John Caples said that no one reads a copy with a poor headline. Neither does it sell goods or services. Your headline is the most important element of web copy. But it fails if you don’t spend enough time on it.
Other reasons why headlines fail include:
- The content doesn’t match the headline (clickbait)
- Ambiguous words that mean more than one thing
- Not specific enough to attract curiosity or click through
So, what’s the trick for writing powerful headlines that is shareable, grabs the reader’s attention and drives higher click-through rates to your website?
1. Get Inspired by Magazine Headlines
Marketers and advertisers in the print world depend on a headline to sell a magazine. Take a look at this example from Cosmopolitan magazine.
There are two bold headlines here.
The first is a listicle of tips “21 Naughty Sex Tips: Bold Breathless Moves that Bring on That Crazy-In-Lust-Feeling”
The second is a how-to headline: “Shrink Your Inner Thighs in Six Minutes a Day.”
You’re not sure if they’ll deliver, but it’s such a mouth-watering promise that you can’t resist. The target audience for both headlines may overlap.
The first headline targets couples who want to rejuvenate their sex life with naughty moves.
While they took out the ‘how-to’, it’s clear that the second headline targets people who want to lose the fat in their inner thighs. They promise it only takes six minutes a day, which is sufficient motivation to draw you in.
What language compels your reader to take action?
For magazines like Cosmopolitan, daring, flowery and attractive words entice the reader. They already desire a solution. Show them you’ve got it.
2. Use Simple and Powerful Language
Wordstream says that language has a natural impact on the click-worthiness of your headline. Bland, boring and uninspiring words are a turn-off.
Conversely, exciting, powerful and visually-stimulating words attract the reader’s attention. For instance, rather than a generic headline, you can use your call-to-action or address the reader directly.
CTA’s include “Try”, “Learn” “Click” and personal words include “You” and “Your”. Simple, yet powerful negatives include “Never” and “Worst”.
A study published on Outbrain revealed that adding negative words like “never” and “worst” to your headline performed 30% better than headlines without superlatives.
3. Connect with Emotional Words
Every day, your target audience sees hundreds of blogs, emails, and social media content urging them to click through.
According to Coschedule, readers are more likely to share content that features emotional headlines. Appealing to the reader’s emotion is one way to drive click-through.
Emotional words include:
Empathetic words that evoke strong, yet positive emotions in a reader.
Intellectual words you use when offering services or products that require evaluation by the reader.
Spiritual words that appeal to the reader on a deeper, meaningful level.
On average, CoShedule found that posts with a higher Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) were shared more than posts with a lower EMV score.
AN EMV score of 30-40 enjoys a higher number of shares. To check your EMV score, simply use this free headline tool from the Advanced Marketing Institute to analyze your headline EMV score.
4. Use Numbers and Data in Your Headline
In this article on writing landing pages, I explained how numbers improve specificity and make it easier to believe your claim. It’s also an effective way to create enticing headlines your readers love.
According to Orbit media, headlines with numbers generate 73% more social shares and engagement.
Think of numbers like brain candy. Your mind likes things neat and organized. Odd numbers especially, make it easy for the human mind to organize information in a logical order.
Buzzsumo analyzed 100 million headlines and found that the most engaging headlines start with a number. From the table above, 10 seems to be the magic number if you want higher Facebook engagement.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the brain is more likely to believe odd numbers than even numbers. A headline tweaked to include number 7 saw a 20% increase in click-through rates. Odd numbers help people digest and recall information more easily.
5. Accuracy and Specificity
Go back to the introduction where I listed several reasons why your headline fails. All three reasons are connected. Readers detest click-bait. Whatever expectations you’ve set in your headline, follow through in the copy.
Click baiting is very effective if your goal is sorely to increase your click-through rate. Psychologically, it compels the brain to crave the information that isn’t included in the headline.
According to the popular marketer, Jeremy Smith via Unbounce, the human mind isn’t satisfied with the lingering sense of incompleteness. We click through to achieve the goal of equilibrium.
However, more clicks resulting in a high bounce rate tells Google that you’re not providing the right answers or serving the user’s search intent. Your ranking suffers until no one sees your page.
6. Write a Benefit-Driven Headline
You can create a similar feeling of disequilibrium with a benefit-driven headline as you would a clickbait headline.
Clickbait: You Won’t Believe What Microsoft Did to Increase Conversion by 1300%
Benefit: 8 Proven Ways to Increase Landing Page Conversion
Both headlines don’t give you all the information. You want more but only the second headline tells you what to expect when you click on the article.
A MarketingProfs study revealed that benefits-driven headlines increased conversion rate by 28%. According to veteran copywriter and author Barry Feldman, whenever the reader sees a new piece of content, they’re asking “Why should I read this?”
Show them what they gain by taking the time to read your content. A magnetic headline is a benefit that pulls them in.
7. Over Deliver on an Ambitious Promise
The first time I came across this article, I said to myself, “surely Neil isn’t going to share 100 lessons, is he?” But he did.
