as concise as you possibly can. Accuracy is vital when trying to refine a headline because it sets clear expectations for your readers.

For instance, '15 Brands That Are So Hot on Email Marketing They've Ditched All Other Marketing Channels' may encourage a lot of clicks, but unless you've found some businesses that are setting the world alight through email only, it may be a little OTT. Also, a title like this is also quite long.

Perhaps this would be better: '15 Amazing Email Marketing Campaigns You Need to See.' Accurate and concise.

With headline writing, the most important rule is to respect the reader’s experience - so always have that in mind when refining your titles.

If your headline sets expectations that you can't deliver, you run the risk of losing the trust of your readers, which can be damaging to your brand and its authority.

Tip: When it comes to telling your audience exactly what your article will deliver, bracketed headlines prove particularly effective.

In a study of more than 3.3 million paid link headlines, HubSpot discovered that headlines with bracketed clarification such as [Interview], [Podcast], [Infographic] and [VIDEO] performed 38% better than headlines without.

This article from Vinepair included [Infographic] in its headline and coupled with a clear, concise and accurate message, earned the article 115.8 thousand shares on Facebook alone…

In a study of more than 3.3 million paid link headlines, HubSpot discovered that headlines with bracketed clarification performed 38% better than headlines without.

Experiment with formats and formulas

Being accurate, clear and concise is incredibly important when it comes to writing compelling headlines, but there are ways you can make them stand out. And here they are...

Try listicles: Using numbers in your headline not only promises something specific, but it also helps to give it a certain structure - because our brains like to organise information into a logical order. Listicles stand out, they’re popular t0o. There's no exact science to explain why, but the number 7 often proves effective when used at the beginning of a listicle headline.

Experiment with formats and formulas | 3 Ways to Write Effective Headlines

To date, this upcycling post from relatively small publication Preparedness Mama gained 552 shares via various popular social media channels and counting. Impressive metrics for such a niche subject.

Use a little alliteration: People like alliteration as it's catchy and rolls off the tongue. The tasteful use of alliteration can have a subtle yet powerful impact. Take the title of this article: ‘ways to write’ reads well, no?

Focus on the ‘whos’, rather than the ‘whys’: There’s nothing wrong with including the terms ‘why’ in your headline, but if you can, run with a ‘who’ instead. According to research, headlines that include the word "who" generate a 22% higher CTR than those without.

Use trigger words: Trigger words are proactive and will compel people to take action. Here is a small selection of trigger words to get you started…

  • Free
  • New
  • Proven
  • Easy
  • Secret
  • Imagine

Use interesting adjectives: The use of interesting adjectives can prompt a reader to click through to your article. Here are a few to help you on your way…

  • Fun
  • Amazing
  • Incredible
  • Effective
  • Absolute
  • Essential

This Forbes article, which boasts a total of 386 social shares in less than a year, employs the use of numbers, interesting adjectives and alliteration…

Forbes article 10 Essential Elements Your Freelance Website Should Have boasts a total of 386 social shares

Optimise your headlines for search engines: Besides grabbing your customer's attention and encouraging them to take action, one of the other vital duties of your headline is to help boost your search rankings and get that all-important first page spot on Google (page one results get around 92% of web traffic for a particular keyword or term).

One of the most effective ways to do so is by utilising the right keywords. Make sure your primary keyword features naturally in your headline and at close to the start, if possible. To make sure you choose the best possible key terms for your headline, try Google's Keyword Planner. Also, check out this video on how to use the tool to your advantage…

Think about character counts: When it comes to writing a title tag that fits neatly onto a Google SERPS page and performs better regarding SEO, you should aim for between 50 and 60 characters in length.

Usually, your title tag will be similar to your headline as it dictates and describes the theme of your article or web page. So, it's best practice to aim for a character count that's not too dissimilar when writing your headline.

According to recent analytical research, headlines of eight to 12 words in length get the most Twitter shares on average, while headlines with either 12 or 14 words get the most Facebook Likes. Try not to waffle and aim for around the 12 to 14-word mark, unless necessary.

Tip: Try CoSche dule's free headline analyser. Not only will this give you analysis on the strength, weaknesses and originality of the words you choose, but it will also give you an idea how your headline might be perceived and helpful headline writing hints…

Try CoSchedule's free headline analyzer | 3 Ways to Write Effective Headlines

Try this headline writing formula: If you’re trying to find a headline structure that pops, this simple formula will help. It’s widely used by copywriters around the globe and it will help you craft a headline that grabs a consumer’s attention…

Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise

And here’s an example (based on the subject ‘chocolate brownies’):

'Why I Love Chocolate Brownies'


'7 Mouthwatering Chocolate Brownie Hacks You Can't Live Without'

Writing the perfect headline takes time, persistence and trial and error, but by following the above advice, the rewards, in terms of readership and conversions, will be great.

Want to brush up on your copywriting skills? Study our beginner's guide to writing copy that sells.

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