Headlines are all about first impressions. Write a bad one, and your potential reader will immediately move on to something better. Write a good one, and you’ll hopefully convince the reader that they want more. What makes a good, compelling headline? Here are 10 tips for winning the battle for engagement:
1. Focus on “What’s in it for me?”
Remember that humans are naturally selfish. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes and articulate how they will benefit from reading your article. Will they save time or money? Lose weight? Be smarter or healthier? Even the suggestion that they’ll be surprised or entertained can be enough.
2. Choose your words carefully.
Bland and boring is the enemy, so do the opposite. Use specific, colorful language. Use words that you don’t hear every day. Be specific instead of vague. Include detail and avoid generalities. Use alliteration. Be funny. Be concise. Every word you use should make the headline stronger.
3. Tell them something new.
Readers aren’t going to invest time in your article if they don’t believe they’ll learn something.
4. Be clear about your focus.
If your headline is so vague that the reader doesn’t know (or have a good guess) what your article is about, they’ll quickly move on.
5. Pique their curiosity.
Tease the topic enough so the reader wants to learn more, but don’t give away the ending. A little suspense is good.
6. Use numbers.
List headlines (and articles) are everywhere, and there’s a reason: They work. The list format is easy to digest and can be skimmed quickly.
7. Play on emotion.
Advertisers are expert at exploiting fears and insecurities, which they do because it’s a highly effective attention-getter and motivator. But positive messages work well, such as those promising to make the reader feel smarter or more attractive.
8. Strive for a length of 16 to 18 words.
A study done by Outbrain found that headlines of that length generate the best click-through rates.
9. It’s OK to exaggerate, but don’t go too far.
The headline shouldn’t be blatantly false or misleading. Yes, misleading headlines exist all over the web, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. It may win you a click in the short-term, but annoying your audience isn’t a good long-term strategy.
10. Lastly, don’t forget about keywords.
These are important for ensuring that your content can be found via relevant searches.