Same thing when I read Ryan Robinson’s article on 201 blog post ideas that drive massive traffic. He didn’t only share 201 blog post ideas, as a bonus, he added 7 ways to amplify your ideas and drive traffic.
Now that’s over-delivering on an ambitious promise. Can you imagine how long it took to write this post? But the reward must be even sweeter because it’s got a ton of engagement. 2,400 Pinterest shares, 59 Twitter shares, and 110 Facebook shares.
The best headlines promise to do something valuable. If you write content that delivers on that promise, you’ve earned your reader’s trust and they’ll be back for more.
8. Incorporate Keywords in Your Headline
How do you solve problems for your audience if you don’t know their pain points? Conducting thorough keyword research is the gateway to creating useful content that engages your audience.
Using the right keywords in the headline motivates the reader to click on your content for the solution.
I love using SEMrush and Ahrefs for keyword research. Both are great tools to find questions, phrases and long-tail keywords around problems and solutions your audience need.
If you want to create viral content, Google Trends, Moz and Buzzsumo are great for finding the best performing content across the web.
Remember, you don’t have to use the exact keyword in your headline if it sounds unnatural. Tweak your headline with a longer keyword phrase and Google bots will understand the specific keyword you want the page to rank for. If SEO, sounds complicated, understanding the basics of SEO copywriting could help you make sense of keyword research.
9. Capture the Reader’s Attention
Data from Statistica reveals that the attention of a human is 8.25 seconds. Calling for attention in a world where a million different things are vying for the reader’s attention is no easy feat.
A headline that captures the reader’s attention is the first step to engaging visitors, acquiring and retaining customers.
According to Neil Patel, these are the steps to writing attention-grabbing headlines:
Write a unique headline that’s never been seen before: Copy and paste your headline with double quotation marks on Google search.
While other variations of your headline may exist, your goal is to craft a headline no one else has written.
Convey a sense of urgency
Marcus Taylor increased sales by 332% by adding a sense of urgency. He further explains that to increase the likelihood of the desired action, such as a higher click-through rate or conversion, you must add urgency to your offer.
Without urgency, your readers may bookmark your content or put it off entirely (and never finish reading it). Urgency makes them take action right now.
According to Venture Harbour, a sense of urgency usually requires adding the word ‘now’ or ‘today’ to the end of your headline.
Which of these headlines would you click?
1st option: 9 Ways to Grow Your Blog
2nd option: 7 Ways to Grow Your Blog Reader by 50% Now
1st option: 5 Things You Should Know When Buying Property in Florida
2nd Option: Read This Now Before Buying Your Next Property in Florida
Useful to the reader
Everything I’ve said correlates with usefulness. No one will click a headline that doesn’t solve a problem they face or isn’t useful to them.
Usefulness to the reader could mean several things like informative, helpful, beneficial and practical.
There’s an underlying premise that the copywriter must know who the target audience is, the problems they face and the type of content they need to feel relief.
For instance, I don’t offer LinkedIn optimization, but I created content around this topic because it was a problem for my target audience.
90% of my business comes through LinkedIn. I was constantly receiving messages from new LinkedIn users who wanted to know how to optimize their Linkedin profile for lead generation.
In the same vein, I also wrote an article on everything I did to earn money. That’s because I get a ton of messages from newbie freelance copywriters who needed help finding clients and gigs.
10. Competitive Research is a Goldmine of Ideas
Go to Buzzsumo and enter your preferred keyword in the web content analyzer. My first search was for “writing headlines” and Sharon Hurley Hall’s content popped up as the most engaging content with over 23k total engagement. That’s amazing!
Next, I tweaked the headline for a more specific query and this is the result that popped up.
By observing the terms and phrases that come up in the top 10 results, I can tweak my own headline to fit what people are most likely to engage with on social media.
I want my headline to stand out from the hundreds of search results with a similar headline while conveying a better promise.
Also, I’ll use Google to compare headlines from the top-ranking content. With a holistic picture from Buzzsumo and Google search results, I have a comprehensive idea of the type of headline both Google and readers will love.
11. Tweak, Trim and Test
You’re not going to get it right the first time around. The perfect headline usually happens after numerous attempts.
When writing a blog headline, I usually have 5-7 variations before choosing one that resonates with me.
For landing pages or website content, I write 10-15 headlines in a bid to find the perfect one. The perfect headline is usually a combination of multiple elements from rough drafts I’ve written.
Don’t forget to A/B test your headlines. It’s the only way to know if your headline will convert or not.
Create two variations of your best headline. Send one variation to half of your email list and another variation to the second half of your list. Which headline had a higher open rate?
If you take nothing else away, remember that writing powerful headlines is useless if it’s not useful to the reader. Ultimately, it’s all about your audience. Focus on creating a headline that resonates with your reader and compels them to take action.
If you need help crafting valuable content that drives traffic and click-throughs get in touch now!