Your headline is arguably the most important component of your content, whether you’re writing a blog post, case study, white paper, etc. No one is going to read your content unless the headline first grabs their attention.
So, how can you make your headlines irresistibly clickable?
Draft Several Headlines
I came across a CoSchedule blog post that advocated writing a minimum of 25 different headlines for a piece. Why? Because you’ll exhaust all the obvious options before you reach 25. So, your mind will generate more creative (and desperate) ideas to finish the list.
Usually, I try out about six or so headlines before I settle on one, so I decided to try out this tactic. I even plugged my options into the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to see what it thought. To make things more challenging, I had to keep a keyword phrase near the front parts for SEO purposes.
I did indeed write 25 headlines. The analyzer, while liking my headline lengths and word choices, for the most part, generally didn’t think I put enough emotion in them. (There’s more than a little irony in an algorithm telling me that I’m not emotional enough.) But I can’t deny that I did come up with ideas that I wouldn’t have if I had stuck to my normal six.
In the end, the analyzer gave sweeping approval to a headline that wasn’t my favorite. So I’ve decided to do an ongoing test. One month, I’d use a blog post headline that the analyzer favored. The next month, I’d use one that I favored. After doing that for six months, I’d look at the results and see which ones performed better.
Research What Works
There’s no one formula for what constitutes a winning headline, but you can find out the techniques that can help you grab attention by reading articles and posts. The term “writing effective headlines” produced 29,500,000 results on Google, so there’s a lot of information out there.
And content experts aren’t just relying on their own experiences and expertise; some are conducting studies on what works and what doesn’t. For example, Outbrain and Hubspot analyzed more than 3.3 million headlines and found that using the ever-popular term “how to” in a headline is a mistake. That one probably surprised you; it definitely surprised me.
Despite that finding, I don’t think that you should automatically trash how-to headlines. But I do think it means that you shouldn’t just assume that such a headline will work for you. Test it and see whether or not it appeals to your audience.
Make Use of Formulas
A tip I’ve heard from more than one writing expert is to take a look at the headlines gracing the covers of women’s magazines, particularly Cosmopolitan magazine. Those headlines are written according to tried and true formulas. You can use some of those formulas to boost your own headline-writing techniques.
Digital marketing expert and head of MarketingProfs Ann Handley recently shared an interesting headline formula in her Total Annarchy e-newsletter. It was:
E = End result your customer wants +
T = Time they can get it in +
C = Conquer the objections they will have
One of the examples she gave was this:
[Get in Front of Big-Time CEOs] + [in 3 Business Days] + [Without Going Through Gatekeepers]
Digital marketing expert Jeff Bullas shares 110 headline formulas in a post on his blog (starting with the how-to formula). If that’s too many for you, Copyblogger has shared 10 headline templates that are rather intriguing. The templates’ formulas are actually in Bullas’ larger list, but they are definitely among the more unusual headlines.
Try out a few of this formulas whenever you write a piece. Or use them as a springboard.
I mentioned using them as a springboard because in the end that’s what I did. I took an idea from one of Bullas’ 110 formulas, tweaked it, Googled a headline benefit, and got the headline you see now. According to the CoSchedule analyzer, it could use more emotion, but it’s part of the batch that I favor, so we’ll see how it fares in the final evaluations.
If you’re not used to spending that much time on your headlines, this may seem daunting. But it’s a good investment of time, especially if your revenues depend on prospects’ clicks. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, no one is going to read your content unless the headline grabs their attention.