It’s happened to most everyone who writes content: You put together a great blog or article, packed it with terrific information that’s sure to drive traffic to your site. You’re puffed up with a heady feeling of accomplishment for a minute or two, and then you remember – you still need to write a headline.
Deflated, you throw together a few words that fit the space and kind of convey what your piece is about … and call it good.
It’s a common mistake in content marketing, and a potentially costly one.
That’s because, according to marketing experts and others who track readership and click-throughs, your headline is the most important element in your content. It’s the written equivalent of your job interview. It’s your first impression and in many cases, it will be your only impression. According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline. But only two of those will be interested enough to take it a step further and read your actual content.
And that means wise content producers will stop treating headlines as an afterthought, and make good headline writing a priority.
Of course, it’s one thing to acknowledge the importance of a good headline; it’s quite another to actually write one.
So, we scoured the internet, consulted multiple online headline-writing gurus. And most of them emphasized some marketing basics, namely: Know who you’re writing the piece for; and know why this particular piece of content would be important or useful to that audience. And be specific.
And so, here are 5 Tips You Should be Using to Write Effective Headlines Now (notice how we incorporated the tips into that headline?):
- Be bold. Use active verbs and simple, concise language that is targeted to your audience. Targeted doesn’t mean packed with industry-specific jargon. It means creating a headline that addresses your audience’s concerns and challenges. It means short and sweet – for example, “use” beats “utilize” in a headline every time.
- Be original. If your content is going to have a productive online shelf life, you want it to stand out in searches. If your headline is similar to every other headline on the topic, it reduces the chances that your content will get the click now, and the content won’t hold up in the future, according to the folks at the Content Marketing Institute.
- Use numbers. Anyone who reads blogs, magazines, or social media knows the effectiveness of headlines that include numbers – because those are the stories they, as readers, click on. Your experience and intuition are accurate: plenty of research, including a study by Conductor, back up the idea that headlines with numbers get more clicks than those without.
- Include a call to action. Words like “Never,” “Try” or “Always” in front of an action – like “5 Things You Should Never Say to a Client” or “The Top 3 Diets You Should Try Now” – increase your click-worthiness quotient, according to Wordstream. Much as we would deny it, humans do like to be told what to do.
- Give your audience news they can use. If you’re announcing personnel changes within your company, ask yourself how customers could benefit from that information, and reflect that in your headline (and copy). And remember, news, by definition, is new. Readers don’t want information they already know. They want something useful, and new, according to Dreamgrow.
Headline writing is a challenge. But remember, it could be worse: You could be writing headlines back in the day when each character had to be counted individually.