Not All Headlines Are Created Equal
Picture the scene: you’ve spent ages writing an amazing blog post. It’s well-written, beautifully formatted and packed with nuggets of useful info. You can’t wait for it to go live.
But you’re yet to pick a headline for it. Oh well. I’ll wing it, you think. It’s the smallest bit of text, therefore requires the least amount of effort…right?
If you don’t treat your headlines with the same TLC as the rest of your content, your clickthrough rate could be hitting a brick wall. All those lovingly crafted words – gone to waste.
Seems unfair, doesn’t it?
That’s because your headline should tell as much of a story as your content does. And that’s a big ask.
So, how do you do it?
Keep reading to find out…
What’s In A Headline?
Headlines can make or break your content. Get them right and you’ve instantly got a hook on your reader.
Your headline is the single most important part of your copy. Doesn’t matter how good the rest of the blog, email or article is – if the headline sucks, nobody is going to read it.
Short Story Short
Here’s a fun fact.
Our average attention span as readers has been nose-diving since the beginning of the 20th Century.
We no longer have time to sit and read Jane Austen-length novels. We want something we can skim quickly and absorb without any mental gymnastics.
That’s actually how the flash fiction genre took off.
In the early 20th Century, writers began publishing miniature stories in newspapers.
Like, really miniature. 100 words or less.
By telling stories in as few as 100 words, reading was suddenly more accessible. Those with less leisure time were enjoying the pleasure of fiction. Commuters on trains could read entire stories on their way to work!
It was a profitable career move for the writers.
OK, cool, you might be thinking. But what does that have to do with my headlines?
The flash fiction genre proved that if your writing isn’t getting read, it doesn’t mean you suck.
It means people don’t have time.
The same principle applies with content today. When you search for a topic, all you get as a preview to a blog is the headline, an image and a tiny excerpt of 300 characters or so.
So if your headline doesn’t instantly capture your reader’s attention and seed their curiosity…they won’t be interested in anything else you have to say either.
So, you’ve got to get it right!
Make A Bold Statement
Controversy is a great headline tactic to instantly grapple your reader and make them want to read more.
Say something that you know your reader will disagree with – and use that to play them right into your hands.
For example: Your Writing Sucks.
A reader might feel indignant. Insulted! How dare you imply such a thing?! My writing is fine, thank you. Let’s see how good yours is. And before you know it, they’ve clicked on your headline.
This also works the other way: you can make a statement you know your target market would agree with. That way, you’ve seeded intrigue into the people who want to click on your blog to find validation for what they already believe.
This doesn’t even have to be anything wacky. As long as it’s specific to your industry, you’ll grip your reader by the pain point.
For example: Do You Really Know What’s Inside Your Cosmetics?
At this point, the reader might think: ‘Hmm, no, I don’t, actually. I hope it’s nothing nasty.’
But the mere fact that you’ve posed them the question plants seeds of doubt. They’re intrigued. They want to know if there’s anything horrible in whatever they’re putting on their faces.
And there you go. Another click.
Whereas if you’d phrased it: Our Natural Cosmetics, the mouse would have skipped straight over your carefully-crafted blog post.
It has to be about your reader; not about you.
Intrigue & Ambiguity Is Your Friend
On some occasions, you can rely on intrigue alone.
For example, you might have written a piece about how your child having toys everywhere is causing a problem for you. You nagged and nagged them to clean up, until you realised that the root of the problem was you all along. You’d kept buying them new things knowing full well that there was nowhere to keep them.
To link it to your topic, all you have to do is use your subject, which in this case is your child, with your product. Et voila! You have this: What My Child Taught Me About [your product/service].
This way, you’re creating healthy interest but keeping it relevant. Easy peasy.
That’s All There Is To It
Although they are more important in hooking a reader, headlines apply the same principles as any other content – intrigue is everything, don’t waste words and make it all about your reader.
Still stuck? Check out my blog post on 5 simple ways to make your content more engaging.
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